Who do you trust?

With the big push by self-publishers to try and claim their piece of the ever-shrinking readership pie there’s been a lot of talk about dumping the “gatekeepers” – meaning the editors and the critics who review books, leaving the decision on what’s “good” to the popular masses and the readers who will leave reviews of what they purchase and read. So you can/should go to Amazon, etc. and read the reader reviews and find those hidden gems that are just waiting to be exposed to the light.

My own problem with this is… well, that’s not what I do. And I’m not sure if I should.

Don’t get me wrong, I read reader reviews. I check them out for video games, for books, for board games (Memoir ’44 FTW for all you board gamers!) but I don’t make my decision based solely on the reviews. Why? Because I find most of them to be automatically suspect.

Follow my wonky dragon reasoning. I don’t surf around Amazon looking for new books-I usually see an ad in the RT or hear something on a website or something along those lines. I just don’t have the time (or the urge) to wander around B&N (since I have a Nook) to see what’s hot in the virtual world. Especially when most of the books I like are overpriced in ebook form. But I wander…

When I do find a book that looks interesting I go to the reviews. Now, this is where the “gatekeepers” theory breaks down for me. The odds are good that if it’s a self-published masterpiece that I’ll see no less than fifteen five-star reviews proclaiming it to be totally awesome!

Uh… no.

My BS detector starts to ring like a MoFo when I see no one disputing a book’s enjoyment value. Everyone dislikes something, somewhere about a book. Some people love The Road, I found it to be boring. I *heart* Ivanhoe, you might find it a boring old tome that shouldn’t even be in ebook form. But no large group of people should agree that a book is worth five stars. ALL five stars.

I expect to see a few four-stars. Or even a few threes, or twos or ones from those readers who bought it and didn’t find it to their liking. And that doesn’t mean the book is Bad, it just means that it didn’t work for that reader. But I’m seeing more and more vanity and self-pub authors racing to denounce anything below a five-star rating, challenging those reviews and just being darned ornery about how no one can contest Their Great Work. I think everyone’s heard about Anne Rice taking on one of her Amazon reviewers and getting into a nasty snit. In fact, I’m more likely to buy a book if I see a variety of ratings because I know that at least *some* of them must be from strangers who bought the book and not all from family and friends who dump five stars on the book because they feel they have to.

So here’s my question for the week – where do YOU go for book reviews and who do YOU trust to give you the best opinion on what to buy? Amazon? Goodreads? Shelfari? Romantic Times Magazine? The NYT Book Review? Friends? Anyone at all?

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2 thoughts on “Who do you trust?

  1. Mostly, I follow my friends recommendations. From time to time, I do stumble across an intriguing title online, and when I do I research it. I have a few trusted book-review sites, including a few people I follow on Goodreads, as well as a few smaller blogs.
    I dont put much stock in Amazon reviews. A certain type of person is attracted to leaving reviews there, and they either love everything, or hate everything.
    I want to keep the ‘gatekeepers’ of literature. I think that system works, and when(if) my own book gets picked up, I plan on using them.
    I think, perhaps, part of the trend you are talking about, stems from a glut of eager writers who are resentful of the current agency system, who are gleefully watching for the big publishers to fall, and they transfer that dissatisfaction to anything associated with the ‘traditional’ system. I dont think editors or big publishers are going anywhere, nor are the other aspects of that system, ie reviewers.
    I am thrilled to see more smaller presses, and more self-pubbed work getting good press, and I think that rather than tear down the old system, there will simply be more room for more authors and agents and reviewers. More and more people will be finding book review blogs that they like to find new work. And some will use Amazon reviews.
    There will be something for everyone.

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