Book jackets can tell you more than just what the words of the reviews write. Here’s how:
- The Source – My eye wanders to the source before I read the content of the quote. It is instinct to read the who before bothering with the what. It is human nature. Human nature and that we don’t trust just anyone. The source is the credibility. A quote that reads, Best book ever written in the entire universe! – says Anonymous. That’s a glowing review by no one who matters. Anonymous is that cousin of lies when it comes to trusting a book review.
- Look at the Length of the Review – A lone word, Riveting or Amazing or Funny, has power. By writing less it says more than a full sentence ever could. Or that is what the publisher would like you to think. A lone word review was not printed as a lone word. It was plucked from a complete review. From that lengthy release one word was valued about the others like the prettiest fish in an aquarium and held up for the world to see, leaving the little accent fish and clogged filter in the background. So be wary of the one word review.
- Paid or Unpaid – Unbeknownst to many readers it can cost money to get a book reviewed. While bloggers (for the most part) do not charge but, some of the big reviewers do. The Kirkis Review currently costs $425 for a standard review. $575 if you want it sooner. This doesn’t mean Kirkis Review panders to clients, always writing a great review. Their critics are good at what they do and many books end up with mediocre reviews, largely because there are a lot of mediocre books available. Meanwhile authors who give glowing reviews may be doing so, in part, because they expect the favor returned, or they belong to the same publisher and the boost is likely to help the hand that feeds them. Just a nugget to keep in the back of the mind.
- A Book Compared to Other Books – We have all seen the reviews . . . reminiscent of Game of Thrones or Top Gun meets Sherlock Holmes in this exciting thriller. This is the critics way of saying it falls in line with the genre in a way that will probably boost the book’s sales but the book is not as good as the books it is being compared too. I have yet to see a review that says This is like that other book, but better.
- Awards – A writing prize can mean a lot about quality but it does not mean you will like the book. Prizes are often given out for something new and different. A voice not often heard or a style. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka won the Pen Faulkner Award when it came out. The novel is well done and uses a collective voice of Japanese women brought to America which is rarely seen in books. It brings something to new, a first, to the world of literature as a whole but it won’t be starting any trends in collective voice fiction. American readers want to know more about characters, the people and this book glassed over the depth of the individual in the ways many bestsellers dig into the personal history of main characters.
- Bestseller Stickers – A bestseller label is something I usually avoid. Depending on your reading preferences this can be a sale point or a warning label. A book’s popularity can tell you a couple things. First, this book is not going to be complex reading. The books that reach the most hands are books that use short, simple sentence structure and have literal phrasings that allow anyone to absorb them without too much difficulty. Second, these books are probably genre fiction. This is does not hold universally, but romances and thrillers make up a large section of the most sold and devoured books. Formulaic stories that appear in a series will hit the charts. Think Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Jim Butcher, Clive Cussler. They have an audience and they know the routine. One book does not differ significantly from the next so readers know what sort of beach time page turning to expect. If you are skeptical, search a list of best sellers right now. These books sell well now but will not stand the test of time. That is what a bestseller sticker can tell you.
So what to look for in finding a gripping read, full sentences by credible sources. You want some vacation reading look for short reviews by bestsellers. If it is a specific genre, like glittery teenage vampire novels, use authors to pick other authors and key in on their reviews. Let the reviewers form be your guide.