How reliable are Amazon book reviewers?
Because most are anonymous and some are Trolls with a goal to only spew negative reviews—because Trolls are Internet bullies—finding an answer to this question may not seem possible.
However, while reading the reviews of another author’s first novel, I thought, there must be a way to rate the reliability of Amazon reviewers and I conducted an experiment that I think works. With no computer program to do the work for me, it took time to gather the data—all easily available on Amazon—and use a hand-held calculator to compute the odds.
I focused on one Amazon review of a book I have never read. In fact, I have never read any of Mirella Sichirollo Patzer’s novels, and she has published five. Before today, I was unaware of this author or her work.
Patzer’s first novel was The Blighted Troth: A Novel of New France, and the Amazon reviewer that I focused on wrote the only one-star review of the 19 reviews for this novel. There was no two-star review. There were 6 five-star; 9 four-star, and 3 three-star reviews. The average of those 19 reviews was 4 of 5 stars—a good average.
I have to thank Kindlefan (an anonymous name for this Amazon reviewer), because he or she inadvertently gave me the idea for this post. Click here to see Kindlefan’s profile on Amazon.
My dad was a gambler. He loved to play the horses and knew how to compute the odds in his favor long before there were computers. In fact, one time, my dad picked eight winners out of eight races at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California. Then later in life, I became a card counter in Vegas and tried that out for a few years before giving it up. I discovered that it was hard work with long hours, and it was not stress free.
What I did was handicap—as my dad taught me—the odds of Kindlefan being a reliable reviewer for the tastes of the average reading public. To do that, I focused on only his or her one and two-star reviews and compared them to the four and five-star reviews of fifteen of the thirty-five books reviewed by this one anonymous Amazon reviewer.
- 10 one-star
- 5 two-star
- 7 three-star
- 4 four-star
- 9 five-star
Of course, it would be impossible to rate someone with only a few reviews on Amazon. In fact, alleged Trolls often only leave one/two poor reviews and then never review again, and I think that these reviewers cannot be considered reliable. In addition, anyone that only leaves mostly one/two star reviews cannot be trusted, but Kindlefan’s balance between 1 and 5 star reviews reveals an alleged non-biased reader expressing his or her own opinions.
Of the fifteen books that Kindlefan rated with one-or-two stars, there were a total of 421 reviews spread between 1, 2, 4 and 5-star reviews. Sixty were 1 or 2 star reviews and three-hundred-and-sixty-one (361) were 4 or 5 star reviews. I did not count the three-star reviews.
With that said, Kindlefan’s reliability rating as a reviewer compared with average reading tastes earned a 14% rating out of 100% (once I crunched the numbers). On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, Kindlefan scored a 1.4—pretty low.
That doesn’t mean Kindlefan’s reviews are invalid but that they only apply to a small minority of the reading audience telling us that his or her reading tastes do not match the average reader. We also learn that “The Blighted Troth” would probably appeal to 84% of readers that enjoy this genre.
If a reader still has doubts, there is always the free Amazon preview of a book to read first. If a reader likes what he or she sees, then he or she may buy the book—or not.
In fact, maybe Amazon might consider using a similar method to automatically rate a reviewer’s reliability as an average reader. If Amazon averages the reviews of an author’s work, why not rate the reliability of reviewers based on his or her reviews compared to reviews for the same books reviewed?
Amazon provides links to all the information needed to rate an Amazon book reviewer. Each reviewer has a link to all of his or her reviews and each review has a link to the books reviewed where it is easy to discover how many reviews there were for each book as I did. If you try this and have trouble finding the links, leave me a comment and I’ll see if I can help.
Discover Authors Finding Readers
Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.
His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.
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