Monday, December 5, 2011

Terri Giuliano Long: Assessing Consumer Reviews

An interesting article by Terri Giuliano Long showed up on The Huffington Post of all places. They seem to have picked up a new column dedicated to the indie author movement. The content is being provided by another site called, of which Ms. Long is a columnist. All this is new to me, but the topic is most familiar:

Love it or hate it, this is an exciting time in the publishing world. Technological advances have made the long, arduous process of publishing a book cheap, easy and fast--giving voice to millions of new authors and providing readers with a richer, more interesting selection of books.

That's the good news. The challenge is, with so many new choices, how do readers determine which titles to pick?

With indie books, it can be especially hard. Only a handful of indie authors have been around long enough to have an identifiable "brand" (think James Patterson or Nora Roberts). To buy a book by an unfamiliar author, even if it costs only 99¢, readers must take a chance. This perception of risk is amplified by the stigma still associated with self-publishing. Complicating matters, traditional media rarely (if ever), review indie books, forcing readers to rely on consumer reviews--putting disproportionate authority into the hands of consumer reviewers... source

As you all know, I'm a huge proponent of putting a "disproportionate authority into the hands of consumer reviewers," but as with anything involving large sums of money, there is a certain buyer-beware aspect to Amazon reviews. Ms. Long offers some good advice here:

For a quick read on credibility, click the button to view the reviewer's profile. Does she favor a particular genre? Are your tastes similar? Do you agree with her other ratings? These answers, along with the total number of reviews--does she post regularly or is this her only review?--the length of time she's been a reviewer--three days or three years?--and the percentage of helpful votes tell a compelling story.

That's certainly a helpful tactic, but it's not foolproof. Often a great (or terrible) read inspires someone who never wrote a review before. I tend to just download the sample and examine the prose and pacing. I can usually tell in 500 words if the reviews and I are on the same page.

The best defense is probably to defer to outside sources. Subscribe to a few Goodreads book clubs and keep a few review sites that share your tastes in your RSS feed. That plus sampling has left me with more quality reads than I can hope to finish this year.

How are you going about finding new indie reads? Any tricks you can share? I'd be interested to hear about any other trick's you've discovered.



Terri Giuliano Long said...

You make terrific points, B! In part two, which will appear in IndieReader next week, I suggest, as you do, that people follow book bloggers. Subscribing to Goodreads clubs is another great idea. Of course downloading a sample is excellent advice. I should have thought to include that.

B. Justin Shier said...

@Terri: Appreciate it. You did a great job of approaching a rather contentious topic. That gets you kudos (and the link) from me. Looking forward to the second article in the series!


Anonymous said...

In my opinion (and I waste a lot of time on terrible books), the first chapter often shows it all. I have been leafing through a lot of very new indie fantasy/scifi for a while now, and most of them simply have this unedited feel to it... like it's a draft. Rarely will an indie author have the polish I expect in a novel... but some have interesting ideas that are simply badly shown or not thought out far enough etc. The "try first chapter" on amazon is usually all you need to determine if it's worth continuing.

B. Justin Shier said...

I agree. That look inside feature is wonderful.


Amy McKeown said...

It's an interesting article! I read all reviews at and highly recommend you to do so. You'll find there a lot of articles and materials.

Lullaby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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