What can you learn from Reader Comments on Amazon?

Posted July 31st @ 6:38 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

Before you start to write and self-publish a brand-building book, ask yourself, What can I learn from the Reader Comments on Amazon.com?

Amazon’s Comments can reveal a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of competing books in your field, as well as insights into the authors of competing books.

The Customer Comments appear in the section following the Product Details on the sales pages of currently available books.

Origin of the comments

It’s OK to approach reading the comments with a critical mindset. It’s probably safe to assume, at least in the period immediately following a book’s release, that many of the reviews were the result of the author’s marketing efforts.

This is not to say that the author’s “wrote” the reviews. But, the authors may have called-in favors from other authors. They may also have encouraged their blog readers, newsletter subscribers,  and Twitter, Facebook, & LinkedIn followers to review their book on Amazon.

As a result, the majority of the comments are more likely to be positive, than negative. But, beyond that, authors don’t “control” what appear in the comments.

Tips for analyzing reader comments on Amazon

Here are some ideas to bear in mind as you analyze reader comments:

  • Quantity. The number of reviews reflects the overall level of interest in the book, by both readers and the authors. A low number of reviews is an indication of apathy on the part of both authors and readers.
  • Dates. The dates of the latest reviews, compared to the book’s publication date (listed in the Product Details) reveals more about the book. When new reviews continue to appear months, even years, after a book’s publication, it’s a sign that new readers are discovering the book on their own. It also means that the reviewers were enthusiastic enough to submit their comments on the book.
  • Quality. Be suspicious of reviews that are either extremely critical or overly enthusiastic. When a reader is truly harsh, it may reflect some hidden agendas on the reviewer’s part. Likewise, it might pay to be suspicious when a reviewer offers a lot of praise, but doesn’t provide specific reasons why! When reading reviews, always look for evidence rather than unsupported criticism or praise.
  • Themes. Likewise, look for similar topics, or themes, that show up in several reviews. If several reviewers bring up the same issue in reviews posted over a period of several months, it’s likely that the reviewers independently noticed the issue.
  • Credibility. Whenever possible, do a Google search on the name of the reviewer, and verify their credibility. In addition, take a moment to click on the reviewer’s name, which will take you to a page with links to the reviewer’s other Amazon.com reviews. Check out the other reviews for quality and consistent topics and viewpoints. Look for reviews that reflect a realistic connection with the topic. Don’t be swayed by “star” reviewers with no connection to the topic.

Viewed from a critical perspective, Reader Reviews on Amazon.com can provide a fresh perspective on the existing books in your field that your book will be competing with.

Get a fresh perspective on writing & self-publishing

Before you start to write and self-publish a brand-building book, download my (currently free) workbook, 99 Questions to Ask Before Writing and Self-publishing a Brand-building Book.

It will help you save time and avoid wasted effort by helping you clarify your goals, analyze your readers, examine competing books, choose a book title, explore your options, and consider your book marketing & post-publication profit options as soon as possible.

Asking questions encourages you to examine your assumptions and opens the door to new alternatives and resources. You can also review earlier posts in this series and ask questions about researching competing books on Amazon.com using my online form, or by commenting below.

2 Comments

  1. karensdifferentcorners
    August 1, 2012

    Hi Roger great advice. A friend received a 1 star review yesterday and I told her not to worry about it, that not everyone is going to like what we write and the review was constructive and informative and just his personal opinion, but when she got another 1 star review this morning she was frantic, so I went and looked at the review and then checked other reviews from that person and found that their other reviews had typo’s and weren’t constructive at all. I have purchased books that have received 1 star reviews and found the books to be exactly opposite of what the reviewers say.

  2. Roger C. Parker
    August 1, 2012

    Dear Karen:
    You bring up a good point: that there’s nothing “absolute” about reviews–they’re a good guide, but what one reader takes for granted is important news to another reader.

    Best wishes on your writing and publishing career.
    Roger

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