Thank You, Brave Reviewers

Explorer's compass leaning on a bookAs a reader, I'm deeply grateful to the people who read books and take the time to review them.
 
A few adventurous souls buy and read independent books on a chance, that is, trusting the blurb is true to the story, and that the book has been professionally produced. Most readers of independently published books won't read unless there are at least or 6 or 8 reviews (and 15 or 20 is much better), and the average score is at least 4 or 5 stars. I'm the same way — if it's an author I don't know, I rely on reviews to help me decide if my money and time will be well-spent.

Confession time: I don't write reviews. First off, I'm not qualified to write them. Second, as an author, I know how much work goes into writing a novel, and I just can't be objective about it. Third, as a reader, I can't imagine telling anyone else what to read, or imagining I'll know what they'd like. Heck, I won't even buy magazine subscriptions as gifts.
 
Publishers (independent and traditional) offer review copies; independent authors do the same, but often with an honor-system trade of writing and posting a review. I'm of two minds about this. I'm likely to slightly discount a review if it has the “honest review in exchange for free copy” disclaimer, but I'd also be unhappy to find out if the reviewers got free books and didn't tell me. I expect there's also the unspoken expectation that the receiver of the free copy should say something nice or not at all, which seems a little quid pro quo to me, but another side of that 12-sided die is the review that says little more than “Got a free copy. Book was OK.” Gee, don't waste those pixels, buddy.
 
When I'm checking reviews on a book/author I know nothing about, I pay attention to the negative reviews, and more than once, I've bought books based on liking the very thing the reviewer was complaining about. I also rely on reviews to tell me things the blurb or publication details didn't, particularly if the blurb is non-standard. (Pet peeve: I won't buy your book if you claim it's a paranormal romance, but your blurb consists of four lines of bad poetry, even if it is the prophecy that drives the plot.)
 
I'm much more inclined to read and pay attention to an in-depth review than a short “I liked the main character and the story kept me turning pages.” Exception: if the short review says book is rife with grammar, punctuation, formatting, etc. errors, which is a huge deal-killer for me. I'd rather pay $3.99 for a carefully edited, professionally produced book than pay nothing but get barely legible crap.
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