It seems like many people are unaware of how the whole thing works with book reviews these days. It used to be simple: a handful of gatekeeping pros would say something scathing about every new bestselling book, and we’d all just ignore them and go to the bookstore or library to find something based on covers and blurbs. Oprah might convince us to read something specific, or someone else on a talk show.
These days, anybody with a computer can review a book–or anything else, for that matter. As with anything else on the internet, book reviewers generally fall into categories. I’ve encountered seven types. If knowing who’s doing the job helps, then I’m happy to share them:
1. Professional reviewers. These people review books for a living. They get paid to do it, and everybody knows it. The payment is for their time, and does not guarantee a positive review. Most of these people have a good amount of integrity, because their livelihood depends on their reputation. Their reviews appear in the ‘Editorial Review’ section for a book, and may or may not include a rating. Such ratings are not included in the book’s overall product rating.
2. Quasi-pro reviewers. This refers to persons like myself, who do not get paid to write reviews, but publicize them in some fashion beyond just posting it on a sales platform like Amazon. In most cases, the quasi-pro writes book reviews relatively often and posts them on a blog and/or to one or more social media accounts. The majority of their reviews are done by request in exchange for a free copy of the book, though they may buy books sometimes. No money changes hands between a quasi-pro and an author/publisher, only a book.
3. Avid readers. These are people who read a lot and write reviews without otherwise publicizing them. Typically, they buy their books, go to the library often, and/or find them on freebie days. They’re ‘ordinary’ people who want to share how awesome or awful the books they encounter are. Most aren’t much different from the quasi-pro, aside from a lack of publicizing.
4. Fans, friends, and family. Every author, no matter how many books they’ve had published for how long, has at least a handful of folks who will gladly give a positive review, even if they hated it. They do it out of love, friendship, or zeal, with (usually) no ill intentions.
5. Paid reviewers. Such a person takes money directly from an author/publisher and produces a positive 4 or 5 star review. If they read the book at all, they probably picked some key chapters and ignored the rest, to have enough detail to make the review believable. This practice is against the policies of all major book retailers (internet or otherwise), for what should be obvious reasons. It still happens.
6. The average, ordinary person. These folks buy and read a few books a year and when one really sparks their fancy or (more likely) ticks them off, they post a short review. Most stick with books that are already popular: such books are easy to find, and easy to talk about with others.
7. The Nattering Nabob of Negativity (Special Subtype). Everyone comes across books they don’t like for one reason or another. Some reviewers don’t bother posting anything about them, others do. This isn’t about that. The Negative Reviewer gives a 1 or 2 star review for no apparent reason, or offers reasons that aren’t worth a negative review, aren’t true, or are about the author instead of the book. Most of the time, this sort of thing happens when an author, publisher, fan, or friend/family member has a personal problem with the author they posted the review for. In other words, these are often revenge reviews.