Thursday, April 02, 2009

Guest Blogger J.A. Konrath

Our guest blogger today is thriller author JA Konrath, who writes a series about a a Chicago cop named Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels. He's currently on a blog tour for the month of March to promote AFRAID, a horror novel he penned under the name Jack Kilborn. You can read an excerpt at


Let's talk about reviews.

I've had my share of good reviews, and a few bad reviews, and I know different people have different tastes so I take it all in stride.

But today's blog isn't about professional reviews. Because, frankly, newspapers and magazines are going under faster than we can count them.

Today I want to talk about a type of reviews that are gaining popularity. The ones people are actually listening to.

Reader reviews.

It's no secret that word-of-mouth is the strongest form of book promotion. When was the last time you bought a book because you saw an ad for it? Compare that to a friend who says, "Oh my god, you have to read this!"

Chances are, the friend is more persuasive than the ad.

Which brings us to this wonderful form of communication known as the Internet.

For the first time, in the history of reviewing, anyone with a computer and a modem can share their opinions with the entire world. And people are doing just that, in record numbers, on dozens of different websites and thousands of different blogs, newsgroups, listservs, and message boards.

And I'll be 100% honest here: your words do count.

We've all been on, wondering if we should or shouldn't buy a certain book. What sways us one way or the other?

The reviews do. An average of three or more stars usually means I'll take a chance and buy the book. Less then two stars means I'll get my copy from the library, if at all.

In the past, high-profile critics told us what we should and shouldn't like. But now, majority rules, and the masses are a pretty good judge of if a book is good or not.

Which brings me to a question I'd like to ask: Do you post reviews?

I have a vested interest in reviews and being reviewed, because I'm a writer.

But I'm also a reader. A reader who enjoys sharing his opinion. A reader who thinks it's important to play cheerleader for my peers. A reader who recognizes how important a few sentences can be to someone considering buying a book.

So I've posted my fair share of reviews, and I've posted a few on some other sites as well.

Could I do more? Sure.

Now how about you?

If you believe reader reviews are helpful, if you love books as much as I do, if you want to help authors that you enjoy, why aren't you posting more reviews?

You really don't have any excuses. If you're a writer, it's a no-brainer: you're helping to propagate the species, and what goes around comes around. If you're a reader, it's a no-brainer: your review will help a writer sell more books, and we all know what happens to writers who don't sell enough.

So where should you post reviews?

Amazon is an obvious choice. But very few people also post those same reviews on its sister sites, Amazon uk and Amazon Canada.

Other bookstore sites that allow for reviews are,,,

You could write a five sentence review, then post it on all of these sites in less than ten minutes.

You can also post your reviews, and meet like-minded fellow readers and writers, at, and

If you're a mystery fan, you can post reviews on, or join the Listserv, or visit the newsgroup news:rec.arts.mystery on Usenet.

Other places to post include,,,, and

And don't forget your social networking sites,,, and

If you're really hardcore, and have an eye for detail, you can edit and add your favorite authors, along with synopses of their best books.

Your opinion really does matter. And authors really do care.

In fact, I care so much, that I'm giving away free copies of my new horror novel, AFRAID, to people who post links to new reviews (reviews they've just posted today) about any book from any author on the Naked Authors blog.

Go to one of the sites I listed above, and write a review about a book by James O. Born, Ridley Pearson, Jacqueline Winspear, Paul Levine, Patricia Smiley, or Cornelia Read.

You've read their stuff. Now post your thoughts online. If you've already reviewed them, you can cut and paste that review onto another webite.

Post your new links in the comments section. I'll randomly pick three people to get free books. And by "random" I mean that the more reviews you post, the better chance you have of winning.

Now go share your opinion with the world.


  1. I never cared for reader reviews, they are too subjective. If a friend and I have similar tastes in books, I will take the opinion. I have found if someone recommends a book, I ask what some of their favorite books are so I can determine if I would like the same. Books are way too expensive these days (recession) and I am more discriminating with the disposable income. (I wonder if the book world has suffered a hit because of the economic situation?)
    Are you guys feeling the "pinch?"

  2. Don't forget

    All of my current great literary loves I've found through fellow readers. I'm not a great chunk of writer revenue but I am the person who - if I read your books - will show up on release day and buy the hardcover (or preorder - love preorder). I do know people who will read the professional reviews and buy based solely on what the industry think, but most of the fellow readers in my life have built their reading lists as I have - ecstatic fangirling of their peers. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't but I can tell you it's sold at least a couple of books for the bloggers here.

  3. Reader reviews, like those of the professionals, don't always lead me to buy a book. I've passed on a book--even one recommended by a friend--because the subject matter just didn't sound interesting to me.

    I have reviewed books on DL but I'm cautious. Sometimes I think people are suspicious of reviews posted from authors. I always feel as if people will discount the review thinking I'm just hyping books written by my friends.

  4. As an average reader I can tell you that I completely dismiss reviews by authors as do the people I know - the reason, we're given to believe that some publishing houses require their authors to endorse a certain number of books for that publishing house. Whether true or not, this is the information we have.

  5. Anon, I want to disabuse you from the notion that authors are required to blurb or review other authors' work. I have never been asked to do this by either of my publishers and I have never heard of other authors being asked to do this, either. When I review a book it's because I love it and want to share the news. Still, when I look at Amazon reviews and I recognize all or most of them are from friends of the author or if they are over-the-top in their praise, I take them with a grain of salt.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thanks for having me here today.

    As an author, I recognize the value of reader reviews. It isn't hard to surf onto Amazon and write "I really liked it."

    And yet, many fans seem reluctant to give reviews. I'm here offering free books to fans of the authors who dwell here--books many of you have already read.

    But no one has posted links to any reviews. It will help the authors you enjoy, and you get a free book as a bonus, but so far no takers.


  8. James O. Born4/02/2009 3:07 PM

    This is a good post. It's interesting to see people's reactions to author reviews. I've never even heard of a publisher, at least a legitimate one, asking authors to review other books.

    Come back any time Joe. or at least on Thursdays.

    That way I can skip my obligation for the week.


  9. Nice to have a fresh voice.

    I don't post reviews because I'm fundamentally incapable of giving a bad review. If I were a teacher, I probably could never fail a student who tried. Writing a book is so damn hard, I don't want to be the one who says the work is a steaming turd.

    I'm also incompetent to review a lot of popular fiction...books with vampires or women who shop till they plotz.

    I read a lot of the Internet reviews. Many reviewers seem incapable of saying anything other than whether they liked the book. Some reviewers are as good or better than those windbags The New York Times Book Revieew hires to wile away your Sunday mornings.

    All in all, a very nice post.

  10. Sorry, Joe, I don't have links for you either, but I review books and there are definite pitfalls as well as benefits. Of course, reviewing is part of my job at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, along with recommending and selling, naturally.

    I agree, reviews matter, but Patty's right: the subject's the thing. The most glowing review of a caper isn't going to cut any ice with someone who only reads noir. And that, of course, is one of the pitfalls.

    I listen to my colleagues' reviews, but generally I don't read other reviews because I don't want to be influenced by them. But I have met people who will buy based solely on author blurbs regardless of content, so I agree, words matter, and reviews do influence.

    Congratulations on your new venture, Joe!

  11. I left a review of Jacqueline Winspear's "Among the Mad" at (C.McGinnis, Southern Illinois). I really really really want a copy of "Afraid". Pick me!

  12. Great blog. I know I pay attention to reviews before I buy a book. I can see how they make a large impact. So, okay, I'll start posting more reviews!

  13. I would have to disagree with you that reader reviews sway poeple's opinions as to whether or not to buy a book. I rarely read them, and if I do, it's more for fun than to help me make up my mind. So few are well written. Most are too lengthy. Others are poorly spelled and full of grammar errors. Call me a snob, but spelling and grammar still matter to me.

    I rely on professional reviews to point me towards new authors. I love Booklist and have found numberous new authors by reading their reviews. In fact, you are one of the "new" authors that I found out about through a review in Booklist. I especially like Booklist because I can find new books for myself and new books for my classroom.

    I don't write reviews. All I could say is I liked this book or I didn't like it. Just because I didn't like a book, doesn't mean that it is not well written.

    Readers tastes can vary so widely. I love the books by James Salis and I remember reading a review by someone who said one of his books was the worst that he had ever read and that he left it on the airplane.

    Recomendations from real flesh and blood friends who know me will always mean more to me than any review by "a reader" on the web.

    So, I'll remain a reader of books and not a writer of reviews.

  14. Some reviews by readers on Amazon make me cringe because of excessive snarkiness and downright author cruelty. As we all know, nothing is so good that somebody won't hate it.

  15. The only books I can criticize with cruelty and malice are my own.

  16. Alas, Paulie, that critic on our shoulder is a constant. It comes with the territory.

  17. Email me, Connie. I'll send you a freebie. :)

  18. I'm of the belief that "majority rules."

    If I'm on the fence about whether or not to buy a book, I can visit Amazon or Goodreads and check the average star rating.

    Usually if a bunch of people like something, or a bunch of people hate something, it says more about the overall appeal of a book than a single, opinionated professional critic.

  19. I've written tons of reviews. I used to write reviews and some commentaries for a weekly Presbyterian magazine many years ago. Not too long back, I wrote reviews for the web site. I've posted reviews at Amazon for books I've read, and I'm always posting brief reviews of books I've read at my blog,

    I've developed an interesting habit, though, when I read reviews at Amazon. Based on my own personal observation, I've found that many of the 1- or 2-star reviews are typically very petty in their critiques. Even so, that's where I start my reading of reviews of a book in which I'm interested. If, as expected, the bad reviews are just petty, then more often than not I'm willing to give the book a chance.

    Another interesting habit of mine (I think), is my penchant for defending writers in my reviews. Probably because I consider myself one, although I've not yet had any fiction published. I've seen some scathing reviews in which readers have claimed that a book was nothing more than an outline. I did this, in fact, in a review of Patricia Cornwell's book, AT RISK (that's just a link to the book's page at Amazon, as I can't find a way to link to my review). The reason for my defense of a book that has received a 2-star rating at Amazon was that too many of the 1- and 2-star reviews failed to realize that the book was originally a serialized story published in 15 installments in The New York Times Magazine. As I said in my review, " is therefore completely unreasonable to expect a novella to have the complex character and plot development found in a full-length novel, and this is why I think so many of the reviews are either misguided or unfair." Such a practice will probably alienate me from some, but when I see what I think is a horrible injustice, I just can't leave it be, especially if it involves a fellow writer (regardless of what they write).

    Re: authors being asked to review books by other authors at the same publishing house, I don't know if that's ever happened or not, but the one thing I know of that absolutely raised a red flag for me was when I found a blurb by Anne Rice on the back cover of Alice Borchardt's book THE DRAGON QUEEN. It bothered me because they're sisters, and (right or wrong) I couldn't help but wonder if Anne was simply doing her less famous sister a favor. I couldn't get beyond the suspicion that Anne's blurb could not be all that objective.

  20. Ah yes, the nepotism factor would raise questions in my mind, too. I hope Borchardt's book warranted the blurb from her famous sister.

    However, blurbs don't always sell a book. Some readers discount them entirely. I once heard a famous author say she blurbed a book that she didn't really like that much and afterward fans who bought the book based on her recommendation chastized her for wasting their money. She said she would never blurb a book again unless she loved it.

  21. Unless the Rice-to-Borchardt blurb said, "My sister Alice" or otherwise disclosed the's unethical, fraudulent, and a criminal offense in the Land of Levine.

    On the other hand, if Anne Rice wants to blurb my book, I withdraw my opinion.