Here are my thoughts on reviews.
Just as the only job of the cover is to get people to look at the title, and the only job of the title is to get people to read the description, and the only job of the description is to get people to read the reviews…
The only job of reviews is to give all these other elements enough credibility to get the person reading them to buy.
I have identified two elements that give a review credibility.
******Element #1 – specificity*******
If a review is specific, the potential reader has a chance to work out if they are likely to want to buy. And also it allows them to reject any criticisms that do not apply to them.
For example one of my books is aimed at women. I don’t even bother using he in it. This intentional sidelining of men serves to engage my target audience – women. So if a man reviewed it complaining that it was sexist, a woman reading that review would probably not care that men are not catered for. She trusts the reviews because someone has criticised the book, but it has actually served to engage her more than it would otherwise have done.
Specificity also serves to stop potential readers making ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ decisions not to buy.
For example “the first half is a little theoretical but the real gold is in the practical system outlined in part three. That was so helpful”
“The reason I loved this book was that it helped me do x”
“The most useful part was X because it explained ….”
Is better than
“overall quite a helpful book”… Which sounds like someone has been press ganged into reviewing it. Not good.
********Element #2: Appropriate Criticism*******
This was implied above, but I want to dwell on it.
we all know that no book is perfect. I can count on one hand those books that have changed my life, and even I don’t think they are flawless.
If you are dithering about buying a book, what would sway you more in favour of the purchase – 25 five star reviews, or 22 five stars, 2 four star and 1 three star rating?
Criticism must be backed up by reasons, to allow the person reading the review to make up their own mind.
100% glowing testimonials come over as fake – unless they are specific.
Of course if someone really loves a book so much they have to tell all their friends about it, then they should say so, but that is not usually the case.
Intelligent reviews that are specific most of all and offer appropriate criticism create a great deal of authority. This authority supersedes what might at first glance seem like negative comments.
Potential readers do NOT expect a book to be perfect – they just want to know if it’s worth their time and money reading it.