Have Book Reviews Lost Their Power? by Lois W. Stern

I used to jump for joy each time I received another five star review. (Don’t we all love a congratulatory pat on the back?) And then one day, I got my comeuppance when a dear friend posted a four star review on my newest book. True, she included some complimentary commentary, but why only four stars? Where did I fall short?” Next time we spoke I swallowed my pride and asked, “What do you think I should have done differently for that book to have merited five stars?” Her answer really got me thinking.

You know, when I wrote my first full length novel, in a matter of months twenty-seven people had posted five star Amazon reviews. I was elated. That was while I was in my first blush as a new author. But later I realized that all those stars were part of a popularity contest. Friends and colleagues were pulling for me to succeed and it embarrassed me. There are so many really fine books published these days by both Indie and traditionally published authors, but five stars? I give out very few five star review these days. The book has to be near perfection for me to do that. But I try to convey through the context of my review how I feel about the book. Your book is terrific. I mean that sincerely, and I said so in my review. But five stars? I save those five star reviews for books like James Joyce’s Ulysses or D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.

With that conversation stored in my memory bank, I began to rethink the whole idea of book reviews. Perhaps my friend was right and we should start rating books more realistically. And if we all agreed to do that, would book reviews lose their power? I think not, but only if we all began to approach them with a different mindset. Maybe the time is ripe for us to stop commenting on the number of stars we receive and instead start quoting an excerpt from the review itself. Some reviewers are tougher than others, so star counts are not the definitive answer. But positive comments are and they spur us on, encouraging us to keep working on our craft, while honest, thoughtful critiques help us grow as authors.

Reviews have a more important function than stroking our egos. A decent number of reviews shows readers that our book is stirring interest, with the context of those reviews serving as a valuable resource for our potential buyers. And bottom line, we want our books to sell.

That said, how do we go about acquiring reviews? We’ve already dropped subtle hints to our circle of family and friends. Now what? Here are several reliable resources that have worked for me:
Dan Poynter issues a wonderful Marketplace Newsletter. You can contact him at:
DanPoynter@ParaPublishing.com to add your name to his list. Once you are a member, send him a brief description of your book, its genre, number of pages, a JPEG of its cover, and your e-mail address. He will post it in the Reviews Wanted section of his newsletter. When you receive his next newsletter, you might even look for other books posted in that section that interest you. Contact those authors independently to suggest writing reviews for one another.
Norm Goldman of Book Pleasures has a no nonsense team of reviewers. You can fill out a request form and he will match you up with a reviewer. Check it out here:
Readers Favorite offers writers an opportunity to upload their manuscript, blurb and cover art pertaining to their their book as a means to request a review. Check out: https://readersfavorite.com/book-reviews.htm
Like it or not, Amazon.com is still king of the book industry, so you might as well use what they have to offer. Amazon keeps lists of their frequent reviewers.Click on http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers .to find their top reviewers. You will discover a daunting list before you which takes time to sort through. Click on any name, and you will be taken to a page listing all their reviews - not just of books, but also products. You can find each reviewer’s e-mail address in the lower left corner of that screen. Take your time and be selective. Approach the reviewers you think might be interested in your genre. with a personal e-mail request. Yes, it’s a time consuming task, but often pays dividends.
You can also use Amazon.com to locate reviewers by searching for books with similar key words. For example, I would look under “Motivational stories” and “inspiring stories” for my Tales2Inspire books and “Anit-aging”, “Cosmetic Surgery” and “Beauty ‘ for my books on those particular topics. Once you discover people who have reviewed books of your specific genre, follow that reviewer's link to their Amazon profile page, look for an email address, and send them a soft sell request.
I have just scratched the surface in our common quest for book reviews. In the spirit of “Authors Helping Authors” won’t you take a moment to add your best review sources to this list? Oh, and by the way, would anyone like to review my latest book, Tales2Inspire ~ The Sapphire Collection? I promise I wont freak out if you give it four stars, but you had better give me some thoughtful commentary!

Thank you for that enlightening article, Lois!
Author Bio
After completing my first two books on aesthetics (Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery & Tick Tock, Stop the Clock ~ Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour), I began writing what I call my "Inner Beauty" stories - inspiring stories to touch the heart and soul. Tales2Inspire ~ The Emerald Collection (Beyond Coincidence stories) is the first in a four book series. Tales2Inspire ~ The Topaz Collection (Stories of Awakenings & Aha Moments) is the second and Tales2Inspire ~ The Sapphire Collection (Echoes in the Mind) is available now as it is a recent release.  The Ruby Collection is in the works. 

My innate curiosity about potentially fascinating human beings was the spark that propelled me to initiate my Tales2Inspire™ "Authors Helping Authors" project/contest. I wanted to give writers from across the globe that opportunity to share their most inspiring stories. One of my goals is to help these talented authors build solid platforms and get some recognition for their skills. I also wanted to create an alternate path for those of us seeking ways to strengthen our opportunities for discovery. 

You can learn all the details at www.tales2inspire.com and even read many of the stories on my blog at www.tales2inspire/inspiring stories.

Social Media:

Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/tales2inspire




Coming Soon:


  1. Great job Lois and Marie. I've been taking notes on reviews myself because so many times they just don't make sense. Example: I've said this before, that I would have given Hill Towns 10 stars if I could have and yet there were many people who gave it 1 & 2 stars. I don't think there should be stars at all, only comments.

    1. Very interesting perspective, Kathleen. Sometimes I have to agree. Commentary in lieu of a rating? That could work. I've noticed some of the book bloggers don't leave ratings, but just their thoughts.

      Such a thing happened to me recently. Here is one: http://journeywithbooks.blogspot.com/2014/08/book-review-upon-your-honor-by-marie.html

  2. Excellent post, Lois. Both useful and informative. I couldn't agree more, but often I find myself wishing there were more options, like 4 & 1/2 or 3 & 1/2 star ratings. There seems to me to be more of a difference than 2 points between "good" and "Shakespeare". A delightful surprise to see your post here!

  3. Thank you thank you thank you for this discussion and information.

  4. You are all most welcome. I have gotten to know Marie quite well this past year. We are so much on the same wavelength in our thinking about authors helping authors, that it gives me great pleasure when I write in a way that makes other authors think. Dialogue is good for all of us and opens new conversations. As an interesting aside, an author in my own writers' groups has been posting several times now about "another stellar 5 star revue " for his newly published book. I got curious and started looking up thee sources. In every case, they were sources where the author paid for the review. Now don't get me wrong, he is a fine, talented writer, but this new trend is making me uncomfortable. Would like to hear from the rest of you. Should we play the game or buck it?

    1. Oh, Lord. Don't get me started. I don't think I'll ever "pay" for a review. I even cringe at the thought of the major ones, like Kirkus asking for tons of money in return for it. I think most new authors are struggling financially. How can we compete in this crazy world where everything requires a fee of some kind? This is exactly why I design my own book trailers. Why pay $200 to a designer when I can do one that is just the same quality for as little as $20 or less (and that's only for the images)?

      Money = good review? Shouldn't there be a point of integrity for us as authors? I think that even reviewers need to be treated as readers, who are getting the gift of a book and the enjoyment of reading it instead of a flat rate fee.

  5. Karen Hutchins PirnotAugust 24, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    Lois, I think this is spot-on! You need a baseline of excellence in order to truly compare and contrast books for conceptualization, development, quality of research, etc. If you only get friends to review your work, you have no realistic idea of how to improve future literary efforts. I guess some of it comes down to a question you must ask yourself: Are you most invested in stroking your ego or improving your own writing abilities?

    1. I agree, Karen. I think I've had two or three reviews from "friends". The rest were from readers or reviewers, people I don't even know. It is interesting to get that kind of perspective, whether good or bad.

  6. Interesting and helpful post, Lois. Being a writer and an editor, I don't tend to award many 5 stars to reviews. I do try to write about what I liked and even show by quotation from the book. The comments mean more to me than star-count in reviews of my own books; as Kathleen says, sometimes the comments and the stars don't equate!.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Nik. I often find the comments on reviews more important as well. :)

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