Crowdsourced Book Reviews vs. Professional Book Reviews

Thursday, July 12, 2018

You’ve done the hard work of writing your book. Now it’s time to find out what others think of it. In other words, it’s time to solicit book reviews. Not all book reviews are the same, and in the world of book reviews, there are two options: crowdsourced reviews or professional reviews. Here's the difference between the two.

Professional book reviews are written by critics who work for credible institutions, such as respected magazines, newspapers, online publications, blogs, and paid services like BlueInk Review. Readers can be assured the reviewers have a solid background in the genre they are reviewing and are knowledgeable about the craft of book writing.

Crowdsourced reviews, by contrast, are written by everyday readers who post them on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Sometimes they are simple and one-dimensional to the point of uselessness, such as the comment found on Amazon with the heading “I hated every page, paragraph, sentence.” But they can also be just as in-depth and well-considered as any professional review.

As an indie author, the type of review you solicit depends on your author goals. Here’s a rundown of both kinds and the specific needs they meet best:

Crowdsourced Book Reviews

Pros

  • Crowdsourced reviews can convince readers to buy your book. If they are particularly persuasive and numerous, readers browsing through Amazon or Barnes & Noble may buy the book due to reader recommendations. Likewise, readers on Goodreads might add it to their “must-read” list.
  • They offer many opinions. Reading is a personal experience. What some like, others may hate. With crowdsourced reviews, you get many chances for readers to write positive things about your book, even if some don’t appreciate your work.
  • They help you with your ranking. The more online reviews you receive and the more positive they are, the higher your book will climb on the charts and the more people will see it. This can be hugely beneficial to your book sales.

Cons

  • They don’t have the same cache as a professional review. While crowdsourced reviews can be used on your author website or book marketing materials (particularly if you can say something like “My book received 300 5-star reviews on Amazon!”), they don’t carry the same weight as reviews by professional critics. (Compare a positive blurb on a book jacket credited to John Smith to one from The New York Times. The latter is clearly much more impressive.)
  • They aren’t used by librarians and booksellers. Industry professionals rarely use crowdsourced reviews to make book-buying decisions. They lean on reviews from sources they trust, such as those from mainstream media and trade publications. Magazines like Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist carry considerable weight.
  • The feedback you’ll receive can be frustrating and contradictory. Crowdsourced reviews are exactly that: reviews from members of a crowd. Some are competent; others, well, not so much. You may get ill-informed reviewers who simply hate your book for no good reason and are happy to share their opinion with the worldand unnecessarily dash your self-esteem in the process. In addition, one reviewer may say they hate a character and you should remove them while another says that same character is the reason they fell in love with the book.
  • Readers don’t always trust them. Readers know that crowdsourced reviews are often solicited from the author’s friends and family. For this reason, they aren’t always trusted, particularly when there aren’t many reviews on your page.

Professional Book Reviews

Pros

  • Booksellers and librarians rely on them. Industry professionals want reviews written by verifiable sources they trust, rather than by random readers. As noted above, they pay close attention to reviews from mainstream media, trade publications, and paid reviews from sources they respect.
  • You can use them to solicit other reviews. If you receive a positive professional review, you can quote it on press releases used to solicit other reviews. A review praising your book and credited to the Chicago Tribune, for example, will catch a book section editor’s attention far more than a review from Amazon reader Jane Doe.
  • They are great on your book marketing materials. You can use them on your author website, bookmarks, press releases, your book’s back cover and other marketing materials. While readers are unlikely to be impressed by an unknown name on a bookmark, they will pay attention to a known reviewer or review institution.
  • The feedback is often more valuable. Since it’s from a professional source, you can count on receiving an unbiased, thorough review from someone who knows what they’re talking about and can articulate and support their criticisms.

Cons

  • A professional review reflects only one person’s opinion: Again, reading is a personal event and one man’s treasure is another’s trash. Professional book reviews can be hard to come by, so you don’t have the advantage of hearing from many voices. If you get a reviewer who simply doesn’t like your style, it can feel devastating.
  • They can be difficult to attain: As newspaper and magazine books pages increasingly disappear, fewer books are being reviewed. Bloggers, too, are overwhelmed with queries. Self-published books are rarely chosen for review in any case, due to the overwhelming number of traditionally published books that demand attention. Paid services were established to even the playing field, but they can be expensive, so it can be difficult to attain more than one or two.
  • They don’t affect your ranking on Amazon. Professional reviews are displayed in the “Editorial Reviews” section of your Amazon page. While they are impressive and important to include, they don’t impact your ranking on Amazon the way crowdsourced reviews can.

The best strategy is to get BOTH kinds of reviews. The discussion shouldn't be crowdsourced book reviews vs. professional book reviews, it should be about crowdsourced book reviews AND professional book reviews.

 

Experts in the Publishing Industry

Patti Thorn

Patti Thorn is a Managing Partner at BlueInk Review, a fee-based book review service devoted to self-published titles exclusively. For more news, writing tips, and book marketing help, you can sign up for BlueInk Review's mailing list.