Are reviews always repetitive?

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This topic jumped into my head when I was looking around for some reviews on a book. Now being that I’m usually always behind in books, I read fast but with my diverse tastes I can’t read *that* fast apparently, there sometimes are a plethora of reviews for a particular well-received book. So in doing a bit of research I found no fewer than fifteen reviews all about the same m/m book. I think that’s wonderful frankly and was excited when all the reviews were glowing – sure to be a winner book then.  

Well what I discovered was almost all of the reviews were the same; between 1-3 paragraphs summarizing the story and then one paragraph talking about their reaction.  Most of the reviews were well-written but they all basically said the exact same thing. Not one of them introduced something new or interesting. They all said “it was fun, enjoyable and hot” – well the thesaurus equivalent of that anyway.

Has it always been like this and I just never noticed?

I do tend to skim a lot of reviews. Seeing as a good number say “wonderful!” or “awful!” without much explanation, I skim until I read something with substance and that’s not a summary of the blurb. If the blurb sucks, then by all means but this particular book had an excellent blurb and no need for reviewer recaps (IMO). But at least with fifteen reviews of 5 stars and so on, there’s a high probability you’re not buying crap and it’s probably going be entertaining if not a deeply moving treatise on humanity. So from this perspective, does it really matter that all reviews say the same thing? Is it quantity of good versus quality of good?
 

Do authors prefer to have fifteen 5 star reviews that all say the same thing or say, a handful of 5 star reviews but each one offers a different take, interpretation or understanding?  
And of course, does it even matter?
Do readers prefer this?

As most reviewers will tell you they review for other readers, what do readers of reviews really want? Now I’m sure this is a very wide ranging topic to even delve into as there are a plethora of answers with everyone having their preference from short to long, and every possible permutation in between. But it cycles around to my original question of all the reviews basically saying the same thing and is that new or once again I’m living under a rock? (should change my blog title)

And the real question – why do I care? Gah…

 

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14 thoughts on “Are reviews always repetitive?

  1. You said: “Well what I discovered was almost all of the reviews were the same; between 1-3 paragraphs summarizing the story and then one paragraph talking about their reaction. Most of the reviews were well-written but they all basically said the exact same thing.”
    Oooh, that’s interesting. All fifteen! How to explain this? I know some of this might be the bigger review sites that are committee-run are under pressure to review things fast. Also the m/m publishing world is tiny and we’re all at least a little bit in touch with how the “bigger” books are being received. It could be that reviewers are in a hurry to crank that review out and are unconsciously parroting each other?
    Maybe it could also be that we’re checking in with each other’s review sites and starting to unconsciously absorb an overall writing style, which emphasizes fast turn-around. Or maybe it’s the worldwide web itself and how short everyone’s attention span is. We just want to glance or click and then move on with a kernel of information.
    I know that my reviews aren’t that popular because I don’t have a rating system that internet surfers can just glance at and then move on with the evaluation in mind. Also, I’m verbose! I’m considering putting succinct summaries on my LJ/Blogger blogs and linking to the long version on my website for those who want the unrestrained verbose version, ha, ha!
    You also asked: “Do authors prefer to have fifteen 5 star reviews that all say the same thing or say, a handful of 5 star reviews but each one offers a different take, interpretation or understanding?”
    If I were the author, I’d rather have the detailed review that reflected that the reviewer actually read it and remembered specific stuff. Even if the review was somewhat critical, and even if I got fewer reviews that way.
    But I think that a lot of authors want the plethora of glowing reviews that just say, “This is really, really hot!” They’re probably worrying about sales, and who could blame them?
    But I’ve seen a lot of authors get upset online over detailed reviews that dare to introduce a hint of valid criticsim — and these are reviews that I would have been ecstatic to get were I an author because it would have showed that someone was paying attention. Plus it might be an opportunity to learn and improve my writing.
    Very interesting questions, these!

    • I actually think you hit on it pretty well with “It could be that reviewers are in a hurry to crank that review out and are unconsciously parroting each other?”. Although all your additional points have serious merit. The majority of people want a fast, quick highlight and I think that’s one reason styles work well when they’re humorous and short with an emphasis on reaction.
      I don’t personally like rating systems as they never are really true. You can read something and love it, yet it has a caveat or two and you would give it a lower “star” score making it equal to an entertaining throw away book. I think the review should say your thoughts and let the reader/author judge the “score”.
      Although as I’m sure you can tell, I don’t mind verbose reviews but I do think a short summary tends to be helpful to readers. Emmyjag does a “bottom line first” that sums up her review which I think is nice.
      I don’t blame authors for loving and pimping the reviews they get, no matter the score or heft because they are selling their efforts and work. Anything to help that out is awesome for them.
      Your comment
      “But I’ve seen a lot of authors get upset online over detailed reviews that dare to introduce a hint of valid criticsim — and these are reviews that I would have been ecstatic to get were I an author because it would have showed that someone was paying attention. Plus it might be an opportunity to learn and improve my writing.”
      Well, all authors are different as snowflakes right : D. This is a whole other topic I could tangent easily into.

      • You said: “I don’t personally like rating systems as they never are really true. You can read something and love it, yet it has a caveat or two and you would give it a lower “star” score making it equal to an entertaining throw away book. I think the review should say your thoughts and let the reader/author judge the “score”.”
        Yes! I started with a five-star rating system like Amazon and very quickly got tied into knots over the inconsistencies that developed. Finally I just decided to analyze it as well as I could without plot-spoilers and let whoever reads my reviews decide for themselves. Makes sense.

        • Ugh Amazon! I’ve been trying to pimp the books I like on Amazon but I actually don’t want to post some long review on that site. So I’m trying to edit and concise it down to the interesting bits for readers.

            • I’m also considering Good Reads, although that is mostly on a star rating system with short (if any) reviews. It depends heavily on the actual numeric rating so I’m hesitating.

              • Yes, I signed up with Good Reads and then let it lapse awhile back because it was just one more thing to keep up with. I think you might have the option not to use a star rating whereas Amazon forces you to. I did notice that there is a lot of participation on Good Reads, which is gratifying. Plus a lot of interesting reading groups to join.
                The social network NOT to join is Shelfari. Most all social networks have an option to import in your email address book to help you find acquaintances when you join up — but Shelfari is the only one that will take your contacts and repeatedly pester them in your name and without your knowledge to join! I was recently on the other end of that (getting pestered), ha, ha!

  2. Well, most review sites are one paragraph blurbs about the book. Several others just write what are essentially book reports and not reviews at all.
    I don’t rate reviews for myself because I choose to write my reactions and let people decide for themselves whether to buy or not. I do for Wave because it’s her blog and that’s how she wants stuff formatted.
    I don’t think there’s any grand conspiracy out there to say the same thing. Personally, I rarely read anyone else’s reviews, even on the sites I review on. I toss shit out there for people to look at or not. Either which way, imma keep reading books.

    • No, I would agree. I don’t think there’s any grand conspiracy I think people just echoing the sentiments of others they agree with and I never noticed the similar trend in reviews.. hence the whole rock / me.
      How do you buy your books – total random curiosity question if you don’t read reviews? Blurb/cover if it’s not an author you know? Word of mouth?

      • I buy by cover…Anne rawking those lovely covers has introduced me to more new authors than anyone else out there. Author, if it’s one I’ve read and liked before. Sometimes blurb, if it sounds interesting. Very occasionally press…sometimes I just randomly get all m/m released that week at some I whose quality I find to be more consistent.
        Lately, about 95% of the maybe 40 books I read each month are review copies. I hardly have time to buy books on my own.

  3. I would much rather have an in depth review than a “that was great!” Basically, it dosen’t tell me much. And stars are great for a marketing blurb, but they don’t really give you any sense of the book.
    As a reader, I don’t go by the number of stars. I want to know what someone had to say. And frankly, I don’t buy my books based on “reviews” unless it’s a reviewer who has consitantly reviewed books that I’ve read as well and seems to have the same reading tastes as myself. And even then it’s a “grain of salt” kinda thing — my mom and I have very similar reading tastes, share books all the time, and yet there are books that we have wildly conflicting opinons on. Why would it be different for a reviewer?
    As valkovalin brought up, I’ve had some less than stellar reviews that I was appriciative of. Mean spirted or “this book blew” without explanation reviews I ignore, but a review that says, look “I wanted to like the book, but this is why I couldn’t” gives me an insight into what I need to do to make my writing better or more accesible to readers.
    My own 2c is, if you’re going to be an author develop a really thick skin. For every person who likes your book, theres an equal chance someone will dislike it.

    • I agree with your sentiments. I personally write the kind of review I read (duh) but I definitely keep in mind I’m just one person with my own quirks, hot buttons, likes and dislikes. There are a number of reviewers I tend to agree with but sometimes they’ll come out hating or liking something I had the complete opposite reaction to.
      Additionally, I think it’s helpful to know not only what didn’t work but what did work. I’ve often seen an author write a book to glowing reviews but the second or third try using a similar formula all of a sudden is not so well received. Yet what was so great that worked in the first one that didn’t in the third? Or what have you.
      I think stars should be boycotted! But you’re right, anything to help author sales so they do have a purpose. Plus it can’t hurt an author’s ego to get glowing 5 star reviews, no matter the content.

  4. Stars and number ratings are only useful if everyone has a common standard to go by (as someone who evaluates a lot of people professionally, I can say without benchmarks, everyone’s wasting their time.) I’ve seen people write a glowing review and give the book three stars, and other people who say, more or less, “this book wasn’t bad” and give it five. And that’s within the same review site!
    I don’t know about readers, but as many people have already said, comments are far more useful to writers than bald numbers. If someone has a good, thoughtful reason for liking a book (“The level of historical detail made the scene come alive for me” vs. “Hot!!”) or not liking it (“The ending seemed forced” vs. “Boring!!”) it really tells me what I’m doing right or what I need to work on.
    Still, no one owes us anything, and I’m grateful for anyone who buys a book and then takes the time to write about it.

    • “Stars and number ratings are only useful if everyone has a common standard to go by (as someone who evaluates a lot of people professionally, I can say without benchmarks, everyone’s wasting their time.) I’ve seen people write a glowing review and give the book three stars, and other people who say, more or less, “this book wasn’t bad” and give it five. And that’s within the same review site!”
      Gah I know! That’s an endless source of confusion and bewilderment but that goes hand in hand with differences in reviewers and styles. I’ve read a book that I hated and someone reviewed it calling the writing concise and articulate. I personally was wondering if they were comparing it to monkeys writing in poo. But variety is the spice and all!
      It’s good to hear from authors what kind of reviews they personally like, even if the reviewer is going for the reader and not the author. But just as no one owes you anything, I think the reverse is also true. We’re not owed books to read but omg I can’t image the train wreck of my life if I didn’t have books.

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