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How much do you trust online reviews?

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by GeekDavid, Nov 8, 2013.

  1. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

    Just browsing Amazon and cross-referencing with Goodreads, and was wondering how much stock everyone here puts in the online reviews and star ratings from those sites and others like them.

    Also, if there's a site with reviews you do trust, share it, please. :)
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I rely more on personal recommendations, friends, business associates, & scribes.

    That said, if I do look at reviews, two things matter. First, how many reviews are there? If the sample is a N of 3, and they're all 5 stars, I'm likely to back away from the book. If there's 50+ reviews and the average rating is 3.5 or more, I'd consider a purchase if the material sounds interesting.

    For the most part though, I need to see a spattering of reviews & a decent number of them if they're going to carry any weight. In a book with 100 reviews, and no 1 or 2 star reviews, I might consider that a bit fishy. People's taste vary too much for at least a couple people to not appreciate the story.

    Still, as I stated at the beginning, recommendations carry much more weight.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2013
  3. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

  4. C Hollis

    C Hollis Troubadour

    Online reviews can be purchased. I have received more than a few offers in my author inbox. There was an article in the New York Times a year or so ago about an outfit in Tulsa, Oklahoma that sold book reviews and they actually shared how they did it. Of course, the company saw no wrong in what they did.

    Amazon has a reputation for removing strong negative reviews.

    And of course, the family/friends factor.

    That being said, when I look at reviews on Amazon, or other outlets, I put more stock in the 3star and below reviews. I actually tend to ignore the 4's and 5's. A lot of the time, those lower reviews provide better insight to the book. And, as has been said, what one person finds awful, another may love.
  5. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I tend to ignore star ratings entirely as being essentially meaningless. I do, however, use Amazon reviews as a major part of my decision making process. What I do is read a pretty good sampling of the reviews to get a good idea of what people did and didn't like about the book.

    "It was the awesome! 5,000 stars!" AND "It sucked soooooooo bad. -10,000 stars!" are both worthless.

    If I feel that the major negatives aren't that big a deal to me and the major positives are big pluses, it's an easy buy decision (after making sure the sample is interesting, of course).
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I don't tend to trust 5 or 1 star reviews unless they're really well-written. Like if a 5 star review looks like some thought was put into it, I tend to trust it more. If a 1 star review looks the same, I'll consider it as well. I do find most reviews that are 2-4 stars tend to be more representative of the book since those reviews tend to point out strengths and weaknesses. For me, reading the actual review tends to be more important although I know people get hung up on stars.

    That said, I find recently I tend to only pick up books when the description is something I like. It doesn't much matter to me what someone says about the book anymore since there are tons and tons of awesome books out there. If someone says "if you want to check out a book with a good mech romance, check out..." Mech romance? That kind of thing might pique my interest more than if someone says "______ was really good. I highly recommend it." Concepts can often hook me more to check something out than just "this was a well-written book."
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    "Trust" is the wrong word to use in relation to online reviews. Why would you ever trust anything that can from a source unknown to you?

    However, I find online reviews to be useful in general. They are a potential source of information but each one has to be judged based on its individual merits. I find 1 star reviews to be just as useful as 4 or 5 star reviews. Obviously for pinpointing objective issues like bad formatting of ebooks or bad copy editing but also because often the things that people dislike and give bad reviews for are actually things I like in stories (and the things people give rave reviews for are often things I dislike). Sock puppet reviews are, in my opinion, pretty easy to pick out based on their tone and so easy to just disregard.
  8. Richard Sutton

    Richard Sutton Dreamer

    I think trust is too broad a word. Do you trust TV commercials? How 'bout magazine articles? Glossy full page ads?

    Reviews have always been part of a complete book marketing campaign. Maybe money wasn't always exchanged, but a book review has always been an exchange of service or referral consideration. Many highly trusted review services such as Kirkus, will do a review if you pay them to do one, even if you are a self-published author with very deep pockets. Authors have always sought the comments of other writers. The only thing I see different with online reviews are that so many are snarky or troll-generated for no good reason. Rather than encourage democratic, honesty, it seems to me that the anonymous star ratings system has produced mob rule and retribution. I think any book review is to be trusted as far as you can toss it once crumpled, into the trash basket, or the reach it requires to hit the key to close the page. On the other hand, even I use advertising to get product information. Follow reviewers in genres you read in, and you get a good idea of what that reviewer likes. If it is close to your own, then following those reviews makes sense for you. Maybe not me, but it's a big pond we're all swimming in. There's plenty of room for opinion.
  9. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

    I'm pretty skeptical of online reviews, in small part because of all the horror stories, but in larger part because I don't expect anyone to have the same tastes as me. When I am going to use reviews for something, I try to look up the reviewers to see how many other reviews they have done, what they were on, and what they wrote before I put any weight into them.

    When it comes to books, I love the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon. I'll usually trust a sample read more than a small number of reviews, especially when trying out new authors; it's so hard for a new writer to make it past "the algorithm."

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