Giving Added Meaning: In Defense of Reviews in Blogging

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Reviews are a touchy subject for many a book blogger. For the past three years I’ve found myself immersed in this strange world of blogs that revolve around the discussion and celebration of everything to do with the written world, but I’ve never been able to escape one ever-pervasive belief:

Most readers don’t really care about reviews.

It was by sheer chance the other day that I happened upon a blog post that will remain unnamed and unlinked where a blogger talked about disliking reviews and admitted that she had zero interest in them. And part of me totally gets that. That part of me is also totally ashamed to be admitting that, to put it out there in bold letters: Most of the time I don’t like reading reviews.

MOST OF THE TIME. But trust me – reviews are amazing tools. Let me explain.

So often reviews are overlooked for three reasons which vary from person to person: they’re either too full of praise to be trusted, or too full of negativity to be trusted, or just two adequate and neutral and nice to be even worth a glance. It depends on what type of person you are, what mood you are in that day, and plenty of other things that would take years to dissect and recreate into some semblance of data. The psychology of conveying love and hate and everything in between is an entire doctoral dissertation on its own.

Between my week of vacillating between work stress, home stress, and stress for the sake of having stress, I found myself dwelling on this thought – that reviews are somehow inferior, unnecessary, and pointless in relation to other posts like memes, giveaways, features, etc.

Reviews add meaning, purpose, personalization, and so much more to our blogs. Let’s be honest with ourselves. One of the reasons I let my own personal blog die was because I never figured out how to stand out among the masses, even with years of working to differentiate myself from the masses. My reviews, no matter how hard I tried, rarely stood out from the pack. The meaning I imbued into every post I wrote, every word I crafted for my readers, never truly felt like it did anything to lift me above the pack. It came to the point where it almost felt as if people really did follow me in case I posted a giveaway and then otherwise tuned out.

Not only do reviews give added meaning to you and your blog, but they also give added meaning to the fact that a publishing company has spent money to produce something that they then are willing to give to you for free. Of course chances are they want a glowing review, but they’re not going to axe you to death in your bed while you sleep over a negative review. Giving critical reviews does not make you a negative person. Now, creating a ruckus over being offended that someone gave your book three stars, how it’s such a disgrace for that person who should now suffer for daring to be on the fence about your book? That might make you a negative person. Might.

So let’s think about this. What is the benefit of a review, especially when there are thousands of conflicting reviews out there for the same book? Because once you find a reviewer you click with – hopefully me, wink wink – you will always find something new from that person, a book you have to discover. The words of a review have the power to draw you to a title, or the power to repel. Someone’s repulsion could easily have an alluring effect on you, forcing you to the store to grab that title that others hated.

Reviews sell books so much better than people give them credit for. No, there is no science to this assertion. This is just my own personal beliefs at work. I have bought more books than I can count based on reviews, more so than I’ve bought books based on personality-less memes or Instagram photos of books a distant blogger has received in the mail. And a review that is critical? For me, it’s just as useful to me, a buyer, as a positive review is, if not MORE helpful in allowing me to make educated buying choices.

Me when I read reviews that cause me to buy books. Not so much write them.

In review – reviews are good. Reviews are amazing, and quite frankly an occasionally underutilized tool that more “reviewers” should take into consideration. Although they don’t get as many hits as other posts (ie giveaways), the hits they do receive are from dedicated readers who really do use reviews as tools to make purchases, just like an ARC or any other form of a review copy is a tool for you to present the publisher’s book to your audience in a favorable or unfavorable way. At the end of the day, these books are marketing devices, put into your hands as a blogger as a device to get you to help spread the word. And you know the best way to do this? The way that I think sells the most books?

Review it. Give some meaning to the book beyond a title and a synopsis. Spread the word and let the people know, but spread the word of books beyond memes and book hauls. You never know. Your words on a screen might sell a few copies, and your words might inspire readers to go out and buy some books to review and spread it further.

But reviews? Not bad. Not bad at all.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I pay attention to reviews from people I follow or have come to “know” (meaning that something about their review style struck a chord with me or that we had extremely similar or dissimilar tastes). “Strangers” not so much; sporadically a review is interesting enough I will read their other reviews in case I want to follow them.

    Meme, pinterest, tumblr, Instagram, facebook shares, twitter … none have ever convinced me to buy or not buy a book (unless accompanied by such vile verbiage from the author or via spam that I make sure to boycott). I’ve more often bought and enjoyed a book due to a negative review (where the reviewer hated something I knew I enjoyed).

    I’m not sure where I fit statistically in book buying decision making. I’ve read at least a book a day (health and family crises permitting) for more than four decades. And without fail my first thought before choosing my next read is “what am I in the mood to read?” (Sometimes that’s even a vague answer of “something different” or “more by this author”; sometimes vague enough that I will browse entire genre sections of a bookstore looking at every blurb until I find something then checking for reviews from my favorite reviewers online to narrow down purchasing decisions if I found too many. Book covers don’t even make me buy although some will indicate the book may be in a genre
    I like so cause me to look at blurb when it was shelved away from it’s section…)

  2. I found myself nodding to a lot of your points. My stats show that my book reviews — the ones I agonize over and spend time thinking about and writing — are among the least visited posts. But I am also proudest of my reviews and I’ll keep at them because these are the substance of why I started a blog in the first place.

    Great post, I really enjoy your blog!

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