Why Write Book Reviews?
- What is it about writing book reviews for Amazon, and why do I care that I’m ranked at #29000-someodd (and wow, I’m so excited because the last time I checked, I was in the 35,000s!!)?
It’s certainly part of the blog world, and on-line community, and I went around the office telling people to see Lars & the Real Girl, and writing reviews comes from much the same impulse. Only there aren’t many people in my own circle of friends to whom I can recommend Knit Knit. Unexpected Knitting was a hard enough sell!
There’s something to be said for the body of reviews. I like clicking on “see all my reviews” and looking at the list–we are so revealed in our reading. I am puzzled by people who write one review only, usually bad, and never post anything else. What’s that about? It’s almost as puzzling, although I can understand why it happens, when people say nothing more than “Great book! I loved it! These people tend to write lots of reviews that could be pasted from one book to the next (maybe they are…).
As a rule, I will rarely post a review if there are already 10 or more on a book, unless the star-spread is large and I have something to add that hasn’t been covered. Amazon keeps asking me to review the LOTR DVD set. Huh? I have something to add that 400 other people haven’t said? That you’ll make a buying decision based on my comments? (Personally, I wanted more commentary from Ngela Lawson. Please pass that on to Peter next time you talk to him, OK?)
I want a review to tell me why I should buy the book, or instead, invest the wait time to get it from the interlibrary loan. I would like to think my own reviews provide some guidance along those lines to other readers.
There’s a bit of “here I am, reading public, and this is what I think,” and also a bit of a thank you to the authors, by providing proving I’ve read or owned the book and maybe how I used their information in my own life. I don’t write reviews of fiction; “stories” just flow through my life. I don’t write actively negative reviews, but I will provide a counterbalance if most of the reviews are along the lines of “this is so wonderful” and I found the book simplistic or useless.
John doesn’t understand that I give away any time to reviewing, and I can see that I would probably be better served by investing that amount of writing energy into my own next book. In time. In a world with more time to write, the two would not be mutually exclusive. Maybe Amazon reviews are simply a way to get published. I tried writing a gardening column for a newspaper once, and couldn’t do it, but there were a lot of mitigating factors. And the truth is, I was moving away from being a gardener even as that opportunity presented itself.
So I write reviews, and blog, and there are a lot of books in the world that started as blogs and collections of essays, and maybe I’m just letting Amazon’s servers collect my material. Stay tuned.
Written on April 19, 2008