Should everybody get a trophy? Online book reviews should be more than “A Must Read!”

Like much of the world, I’ve have been spending a lot of time watching the Olympics. Even though the athletes say it’s enough to just be there and compete (which would be pretty cool,) naturally, everybody wants to win. But, only the top three get the nice jewelry. The rest leave empty-handed. And that’s the way it should be.

I contrast this with the “everybody gets a trophy if they compete” mentality that mars online book reviews. How many glowing reviews do you see when you visit a sales page on Amazon or a book review blog? Now try to recall the last time you saw a sales page with both good and bad thoughtful reviews? I can’t say I’ve seen too many of the latter.

I encourage author clients to ask their friends and family to review their books on Amazon. I also tell them to review their competitors’ books for additional exposure and to build their credibility as an expert on their topic. But, it’s gotten to where online reviews are discounted as readers are assuming that the glowing reviews are just posted by friends and family. And that doesn’t do the author any good at all.

Remember when we had to write book reviews in school? The teacher was looking to see if (a) we had actually read the book and (b) if we had formed an opinion about the book. Then we had to write what that opinion was, including the good and the bad, and a conclusion. I think it’s perfectly okay to rave about a book if you actually liked it and can state why you liked it. Stringing together a bunch of phrases derived from other reviews like “A MUST READ” “A Page Turner!” makes your review look like the time you didn’t read The Sun Also Rises in English class and tried to BS your way through the pop quiz.

If your author friend/family member/spouse asks you to post an Amazon review, do read the book first and try to post a short, thoughtful opinion of their work and tell them what you’re going to do. “But, I don’t want to hurt their feelings!” you might reply. I don’t think you will hurt their feelings if you strive to say what’s good and bad about their work. Snark has no place in a thoughtful review – we have enough of that in politics. But, I believe that a meaningful critique is valuable to an author. It shows that the reviewer respected their work enough to read it and put some effort into a review for others to judge. That is a high compliment for any author.