Saturday, April 28, 2007

Book Reviews: The be all and end all?

Lynette Rees

Now don’t shoot me down in flames, but I don’t put too much stock on book reviews and I’ll tell you why. It’s not because I haven’t had any good ones. Quite the contrary in fact. When my first novel was published last year, it got fantastic reviews. Most were five star and one was a 'recommended read' at Fallen Angel Reviews.

I haven’t had an absolute stinking review as yet, although I have had one or two iffy ones [they were three star reviews, so still classed as good.]

Donald Mass, the author of ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’ says that reviews don’t sell books because few people see them. In Mass’s opinion it is word of mouth that sells those books. Someone gets excited about a book and then tells someone else, who in turn thinks they would like to read that book. And so it goes on.

I know one novelist who paid to advertise her new book in a well known romance review magazine, the bible of romance reviews. What did she get for her trouble? She got a nice advert all right. Great. On the very next page the reviewer had written a stinking review of her book. She pulled the book to pieces saying it was ‘very much like a work in progress and severely flawed’. That poor author was devastated by her one star review.

Now the same book had been given a five star review at a well known website, the reviewer there had loved the book.

So, what we are getting to here is at the end of the day, a review is only one person’s opinion.

If we are fortunate enough to sell hundreds or even thousands of our books, for all those readers who love it, there will be one or two that don’t. They may even hate it. What if they were the ones who reviewed our book? We’d soon forget about all the good reviews and probably focus on those couple of bad ones.

There’s a well known reviewer on the web, most of you will know her, but for argument’s sake, I’ll refer to her as Mrs. Chuckles. She dishes out reviews right, left and centre. Some of the reviews she gives out are phenomenal while some are dismal. She has a rating system marked out of 100 points.

I don’t get why people are so enamoured of her reviews. In fact, I don’t trust them at all. I don’t get how one person can review so many books. How does she get time to go to the bathroom?

She used to give great reviews to a New York Times best selling author, reviews in the 80’s. Then one day she wrote a stinker for this author’s book, giving her just 9 points. She said some awful things about her book. Now, in my mind that was one of the author’s best works. All her other reviews had been top notch.

I wrote to Mrs. Chuckles and told her I thought she was a very entertaining writer, but why when she had so much talent herself, did she not want to write her own book? She didn’t give me a satisfactory answer.

If anyone here knows how *Mrs. Chuckles manages to review so much, not just books but films etc, as well, do let me know. Personally, I think the woman is an alien who has multiple heads, eyes, and hands, enabling her to review twenty or more books at one time. Well, it’s the only explanation I can think of for how she manages find time to do anything else!

But then again, maybe I see what others have thought and dismissed. I’d be the type to say: “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!”

I don’t want to upset any of you reviewers out there, I’m sure you are all doing a fantastic job. It’s just at the end of the day it’s only your opinion. I sold hundreds of books last year in my home town and no one had read any of my ‘great reviews’ for it. It got sold by word of mouth.

Donald Mass has a point.

What do you think?

Do book reviews sell your books or is it something else?


Marianne Arkins said...

I will read a book based on a good review, but I won't buy one. The only time I'll buy a book from a new-to-me author without reading it first is if a person I trust, who knows my reading habits, recommends it.

So, yeah. It's all about word of mouth.

Do Mrs. Chuckles initials look like H.C.?

Allie Boniface said...

Reviews: nope.
Word of mouth: yup.

Lynette said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this topic, ladies.

Marianne, I don't know *Mrs. Chuckles real name, although I heard that she used to give it at one time.