Book Reviews–Valuable or not?

One of the ongoing discussions in the book publishing world is the value of book reviews. How much do book reviews influence the reader to purchase a book? Authors get paid for books sold, not for books read. So, to be valuable, the book review should entice readers to buy the book, not just read it.

Actually, if most readers were honest, they don’t (or won’t) read 80 percent of the books in their personal libraries. The books on their shelves or stacked by their beds warrant their places in the reader’s home, but finding time to read them all challenges even the most dedicated reader. So, again, the value to the author comes in the reader buying the book more than in reading the book.

One of the ongoing discussions about book reviews is whether or not to pay for the review. Many well-known review sources require payment for reviews. ForeWord magazine’s review guidelines offer to send your book to one of its reviewers for $99.00 (they call it a small handling fee). To ForeWord‘s credit, they will refund the money if the book doesn’t pass their review standards test.

But if you pay for a review, do you create a conflict of interest? Do you have a right to expect a positive review since you paid for it? Or can the reviewer be trusted to be objective and ignore the influence of payment for the service?

If you don’t pay for a review, what credentials should you expect the reviewer to bring to the table? Do readers value the opinion of a well-known reviewer over someone who likes to read and comment on the book or doesn’t that matter?

I submit that an appropriate reviewer will back up any assertions made in the review with evidence to support those assertions. Evidence shows the reviewer actually read the book and has a basis for what he/she says. Evidence carries more weight than opinion.

The final issue in determining value of a book review deals with what the author does with the review. Positive reviews are wonderful–if the author does something with them. Remember the value is in the purchase of books, so the author needs to use positive reviews to market the book and create buzz about the book. That’s what translates into sales.

Book reviews can be valuable, but it’s up to the author to make them so.

Happy writing!


3 Responses to “Book Reviews–Valuable or not?”

  1. 1 Carol Ann Hoel January 11, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I have a preference for mystery, suspense, and even for certain authors in those genres because of voice or style. I would give those particular books/authors good reviews. Some books that others have given great reviews do not interest me. My point is this: I think reviewers should refrain from critiquing books they wouldn’t ordinarily choose to read. Since I have little experience with reviews or reviewers, perhaps I just don’t understand the issues.

    Are professional reviewers all the same, or does each have his/her own bias when it comes to genre, voice, and other differences? Another thing that bothers me about reviews is this: Reviewers disagree about books they read, which may be the result of preferences. If not, why do they disagree?

    • 2 expertbookpublishing January 12, 2011 at 9:31 am

      I can’t speak for all book reviewers (I did book reviews for Armchair Interviews for years), but I do know that not everyone agrees on what is good, whether they’re talking about movies, music, television shows, live theater, restaurants, or books.

      When I say reviewers should offer evidence to support their reviews, I’m talking about comments about writing quality, thoroughness of research (even in fiction), etc. Personal taste is, well, personal, so I assume that’s why reviewers disagree at times.

      • 3 Carol Ann Hoel January 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm

        Makes sense. Writing quality is important and, yes, should not be criticized thoughtlessly, but with supporting evidence. I understand this kind of disagreement or any kind for that matter. I just think some differences are that of opinion and preference. Writing mistakes are what they are. I don’t want my writing to be filled with such mistakes. Thank you for replying to my comment. I’m sure you are a responsible reviewer.

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