Why Book Reviews Aren´t What They Should Be

I think it’s safe to say that alot of people know what book reviews are, so no use to give a deeper explanation for that term.

But what is a review for?

Well, to keep this simple- reviews are there for indecisive people who search for a good book to read( and to help authors with sales ).Or, sometimes not help them ( depending on the reviews content). Either way- reviews are important. ( read 5 Reasons Why Book Reviews Are Important )

But, did you know reviews can also be corrupt? Oh, yes. Quite so.

There are 2 major types of reviews.

1 )reviews

2 ) do-me-a-favor-reviews / help-me-climb-the-ladder-to-success-reviews

Confusing? It shouldn’t be. An author usually has a goal, and that is to make a living off of writing and that’s perfectly fine. If it were up to me I’d wish everyone the success they want. Unfortunately, the road to that success can be a rocky one. There’s so much to do to get „out there”. Writing a book and hoping for a miracle to happen doesn’t cut it anymore.

 Writing a book and hoping for a miracle to happen doesn't cut it anymore

Authors/ writers depend on one major thing- positive feedback. The more positive feedback they get the better their chances are for more exposure. Word can spread really fast and that helps loads.

(Uugh…this is boring……* head against table * )

I like to say I’m a skilled book ninja. I have my eyes and ears all over the place, especially in the indie-author community. When blogging I keep an eye on all sorts of stuff, such as: new book releases, blog tours, author streetteams, yada yada yada, AND reviews. Yes. I read reviews, too. And due to my ninja observation skills I know who’s besties with who and who’s fan #1. If you take a closer look I’m sure you’ll notice, too. 

Can anyone remember the shitstorm Amazon caused with their taking down reviews from certain books? Yes. That was a thing and it pissed so many people off. I would know. I witnessed it, first hand. Amazon never took any of my reviews down ( Thank God ) but they did with other bloggers and fans. And guess what? Bravo! It was about time. Not that I´m pointing fingers at anyone in particular. I´m sure many deleted Amazon reviews were wrongly accused of diabolical review-washing. But the majority? Serves them right. 

I’m positive that won’t win me any plus points. But I don’t really care. When I hunt for books I’m just an ordinary reader. And when I notice someone is just doing an author a favor my blood pressure rises. How am I to trust these people who devote their lives to these authors? Their judgement is clouded in so many ways that their reviews aren’t trustworthy anymore.

Sure, I’m all for supporting my favorite authors. But stay realistic. Stay professional.

I’ve seen people befriend authors ( mainly through Facebook ) and get really REALLY tight with them ( again…that’s fine. Anything that floats their boats). And then I’ve seen those authors publish book after book after book and each book got the same LOVE as the ones before, by the same people. An author can write 12 books ( each with different stories ) in a year and still, they’d get 12 outstanding reviews from the same blogs who are oh-so-tight with them. Something is totally fishy there. There is no way a person will LOVE everything an author writes. No-ho! 

It’s impossible. There always a slower book in-between great books. A story that, in truth, deserved 3 stars because it was, in fact, slower, or a bit more softer, or just not someone´s cup of tea. Any normal thinking person would rate the slower book with 3 stars ( or less) because that’s how they actually felt about the story, no matter how much they loved the authors other books. But, nooooooo.Some bloggers / fans feel so much loyalty towards an author that they feel compelled to give the slower book 5 stars.

Why does that happen? Do readers/ bloggers think their friendship will go down the drain if they’re honest? Or does it have anything to do with stupidity? I. Don’t. Know! You tell me. But something is definitely not right there.

I’m not sure if that can be considered as healthy behavior.

Would you like to know what helps me pick a book? I skip all the 5 star reviews and jumped right to the 3 or fewer ones. I’m not saying that all high rated reviews are full of shit, but can you blame me for doubting them? Reading a 3 star review will not convince me NOT to buy a book because tastes are different. It’s as simple as that.

I know I shouldn’t waste my time breaking my little head over the review matter, because it’s really not worth it. Reviews are… subjective. I’ve wasted so much energy trying to figure out why bloggers aren’t fully honest with their thoughts regarding a book * sigh *. But you’ve got to see my point of view, here- I want to read a book and the only way not to dive blind into a story is to read reviews and see how others judged a book. And people who do authors those stupid favors ( because they want recognition or what not) aren’t helping me, or any other book nerd out there.

That’s basically why I was happy about the Amazon clean-out.

The book universe is sometimes a dark place. Bloggers doing authors favors because they’re afraid to jeopardize their friendship is not okay. 

There was a time, way back in the early blogging days, when bloggers helped authors get reviews by doing so called blog tours for their favorite writers. Blog tours are nothing other than a virtual book promotion where often free copies of a story were/are offered. The only thing wrong with those blog tours were / are… a reviewer CANNOT publish a review with less than 3 stars, depsite what their true thoughts of said book were/are. Anything to avoid a bad review. So, a reviewer either lies or they don´t review at all and risk a potential shout out from the blog tour hosts. I call that…. corrupt. And wrong.
Another observation I made:
Authors releasing new books and bluntly asking for 5 star reviews. Because a 4 star review isn´t going to make sales. * holding breath * The same authors then wonder why hardly any people leave reviews.  That screams desperate.

This is also the main reason why I believe honesty is the best policy. State your real opinions instead of doing favors. 

And for the authors who are hungry for fame….. The big shot writers often have alot of negative reviews along with the 5 stars. That´s definitely something to think about.

It´s amazing to watch authors and their devoted fans go to such extremes. But it´s less amazing when you spot the lie.

I feel cheated on. Ripped off.

Book Covers- What Happened?

Book Covers

Book covers / cover images are the first thing we see when we look for books. Whether it´s while we´re scrolling through an online shop or simply combing the bookshelves in a bookstore- It´s always the cover that grabs our attention before anything else does. 

Let´s get one thing out of the way before I begin:

Book covers / images are a matter of taste. Everyone has a different idea on what is great or what´s eye catching.

Personally, I like book covers that hardly give away anything from the story. I believe a cover image should grab someones attention, not give the story away. A book cover has to make me stop dead in my tracks. I mean- it’s the first thing a reader sees, right? And if a reader doesn’t like the cover, how fat are chances the reader will buy the book unless they´ve been forced by a friend/family member to read the book? ( The power of recommendations. “It has a hideous cover but awesome story!” )

All this means- I judge a book by it´s cover. I know I shouldn´t. No one should, yet we all do it.

I love to see covers with lots of color / color clashes, unique symbols or anything that stands out ( eye catching, remember? ) Contrasts are also brilliant.

 I’m Amazon’s Costumer Of The Year. Alot of my hard earned money goes for books. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this devastating condition. But if you asked me about book covers then I’d have to say that maybe half of the books I own have decent covers and half from that half have AWESOME images.In other words- I find alot of book covers / images boring and sometimes questionable. 

While reading books from the Romance, New Adult, Young Adult, Erotica and even Horror genre, I’ve come to learn that each genre has their preferred book covers or colors.

Young Adult usually has some teenagers holding hands in a meadow ( colors are usually light ), New Adult covers are a bit more mature ( colors are more bold ), mostly showing some skin or a headless figure… you get the picture, right? We don´t really need to mention Horror covers because many of those covers are just down right brilliant. Creepy but cool.

Also, one has to see the difference between traditional published and self-published book covers. It most cases, self-published book covers / images aren´t done well. But then again- alot of traditional published books have horrible, tacky covers. I can’t really speak for trad-published authors because most of them don’t have a say in the matter. The publisher calls the shots and authors have no power over what cover will be used for their story. That all depends on the publisher and how tight the contract is. Some published authors are lucky and get to chose a cover image themselves. Very few have covers that are able to knock me out of my socks.

There are 2 types of book covers that do not grab my attention at all.  

  1. shaded, oiled torsos with tribal tattoos
  2. covers that look like every other cover

I can’t begin to tell you how many books I have that have black covers with some tiny animal, a key, a keyhole, pearls, diamonds or has some shadowed body parts on it. It’s a nightmare that will not end. 

It´s a trend, I get it. Still… It´s annoying. And when I see certain covers I immediately say to myself ” Uugh. Not again.”.

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( Those are only a few taken from my private bookshelf from only God knows how many )

Many would argue with me on the fact that black book covers aren´t an issue. They´re practical because they look good on a bookshelf, etc.  It truly isn´t an issue. It´s just nothing spectacular.

Then there are those covers with half naked, totally muscular, tribal tattooed, well oiled and well tanned, headless guys. In short- eye candy in it’s tackiest form. I stopped counting those covers because they’re endless. I know I know…sex sells and all that stuff…..but can’t someone stop this nonsense? Tribal tattoos went out of style a while back. Plus, I like guys who have a head. Hands can be sexy, too. Also-  I’m also not a huge fan of character covers, which is when the cover has a face on it. That ruins alot for me and I will ignore the book, risking the chance to read a fantabulous story. Why? Because a character image ruins my own personal image I like to create myself of a character. 

Another thing that brings my blood to boil is when there’s too much going on on a book cover. 

I once saw a cover that was in full color and had an oiled naked, tattooed bod, except- the lucky headless guy had arms and hands ( yay!) and those hands were holding a suit which hung from a coathanger ( I have never in my life seen a suit hanging from a hanger on a book cover before…NEVER) in the background stood the Eiffel Tower. The title- Caged. Can you imagine how confused I was? After taking all the images in I knew what the story was about. But the real question was- Was I interested in the story although I knew there was some godly guy in it, who was probably going to wear a suit at some point, paying the Eiffel Tower a visit? No, I wasn´t. Not even the coathanger was able to convice me.

My point- There´s no need to overload a book cover with dozens of images. That´s only confusing. 

Copying. It´s not a secret that many self-published authors like to copy. Which is fine. I´m the last person to point a finger at anyone in particular. Whatever works best for an author, right? Right. No wait- that´s wrong. Copying is wrong and often doesn´t work out well for an author who wants to make money. What worked for author A doesn´t necessarily have to work for author B. Many writers seem to forget that. 

What happened to self-published authors wanting to be original, standing out and making their book cover better than others? Any, if not all, want to make a living ( eventually ) off of writing, right?

I understand that cover designers are costy. And, yes. I´m aware of how prices are sky high. But they´re worth it. If an author finds a good, professional designer, and both communicate then nothing can go wrong. No one in the history of writing said it would be easy, or cheap. Unless writers don´t value quality and focus their attention more on their story. Then I´d say ” Whatever floats their boat.”.

Still, many don´t or are financially unable to take that path and invest in a cover designer. And if an author doesn´t have a clue what they´re doing when creating their own cover I´m 100% positive it will affect sales. Because, let´s face it- If I notice bad quality / a copied image then other readers will too.  There could be a chance people will ignore a not so great cover and read the story OR they´ll skip the book because of the cover. Who knows. I´m not an expert. But I´ve been watching this business for the last 10 years and can say that covers mean alot. 

I´m not out to ruin self-published authors. I´m not even out to diss traditional publishing houses for their often lack of taste in cover images. Just remember this before the next book hits the market:

1. Sex doesn´t always sell. ( Keep them well oiled studs in the late 90´s where they belong.)

2. Less is ALWAYS more. ( Be tasteful. Be creative. Be original. )

It may not be up to me to decide what cover image is acceptable for a book cover or not. After all- Cover images are a matter of taste.  But since I spend the majority of my money on books I can skip a cover that´s not original or won´t grab my attention.

My wish for the future? For writers to be more creative when deciding on a cover image. Or, invest in a designer. Although, I have seen a small inprovement in the past year ( see Colleen Hoover´s cover image for `Too Late`, for example. What a color explosion! ) so my hopes haven´t died completely.

( NOTE: A cover image alone won´t influence sales. Titles and excerpts play an important role as well. The cover is just what we see first.)