Friday, 20 March 2009

Amazon Reviews

I found this article about Amazon reviews and their influence on the bookbuying public on the Book 2 Book booktrade bulletin recently. And I was intrigued because the way in which Testament is represented on Amazon is not something I’ve given a lot of thought to. Stupidly, as it turns out.

I’ve been fortunate – the few Amazon reviews that Testament has received have been kind and complimentary but the article makes the point that it only takes a few sharp-tongued critics to ruin your star-average and have an impact on sales.
To which the answer is…get people to write lots of nice reviews.

Has anybody reading this blog solicited reviews? Is it becoming an acceptable thing to do, a simple marketing tool? Or is it a bit naff, a bit desperate?

Though one of Testament’s Amazon reviews was written by somebody I know, it was done entirely gratuitously rather than at my request, though I was no less grateful for that. Probably more grateful indeed; there’s nothing like a free gift, after all.

But, to look at the question from the other end, how many of us actually read Amazon reviews before we buy books? I tend only to buy books on Amazon if I already know about them and have failed to buy them in a real live bookshop or can’t afford to do so. But, I’m assuming that Amazon wouldn’t bother with the whole ‘people who buy this book also bought’ thing if people didn’t impulse buy or browse.

And if we don’t read reviews on Amazon, where do we get book recommendations? I’m often swayed by reviews from other bloggers but most of my book buying is done in store and after a good long time happily browsing shelves. How about you?


Tim Stretton said...

Alis, I've never bought a book from Amazon on the basis of reviews (although I have with vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers and cordless handsets, all areas where I have less expertise than books...).

I have solicited Amazon reviews but the one I enjoyed the most came from someone I don't know. I think it's perfectly legitimate to suggest to someone who enjoyed your book that they leave a review: it's more ethical than publishers buying "recommended" reviews in Waterstones!

Ellie said...

I generally have a look at Amazon reviews, but I wouldn't let them sway me. It's interesting to know what people think about a book, but I think a lot of Amazon reviews are so personal that it's hard to extrapolate out whether you would feel the same way without knowing the reviewer.

Alis said...

Hi Tim - Yes, I have a feeling it is perfectly legitimate to 'solicit' reviews, I'm just a bit wussy about doing it, but then I'm not very good at asking for anything...

Hi Ellie - thanks for replying. And of course, you're right, a response to a book is such a personal thing... The problem is, I'm not sure everybody recognises that. Glad you do, though!

KAREN said...

I don't take too much notice of book reviews on Amazon to be honest, but I do read the ones in reputable magazines/newspapers.

I wouldn't be influenced not to buy a book by an author I already liked, but I'm sometimes persuaded by a good review to try something different:o)

Mickmouse said...

I do read the reviews, but feel that it gives me a picture of different viewpoints. It is unlikely that everyone will like a book, even million pound bestsellers have their critics. Most people who love books prefer to make up their own mind. In fact if i am exploring buying a book I am inclined to read it more if there is some controversy!! However if it was my book being reviewed I would want to see more positive than negative !!

Alis said...

Hi Karen and Michelle - I'm really intrigued (and pleased, I think) that people tend to take notice of Amazon reviews, though always with a critical eye of course. Maybe I need to modify my own practice.

David Isaak said...

Except for a few real busybodies, people who bohter to post reviews on Amazon tend to be either enthused or bothered, so the results skew to the far ends of the curve.

Personally, when a number of people love a book and a few others utterly loathe it, it makes the book more attractive to me. The same principle applies to professional reviews of movies--when I see a huge divergence of opinion, I take it as a sign we might have something interesting on hand!

Alis said...

HI David - yes, I agree, it's when the reception is universally bland that you can safely leave the thing alone, whatever the thing is.

Juxtabook said...

Booksellers have problems with Amazon feedback too. I love it when customrs post: 'great condition, fast delivery, excellent communication. Great service. Would use again.' and then give you 4/5 - what the heck else can you get right??? One poor score can send your rating plumeting and your sales drop apparently (annecdotal evidence from other dealers). I work hard and have been lucky so far and my feedback is good, but the potential for problems is there. I think you are right to keep an eye on Testament.

As to buying? I do read feedback but don't pay much attention to the score. The write ups can be useful eg for classics reviews can contain useful info like 'the intro is more up to date in the OUP edition', or similar.

Alis said...

Hi Juxtabook - maybe the people who leave 4/5 scores are from my generation who were told at school that nothing can ever be perfect, there's always room for improvement! I remember being amazed when my boys started getting full marks for English work at school - we were always told that 16/20 was amazing!