Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Amazon Reviews

Any author must run a gauntlet of “gatekeepers” who judge whether the work has any artistic and commercial merit. Literary agents, editors, bookshop and chain store buyers, critics and reviewers guard the gates marked Success. The Internet is changing this. Today, publishing is vey much dependent on the electronic community. For some lucky authors, nothing stands between them and the reader but a server.
Outside Naworth's gates
Off to the side, however, ready with  fingers poised over the keyboard, lurks A Reviewer. Once upon a time, critics were professional journalists who gave us their considered views through newspapers and the like. Not today. Now anyone can write a review and put it up on the Amazon website, and some come with all the speed and damaging power of a Djokovic backhand.

Word of mouth has always been touted as the best promotional exercise in selling books, and was always largely a matter of luck. If people liked a book, they told their friends, who read it and told their friends. Now we read the reviews of strangers and wonder if we should take notice or not. If their views on life are different to ours, its likely that we won't share their reading taste, but how are we to know? They may be the author's best buddy, their doting auntie Joan or their worst enemy. We've all seen the title that has ten good reviews, and then tucked in among them, will be the one review that trashes the work. Follow that reviewers name, and you may well find that they trash every book they read.

Amazon.com is aware of the problem and has created a badge system to identify a cadre of reviewers who can be trusted. Go to Amazon, click on any recently published book and page down beyond the "official reviews" to Customer Reviews. If the reviewer identifies himself as regularly reviewing or blogging about specific genres, it is possible that this person’s judgment is reliable and enlightening, and more importantly, co-incides with your reading tastes. It’s worth your time to click on the link that says “See all my reviews,” or on the badge beneath the reviewers name.

1 comment:

Dean Crawford said...

Well spotted Jen, I didn't know about that. My agent recently told me that one of his client's debut novels was sent to a certain national newspaper for review, and they gave the novel to a staff editor who also happened to be an embittered failed novelist. Needless to say, he trashed it. Hopefully, in the long run, a good book can win through such unfair malignment by the new digital word-of-mouth reviews on sites such as Amazon.