After analyzing all the comments I get on a daily basis, this is what
I discovered about author/reader concerns.
1. Accuracy – Does the reviewer actually read the material and have enough background to be able to analyze the book. Some reviewers are accused of “reading the book jacket” or “not reading the book” or “getting the character’s name wrong.” Now with Amazon’s new comments feature, readers can correct reviews in live time and reviewers can edit their review if they have made a mistake.
2. Conflict of Interest – Did the reviewer receive the product for free? Some people don’t realize this is quite normal and see it differently. Professional reviewers often get books for free. Amazon now requires you to disclose if you got something for free.
3. Fairness & Honesty – Is the reviewer able to write a review without attacking the author’s character, life choices or content selection? This is mostly a concern authors express.
4. Critical Analysis – Some readers want to read reviews that take an author to task and some want to read a review promoting the content of a book. This is a very personal decision. Critical reviews can be fun to read if you disliked the book or are looking for reasons not to buy the book, although it can also be a reason to buy because negative or critical reviews can create controversy and that tends to sell items pretty fast.
5. Star Ratings – People don’t trust a reviewer when they only review five star items. Balance is needed.
6. Specialization – Does the person reviewing the book have the qualifications to review the book in hand. Do they have enough life experience to understand the content or are they simply making judgments based on their own lack of experience. At times people actually complain if you look like you know how to write a review. This is a very tricky area to even step into because personal experience determines how well you write and many people do read books on how to improve their writing.
7. Diversity – Many times people are concerned with this aspect because they don’t think about the “specialization” aspect. A reviewer may only choose to review cookbooks or focus only on novels. For some specializing can also annoy readers and people want to see you as a person with many interests. This is a difficult one to address, but I’ve expanded my interests substantially. I think this is more a concern of authors who want you to review their work, although I’ve had people question me on this subject when they only noticed certain reviews and did not consider looking through a few hundred. It is difficult to see the categories I review because Amazon no longer has the categories and I’ve had to resort listing items in “tag lists” to retain my credibility. 🙂
But honestly, I review so many things, I think I have too many interests.
8. Reviewing more than Books – This is an idea that at first caused great alarm at the discussion boards. I reviewed a box of Altoid mints and the world ended. Then, people started to review more than just books and even sometimes would listen to music and now and then they felt adventurous and would review something from the kitchen store. While I thought it was great fun to review lots of different things, this did cause a lot of concern for more traditional reviewers.
Now and then, I still see this problem when I get an angry e-mail or comment about something I loved and reviewed. The world is an ever expanding miracle and to me, commenting on a wide variety of items is purely “fun.” So, to insist that I only review one type of book or only focus on music or books is to me very restrictive and that is not a world in which I ever want to live. Believe it or not, I have had to fight for the right to talk about what I love.
9. Taste – A general dislike of someone’s tastes can promote anger. I have seen this expressed in reviews and in comments/e-mails. Generally I assume that if I never like something one person is reviewing, then we have different tastes. That is not a level of “taste,” but more the type of items a person reviews.
10. Lifestyle Choices – This is a really tricky one because each individual has made choices on how they want to live.