Did you see the recent New York Times article by David Streitfeld? The one about Amazon “cracking down” on the abundance of five-star book reviews? I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled… but also in a bit of a predicament.
As an avid reader, I’m always on the prowl for new books to devour
(when I’m not buys editing and proofing manuscripts that are going to hopefully become those books that other avid readers will want to devour!) and I often look to Amazon book reviews to get a feel for what others think. NOT that I rely on what others think or assume that because it’s a five-star bestseller it will be for me. (Case in point: Fifty Shades of Grey – but then, I’ve already expounded on this in another post!)
But still, it doesn’t hurt to know what people are saying – IF what they’re saying is not a rubber-stamped, don’t-want-to-hurt-the-author’s-feelings kind of review. Unfortunately, most reviews (as the article points out) are just that… especially if the author has recruited friends and family and former English teachers to review his or her book.
As an editor, though, I’m often asked to write those very reviews for writers – having worked on their books or because as a friend of an author, my professional status will carry some weight and hopefully will influence purchases. But how do I write an honest review that might actually be critical and less than five stars? How do I say that, “Well, I did the best I could with the story, but it still isn’t great?” Or how do I tell writers whose works I had not worked on, but think maybe I should have – that they might want to ask someone else?
I can always find something nice to say, but it doesn’t seem to be enough; so many reviews have only everything nice to say. So I hem and haw, and shuffle my feet, and carefully edit my reviews so that I don’t really lie – but I don’t tell the whole truth.
So, thank you Amazon, for being tough – and giving me the courage to be tough, too.