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What Your Reviews Can Mean to Books

February 3, 2013

By Dean Murphy

Star ratings from ★ to ★★★★★ and the number of reviews each title receives influence Amazon’s algorithmic formulae. Readers can cast Yes or No votes, to indicate whether the review is helpful. Many readers, however, cast No votes based on the book, rather than the review.

Several people cast No votes for my reviews of Sue Grafton novels because they didn’t like Sue’s new hairstyle or multiple character viewpoints. Duh! Those No votes prevent my reviews from appearing near the top where they get more exposure, though my take on Grafton’s “V” installment tops 450 reviews. It’s identified as Kinsey Millhone is back with a vengeance and needs more Yes votes to balance negative ones, as some readers didn’t like how Kinsey shopped at Nordstrom for expensive silk PJs.

I reviewed two FWA collections. They need more Yes votes, if the reviews are helpful, to positively affect how Amazon’s computer calculates the number of times the reviews are viewed and reader participation.

My review of My Wheels appears as “Florida Writers Association rolls out its fourth anthology.” Though a Yes vote gets FWA more positive exposure for the book, you can purchase it from FWA’s bookstore at this link. And most of the authors are happy to autograph their entries at each conference.

Slices of Life, FWA’s second collection, is “An intimate look into the minds of writers.” That, too, needs a Yes vote, and can be purchased from FWA at this link.

To further exposure for FWA collections, your review of these books enhances Amazon algorithms, and it’s excellent byline exposure. If you’re not sure how to review a collection of short stories, select a few that influenced you and explain the rationale.

Although is my main venue, I review for Amazon FWA members’ books. Julie Compton took home a second place RPLA for her first novel, published as Tell No Lies. My review is identified as “This attorney’s slippery slope…” Of 22 reviews there’s only a single one-star rating. That “review” tells nothing about the book, but informs others of the reviewer’s inability to follow plot. The negative review and low star rating harm the author’s Amazon status.

Bookreporter posted my review of Compton’s Rescuing Olivia as “More twists than a plate of rotini pasta,” and “Olivia” was one of my 2010 Top Ten Picks. I also reviewed Randy Austin’s RPLA winner, Wizard’s Refrain, as “We’re off to see the wizard,” though it’s more a composite feature than a review.

I hope to review more books by FWA members, especially psych thrillers and mysteries. Because of limited exposure and the volume of novels I read, I’m reluctant to review self-published books—but I’m out there exemplifying FWA’s maxim: Writers Helping Writers.


  1. February 3, 2013 1:43 pm


    I agree, reviews are so important–in my experience good ones don’t necessarily guarantee sales but bad ones certainly will hurt. Since you offered :), I would love for you to consider reviewing my 2005 RPLA “Honorable Mention” winner (in the unpublished novel category), THE WILCO PROJECT, published in by Solstice Publishing. It is available on Amazon: Thanks! Dan

  2. February 3, 2013 5:30 pm

    Thanks for the mention in your post, Dean. I’m happy to report that I have more Amazon reviews now after my recent re-release of both books through Amazon’s Kindle Select program (including a few more negative ones!). But luckily, the number of good ones heavily outweigh the bad. I think authors have to remember that you can’t please all readers all of the time, and the very thing that some readers love about a particular book, others will hate. And that’s okay. Frankly, when I go to a page and see ONLY four and five star reviews, I get a little suspicious of them. I assume most were written by family and friends.
    All authors can do is try to write the best book we can at a particular point in time (hopefully, our craft improves with each book). I think it’s great that there are people like you out there who are voracious readers and enjoy posting reviews. Many outlets for reviews have dried up, but bloggers, etc. have picked up the slack and that’s a wonderful thing!

  3. February 7, 2013 8:52 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the great information! Since you mentioned your willingness to review fellow FWA author’s books, I’d love it if you could review my debut mystery novel, “Dead Like Me”. The manuscript won second place in the best mystery category of the 2011 RPLA competition. I’ve submitted the information to the FWA online bookstore but it hasn’t shown up yet. I’ve had difficulty getting through to anyone to check on it as my emails always get bounced back. Odd, but anyway I’d appreciate it. My website is and here’s the Amazon link:

    Kelly Miller

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      February 8, 2013 6:11 am

      Kelly, this was a guest post. As much as I’d love to read everyone’s work, time’s an issue for me. If Dean’s monitoring this post, he’ll see this, though.

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