When is a Customer Book Review Better than an Edit...
If you are like a lot of people, you jump onto the Internet, look for a book to read, and just read the reviews. Although, what type of book review are you reading and should you even care? Let’s begin with an answer to the latter question first which is a resounding “YES.” Not all book reviews are created equal (or should I say, written equal). The two main types of book reviews are customer book reviews and editorial book reviews.
Customer book reviews are from people like most of us. We are the readers who buy the book and then write comments about what we read. You may have even left review comments online about products you have purchased, places where you have stayed (my negative review of that hotel in Boston with the AC unit on the roof outside the window still gets a lot of views and has hopefully saved many people at least one sleepless night…), or even restaurants where you have eaten. As you can imagine though, customer reviews are very variable. Not everyone is articulate or writes clearly. And sometimes an angry review can come out excessively hostile and over-the-top. Also, customer reviews can be fraudulent. In the case of books, authors have been known to write positive reviews themselves and submit them under different accounts.
Verified customer reviews are an attempt to assure that the person reviewing the book has purchased it, but here again, fraud can happen. Authors and publishers can buy multiple copies of their own books online to make their title look popular and then leave a lot of positive verified reviews. Just like business owners, authors may also get negative reviews from a reviewer who never red their book but just doesn’t like the topic of the book, a position they support, or their politics. Beware of customer reviews, especially if they are all negative or all positive…nothing, not even a book, is loved or hated by everyone.
Editorial book reviews are done by a professional editor, critic, writer who has some background or special insight into the book’s subject, genre, or even author. These reviews are designed to be an objective and unbiased appraisal of the book. Editorial reviews can be expensive to obtain because of the quality of reviewers, who may receive compensation for their reviews. Editorial book reviews are usually very well-thought out, clearly written, and comprehensive. They are felt to have more gravitas than customer reviews and Amazon.com sets them in a prominent position of visibility nearer the book’s description toward the top of the Amazon book page listing.
So, when would a customer review be more valuable to read than an editorial review? The answer is when the customer review is from the book’s target audience. The target audience is for whom the book has been written. If the book is for 8 – 12-year-olds, and the reviewer is 11 years old and says your title is one of the best books that she has ever read or that it has helped her learn so much about the environment or friendship. This is priceless! You know that the author really connected with the reader. In the same way, a negative review from the target audience can help you see that it did not reach the target audience or maybe the writing is at too high or too low of a level for the people the author envisioned as the reader.
At LitPick, we have come across rare cases where a title has obtained a negative customer review but had received a positive editorial review. Understandably the author or publisher questions the customer ‘s review. In these cases, we always then obtain additional customer reviews for the title since we recognize the potential variability of the latter. Although, it is not surprising that the opinion of the target customer audience may differ from a typically older and professional editorial reviewer.
Therefore, customer book reviews and editorial book reviews each can be valuable to read when you search for your next book. It is important though to be aware of the type of review you are reading and to always pay special attention to a customer’s opinion from the book’s target audience. After all, we are a customer too