I got into an interesting discussion today with a friend of mine about the value Amazon book reviews. With a book coming out in July, they are something I suspect I will become intimately familiar with. The discussion arose in the context of a post by George Washington University Law Professor, Lawrence Cunningham entitled “Bad Book Reviews By Bad Reviewers“. As a point of disclosure, I had never heard of Professor Cunningham before this. I have never read and don’t plan on reading any of his books. They could be great books. They simply do not cover subject matter I have any real interest in.
The gist of Professor Cunningham’s blog post seems to be that there are a lot of book reviews on Amazon.com from people who have never read the book. He goes on into general critique about what constitutes a good/helpful Amazon review and a bad one. Where I get hazy is whether this is really an objective, dispassionate attempt to instruct people how to get the most from Amazon book reviews or he is just upset because he got some bad ones from people he does not believe actually read his book(s). My gut is the latter because the post reads more like a rant than providing any meaningful analysis.
I however do understand where Professor Cunningham is coming from. No one likes to have ugly things said about them. No one likes a bad review of something they poured their heart into and taken intimate ownership of. It’s frankly a scary thought to me that I will for the first time be totally exposed and open to such critique with no buffer, Facebook block or delete button. It is what it is. I made that choice. If I thought I couldn’t handle it, I wouldn’t write. That being said, Here are my thoughts on the whole problem of fake and trolling Amazon book reviews.
I know full well going in that the following things will occur when my book comes out. People will read it and like it. People will read it and hate it. People will agree. People will disagree. People who don’t like me personally (yes, there are some of those) wont read it and may write anonymous(they usually are) Amazon reviews saying they read it and they hated it. People who are “professional reviewers” may review it based on other reviews to get whatever jollies they get in accumulating the most Amazon reviews. Being a”top reviewer”. Maybe there is a t-shirt or something for that. That is just the nature of user generated reviews whether its Amazon, Yelp or wherever. Is it a problem worth getting upset about? I don’t think it is for books. Why? Why should I get worked up about any book reviews? Will it change anything? Nope. I can’t turn back the clock. I can only put in my best effort in the present. Here is what matters to me. Am I happy with what I wrote? Do I think I will make a difference with what I wrote? If I help one person it was worth it no matter how many nameless Amazon flamers there are.
In the end, like always , content is king. That is what drives sales. If my content is compelling people will be drawn to it. If not, they wont. That’s what matters. Not Amazon book flamers and professional reviewers. No matter what happens with my book, I will spend time continuing to do what I love, writing and helping people who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder,Bullying, Eating Disorders etc. I won’t be obsessing and whining over negative Amazon book reviews whether real or trolling. If Professor Cunningham or any author is upset over negative Amazon book reviews, here is my advice. It works for life in general as well.
** UPDATE 3/27/13 Yesterday, I was alerted to and confirmed that Professor Cunningham has apparently deleted the string of comment(s) in which he ranted about “bad reviews” of one of his books. Not sure it if was the result of this post. I leave it to the reader to determine how it affects his credibility.
**Update 6/21/13 On a whim I went back to Professor Cunningham’s blog to see if there were more comments to the story. He has now deleted all of them.