Saturday, November 4, 2017

Trends: Reviews

This next trend was inevitable in hindsight. Since most of the major review sites tend to neglect indie books, the Editorial Reviews section can be a little sparse for most authors. The solution many authors use is to pull quotes from their Amazon reviews into the Editorial Reviews section. For an example, look at the page for Dark Space Universe, by Jasper T. Scott:

I've provided an image capture, as science fiction indies experiment a lot with presentation. This will likely have changed in a month or two.

Now, this particular layout is common to the Sci-Fi Bridge authors, combining a long list of reader reviews with bold text that shows off the choicest phrases of the review. And, as long as this one is, with 12 reviews, I have seen even longer sections that easily double this.

Now, as I said, I think using customer reviews to advertise books was inevitable. Not only because of the blind spot that major review sites have towards indie and self-publishing but because Amazon has changed the game to where customer reviews matter more than critics to the buying reader. I think this trend is clever, but it is running to excess.

As mentioned, there is a tendency to squeeze as many reviews into the Editorial Reviews section as possible. This has three drawbacks tied to length.

First, the sheer can length can (and does) provide an annoyance to customers trying to scroll past the wall of text to get to the actual reviews.

Second, as, mentioned, the wall of text makes it easier for that outright clutch pull quote to get lost in the shuffle. The Sci-Fi Bridge approach attempts to mitigate this by bolding text to draw your eye, but if the bolded part of the review is the important part, perhaps the unbolded phrases could be cut. Also, readers tend to really only register the first and last sentences of a paragraph, especially when speed reading, so perhaps it might be best to lead and close with the most memorable quotes.

Finally, to achieve length and give the impression that many people are talking about their books, some writers are less picky about the quotes used than they should be. I've seen multiple quotes fill this section while saying the same idea in slightly different words and none in a particularly memorable way. This is length without meaning and promotes skimming. And try not to repeat quotes as well. Not only does this provide length without new meaning, it reflects poorly on an author's proofreading and professionalism.

I expect to see more experimentation in this section of the Amazon page as the more marketing savvy writers figure out how to create the most impact from reviews. While I think it will boil down to using the six most memorable and punchiest quotes an author can find, we'll soon see how this trend shall develop.

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