Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reviews--Part 1

Here are answers from some BGs. A review is . . .

One person's written opinion of something in particular, usually a form of media.

'This book sucks because...' or 'This book is yummy because...'.

Contains a teaser about the book as well as the reviewer's opinion of why they did or didn't like the book. There will also be a sprinkling of strengths and weaknesses if you're on a site like epinions.

An overview of the book/cd/movie/video games/comics/insert your own item that will, hopefully, entice the reader/listener/movie goer/gamer/comic book reader/anyone else that's left to research the featured item on their own and make up their own mind about said feature.

A few interesting summary paragraphs telling an opinion about a product.

An informed opinion that examines the strengths and weaknesses of a product and informs a interested consumer on if the product of interest is worth spending their money and time on.

An opinion of the strengths, weaknesses, and likeability of the product.

A critical report of a media , art, or product that is intended to help a consumer decide whether or not to spend money and/or time on the reviewed item.

An opinion. Period.

A judgment of the author's ability and the quality of this particular story, as well as enough information about the plot to know if this story would appeal to the reader.

One person's recommendation to readers based on the reviewer's analysis of the work's strengths and weaknesses.

A catalyst that makes others read to see if they agree. Now that's probably more like it. Just enough information about a book to stir the reader's interest without giving away any important plot points that might spoil the read.

I agree--an opinion. Period. And I try to mention that when I review. This is my opinion, not necessarily anyone else's. But I do say whether I recommend it or not.

An opinion-colored analysis of some form of artwork.

Like a refrigerator. Some cheap and unworthy, full of sour milk, some with bells and whistles and T-bones.

Yes, a review is all of the above. One person’s opinion on a work. A recommendation—or lack thereof—based on how the reviewer reacted to the book. And true, some reviews are written well; some are not. But what comes before all of this? What’s at the foundation of a review?

A review is a marketing tool.


How do most reviewers—whether professional or volunteer—get the books they are to review?

From the marketing/publicity departments at the publishing house, or from the authors themselves. These books are FREE.

Why do the publishers/authors agree to pay for this?

Because a review is publicity. It gets the name of the book and author in front of people.

How are the reviews used by these marketing departments/authors who send out these free books?

They are edited, then used in advertisements/publicity for the book and sometimes future books by the author. How are they edited? The positive statements of the reviews are used. The negative statements are not used.

What is the point of all this kafluffle?

To persuade people to buy the book.

So—if you give a nod to the fact that a review is an opinion about how well a book is written, yet understand that fundamentally the whole review process is used as a marketing tool, how might this change your view of reviews as a reader/consumer? As an author of a reviewed book? As a reviewer?

(By the way, reviewers out there—don’t throw your tomatoes just yet. More tomorrow.)

Read Part 3


Cara Putman said...

I've only been reviewing for a few months and it has changed my perspective on reviews in general. I have always been pretty independent, so reviews don't sway me much when it comes to an author I'm comfortable with. But for those new, untried authors, they're helpful if I'm getting the book on-line. Otherwise, I still rely on cover, backcover copy, etc. I really don't care about the pages of endorsements at the beginning of some books. But as I get to know some of the reviewers, their opinions matter a bit more in whether or not I buy a book. And on sites like Amazon, if there are lots of good reviews, it might make me slightly more willing to purchase a book I was considering.

Tina Ann Forkner said...

I have reviewed books and my perspective has changed quite a bit. I realize how subjective reviewers' opinions are. I also now have an inkling that in CBA reviewing, most reviews are "nice" even if the book isn't all that great. So when purchasing books for my own enjoyment, I end up not paying much attention to reviews unless they are from a notable source like Crosswalk or Faithful Reader, and still I'm cynical. I also like Novel Journey ( It's pretty good even if it's not backed by a big name like the other two I mentioned, yet.

Anonymous said...

For the most part, I don't read reviews for the sole reason I don't want the story ruined. Awhile back I commented on the blurbs or backcover copy revealing too much information about the story, thereby giving away the entire plot. Although the reviewers can be and usually are careful about doing just that, I don't want to know how the story goes before I read the book.
Besides, it's only an opinion, subjective about content and style, and although the reviewer might have similar likes and dislikes as me, I don't want to know what happens and how unless I DON'T plan on buying the book.

Anonymous said...

P.S. As an author, who wouldn't want a positive review by someone who "gets" what you write and likes the way you write it?

Tina Ann Forkner said...

Absolutely, Nicole. I know I would!

Domino said...

Opinions are like blades of grass in the back yard. When you really look at them, they don't all look exactly the same, but they serve the same purpose.

I look at reviews because I hate to waste money. I want to know if there's something in the book or movie that will keep me from enjoying it.

When I was pregnant, my husband and I sat through a rather lengthy movie preview while waiting on the feature film. Before the preview was over, I had to get a tissue out of my purse to wipe the tears rolling down my cheeks. Now if a book review would make me emotionally engaged like that... that's a really good marketing tool.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tina--CBA reviews can be too nice. I sometimes read the blurb reviews that are in the first couple pages of a book. I notice the names of the authors who rave about how fantastic this book is. And if I read the book and feel it's not written very well, I remember the authors who raved about it, and the next time I see them rave about another book, I remember they led me wrong before! So in my mind, a good review given about a book that's not good can hurt the reviewer, especially if they're another writer.

Jason said...

I have always remembered the review issue as discussed once in ,CCM. In the old days they'd pretty much be a cheerleader for any work that came around. But the editor listened to an album one day that was crap. He was tired of paying money and getting burned, and seeing the readers do the same. He realized then that he had a responsibility to be honest in reviewing, and not just "rah-rah-ing" because some artist is a Christian.

It is hard to be honest though. I just read a book from someone I "know" through the net. I didn't really enjoy this book. Do I review it and knock this work? I also don't want to affect a relationship, especially since one day I hope to be in the position of having people review my work. I believe this person would have integrity and not think of a negative review I gave him, but that thought is still there.

Jerome said...

Brandily, you hit the nail on the head. Reviews are marketing tools. New authors, like me, have to determine how best to acquire them and utilize them to create word-of-mouth about our work.

BTW, your Charis blog earlier this week was great.