Amazon Reviews, Bookstores, and me

Amazon reviews are like water to self-published authors. Many promotional websites won’t allow you to use them unless you have a certain number of reviews (usually on Amazon, not combined), and by far the most books are bought from Amazon. Kobo tends to come in far second with Barnes and Noble trailing behind. I’ve heard you get more traction with the latter two places when you’re more well known. With Larkspur being free I tend to get a download a day or so from the Big A, and maybe 1 a month from the other two.

Larkspur has 53 reviews on Amazon.com. On .co.uk it has 3, on .de there’s 1, and on .ca another 3. Generally the one everyone cares about it the .com one. Even on the other country websites if you scroll far enough down you’ll see “more reviews” from Amazon.com. They don’t cross-promote the .co.uk or the .de reviews that way.

On Kobo I have 0, and on BN I have 1.

Now compared to something like 50 Shades of Grey (which has 66,422 reviews on Amazon.com), or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (12,108 ), 53 seems really small.

But ok, ok, those two series are ridiculously well known. What about other work?

And here’s where I had my ‘wait, what’ moment that caused this post. I sort of assumed most traditionally published work had a few thousand reviews at least. Because well, it’s traditionally published and well-known, and I can see them at the bookstore in the front window being touted around.

It seems that isn’t the case.

Jane Lindskold’s Through Wolf’s Eyes only has 104 reviews on Amazon. It is one of my favorite books, traditionally published years ago, and is the start of a great 6 series epic. It blows my mind that only 104 people thought to write a review.

Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, the first in her Otherworld series (also now made into a TV show), only has 645 reviews.

David Gemmell’s Legend only has 244!

I honestly didn’t realize ‘real’ ‘traditional’ books get so little exposure (in regards to reviews on Amazon). I tend to browse Amazon for self-published stuff and the review numbers made me think ‘under 100, probably self-published’ because I had only seen super popular books with several thousand reviews otherwise.

Now I’m a little confused, like my worldview has been knocked over. Dia Reeves’s Slice of Cherry only has 41 reviews. … I have 12 more reviews on my little teeny tiny self-published novelette than this dark YA story that I picked up at the bookstore.

There’s the thing though, I think. Bookstores. I love bookstores. I love browsing shelves and looking for pretty covers and picking up random books to skim. There’s no reviews plastered on the front, no group of people telling you what books you should like or need to read first. Yes, you’ll have the really popular stuff with merchandise in the corner, but in the actual shelves they’re just placed in alphabetical order. No ‘most reviews’ or ‘best average.’

Until now I didn’t really think too much about just being an ebook author, about not being in bookstores. I have a lot of traditionally published books in ebook form as well as paperback because it’s easier to have my phone loaded up with files rather than a bookbag full of well, books. But I never thought about what it means to look for a book just on Amazon- to see everything categorized to a fault, separated, and placed into groups where anything less than 4.5 stars feels like it’s on the ‘ew, what’s wrong with this book’ list.

One thought on “Amazon Reviews, Bookstores, and me

  1. As a reader I don’t trust Amazon reviews that much. It’s a two-fold problem. There are the people who inflate the quality of a book. And then there’s the problem that what others like may not cater to me. So if I don’t know the preferences of the reviewer, them saying “this book is great, you should read it” without going into detail will be a hit or miss for me.

    Going to bookstores and skimming is nice. The book stands by the merits of its first chapter without all the noise of other readers. This I agree with you. But I think people who decide what to buy by doing this (and then either buy the book at the store or order it on Amazon as ebook or physical copy) are likely to not leave a review. Consumer reviews is a creature (mostly) of the internet; before ebooks and online shopping, no one ever thinks to write reviews for the products that they buy. I think that to some degree, that old habit subsists when it comes to books that have a physical form.

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