Your opinion: Good, bad, or indifferent to be reviewed by Amazon's #1 Customer Reviewer, HK?

Reading through the thread of David Terrenoire's "Reading, writing, and really lame reviews" prompts me to ask a question that (I suspect) will generate considerable response, so I'm taking the liberty of starting a new discussion.

The question, addressed to both authors and readers: Do you feel that a review by Amazon's #1-ranked customer reviewer, the notorious HK, is a plus, a minus, or pretty much without consequence?

Until recently, when I started gearing up my publicity and promotion machine in preparation for the September release of my first novel (SILENT COUNSEL, Windermere Press), I was familiar, in general terms, with the Amazon customer review process--I knew that customers could post reviews. Being a frequent Amazon purchaser, I came to recognize HK's name, but that was the extent of it.

As I started promotion in earnest, I delved beneath the surface to familiarize myself with as many aspects of publicity as I could, and I began reading some of the comments posted to Ms. K's reviews. I was surprised to learn of the scope and depth of controversy that surrounds her.

So, my simple question is: Is it a good thing or a bad thing to have a review from Ms. K? Or does it just not make a darn bit of difference?

Cheers...

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As you said, when you started looking at publicity you noticed HK. Not before. She's pretty irrelevant, IMHO.

Luckily the internet is a place without a memory. Its created anew with each page refresh. So if you missed HK's creation as a reviewer, or never cared in the first place, HK is just another poster on the net. If you've been around internet forums for decades and know the comments HK has received over the years, then you may have a different opinion about HKs reviews than, say, a first timeshopper at Amazon might have. "Oooh! HK, Amazon' #1 reviewer liked this book..." They don't know HK likes every book 'shes' ever read and 'she' reads too many in a 24 hr period to be real. (only somewhat said with tongue-in-cheek)

That said, personally, I'd take as many positive rewviews as possible, if I had written a book. And HK's reviews are always positive, so, IMHO, you'd be ahead of the game.

Also, my opinion only, I've noticed that bad/negative Amazon reviews get fewer checks that 'x # people found this review helpful'. Positive reviews - of anything, batteries, laptops, books - get more people saying the review was helpful. Weird huh? Like they only want to hear good stuff about anything. I'll bet there's a theory somewhere about this phenomenon: People who lie look upwards and to the left, and post positive reviews on Amazon.

How's that for a wishywashy answer to a straight forward question?
K:

I don't think your response is wishywashy in the least--I don't think the question lends itself to an easy answer.

I believe you're correct in your observation that those "who don't know better" see a positive review by "Amazon's # 1 reviewer" and react positively--provided that they are the type to pay attention to reviews at all. And as to those "in the know"--they see the review, shrug and smile to themselves, and say "Yeah, whadda you expect?" IMHO, I don't see anyone deciding NOT to buy a book because HK gave it a good review.

Mind you, I have nothing against HK, and I sometimes do the "shrug and smile" bit when I read some of the comments about her on the Web. She is, to say the least, a phenomenon that's generated a lot of attention.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
She apparently doesn't write reviews for books she doesn't like, so that accounts for the lack of negative reviews.

I've never had a book reviewed by her, and haven't delved deep enough to know what kind of remarks are made about her other than what another reviewer told me, so I really have no opinion. I'm not prepared to chase after her waving a book just so I can get reviewed by Amazon's #1 reviewer. And I don't know that I've read many of her reviews, so I guess you'd have to mark me down as 'indifferent'.
It took me a while to work this one out. HK has given me some glowing reviews on my early books. These days she doesn't review them any longer. :) Just as well. Give me Mary Whipple any day. To the best of my knowledge Mary doesn't give 5 stars, but she writes superb reviews. Whatever I may have said in the past about amazon reader reviews certainly doesn't apply to Mary. She's an excellent reviewer.
As a reader and sometimes amazon customer, I would be absolutely indifferent to an HK review. I'm more likely to look at Amazon reviews AFTER I've finished reading a book to see if other people had similar opinions of a book. There are only two amazon reviewers whose opinions I would look out for - Rachel Walker and Eurocrime as I share similar taste in books, but they wouldn't be make or break on whether I bought the book.
I do think there's some controversy around HK, as I have seen discussion on lists and readers criticizing the abundance of reviews and fact that there are no negative reviews. I understand she apparently only reviews books she likes, but the frequency of her reviewing and lack of negative reviews together raises concerns for me. Does anyone know how many books she reviews in a year? Today she added 12 reviews to Amazon, and her last prior reviews were posted yesterday, the day before and the 15th. I'm not sure if it leaves time over for books she doesn't like to be tried and discarded.

I also do think that in order to establish your positives, you have to spill some of your negatives, especially if you're reviewing a few books each week. A good opinion is qualified by evidence of discernment. I feel it every time I criticize something in a book, but as a reviewer I also understand my obligation is to the readers, not the author. I need to give enough information for readers to decide if the book is worth $8, $14 or $26 and hours of their time. And it isn't up to me to make that call. I need to address if the plot holds together, if the writing is solid or sloppy, if the characters are believable. And give enough info about the tone of the book for the reader to say if it's for them or not.

If I only reveal praise it comes off as though I've never read a bad book, or that I like everything. And then readers who do look to the reviews to decide what to buy discount all of my reviews because apparently, no bad book has been published.

I don't write trash reviews. If I loathe a book, I've abandoned it. But I've written reviews that had what I believe were valid criticisms... and that said, reviewing is subjective, largely based off of taste, so it is one person's opinion.

I haven't been reviewed by HK, but with the poor distribution on my book it's entirely possible she hasn't read it. Or she read it and hated it. See, that's the problem with the 'review only what you like' thing. We could sit here and guess endlessly if the books she's not reviewing these days are ones she tried and disliked, or ones she hasn't read.
Booklist used to have the same policy--they'd only review books they felt libraries should buy. Over the years they modified that policy to also include books they anticipate strong demand for, which meant they started also writing negative reviews. I've talked with librarians who liked Booklist's original approach--it made it easy to find which books to buy, and Ms. Klausner is basically providing the same service. Readers who trust/follow her judgment can use her reviews to easily identify which books they might be interested in. There's nothing wrong with what she's doing, in fact I wish there were a lot more people who loved books as much as she does. As writers I think that's something we should all be wishing for.
She has 14,369 reviews listed on Amazon, and I assume they are all four or five stars (I didn't go through all of them, but the several pages I did go through were all four or five stars). She says in her profile she reads 2 books a day. At that rate, it would take 19.6 years (ignoring leap year days) to read that many books. Now of course, she could have included books she had read prior to writing reviews on Amazon, and there are probably times she reads more than two books a day, if she's a speed reader.

Even so, the numbers are staggering. And since those are all good reviews, that means those are 14,369 books that she liked. What about the ones she disliked? Does she like every book she reads? How does she even acquire that many books? I mean, I know libraries are great, and her financial status in unknown to me, but that's still a lot of books.

The point I'm getting at it that it is reasonable to question whether she has really read all those books.

Anyway, I never make a decision based on one review anyway, so HK's reviews don't mean anymore than anyone else's.
She probably acquires a lot of them the way many reviewers do--they're sent to her, both by publishers and by small press authors looking for reviews. I do know authors who have actively courted getting a review from her, which involved sending her a copy of their books.
I think one does well on Amazon based on the ability to read the first few pages of the book. That's my ultimate deciding factor in making a purchase. I guess its a holdover from shopping in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. I read the first few pages and if it makes me want to read more I buy the book. I understand that if someone has the time and desire one can read the whole book that way, but I just don't have the time or desire to sit and work the system to get the book. Heck, by that time one could have ordered it and have received it in the mail, LOL! If the publisher doesn't want the whole book available, its nice to have the first few pages on the author's website.

Getting back to K(lausner) and reviews in general, I do read the Amazon reviews and I do consider them when I buy. (Does that make me a bad person? LOL!) That's why I like to have the first few pages so I can see if I agree with what's been said online and in the reviews. On Audible (where I do most of my "reading" these days) I really like that they have a sample download. You can hear the narrator and decide whether you can stand his/her voice. *G*

Dare I say it? I also pay a little attention to the 'People who bought this also bought...' recommendations becasue sometimes I'll find a new author that way. (Even a blind squirrel finds a nut.)
"People who bought this" recommendations are excellent. They show if the reader liked the book well enough to buy any other books by that author. And being "bundled" with other authors is also good. It's a neat way to find new customers (an author's point of view). Amazon does a fine job, as far as I'm concerned. I just wish they didn't offer used copies side by side with the new releases.

I'm less happy with the "google" project that makes available portions of novels without the author's (or publisher's) consent. They manage to give far too much away in mysteries.
Google announced that they were doing this project, and that the publishers of books had the right to 'opt out' if they wanted. It requires that the publisher goes through and opts out for all their books, rather than Google coming to them and asking permission first, and it's got a lot of publishers very unhappy with them.

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