As a reader, I enjoy perusing book reviews. I usually start my assessment of a book by reading one-star reviews to see the worst the reviewers think. One-star reviews will tell me the book’s pitfalls and problems, and are less predictable than glowing reviews. I do read across the star rankings, though. The best reviewers across all the rankings provide lots of good information.

I cringe when someone gives a book on Amazon a “Wow! Loved this!” book one star because they misunderstood the rating system – that one star is actually the lowest rating. Just saying!

While reading reviews on Amazon recently, I noticed that a one-star review on a nonfiction CBA title said that most of the glowing reviews were fake. The reviewer cited Fakespot as the source. I’d never heard of Fakespot (www.fakespot.com) so maybe you’d be interested in learning about it, too.

As most of you know, I wrote books years ago. So just for fun, I entered the link to reviews of my book, Love Finds You in Maiden, North Carolina and got this: https://www.fakespot.com/product/love-finds-you-in-maiden-north-carolina

I also entered the link for The Lady and the Cad:

I was glad to see that my reviewers aren’t fake!

I don’t take this exercise too seriously but it’s something to know about and maybe have a little fun with. Some of my books released to enthusiastic reviews, some to crickets, others to, “Hate this book!!!” Bottom line? Don’t let praise go to your head, and don’t let criticism make you depressed. Reactions of any type show that you are making a difference in the world.

Your turn:

Do you read book reviews? Why or why not?

What do you consider the most valuable and reliable source of reviews either online or in print?





55 Responses to Fakespot

  1. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott June 7, 2018 at 4:05 am #

    You and I have something in common, Tamela — we read the 1-star reviews first. Most of the time, they don’t deter me from buying (but complaints about Kindle formatting can sway me to a print copy). I sometimes read the negative reviews and wonder what sort of people don’t read the product information and then down-rate it when it turns out to be exactly as it claimed.

    A book with reviews heavy on 3’s? I think carefully before parting with my money. Mediocre isn’t my thing.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 6:54 am #

      Good point about Kindle formatting. Poor formatting often seems to be a problem. I see very few books with more 3-star reviews than others. Most people seem to review to rave or rant. I agree that mediocre won’t cut it, though!

  2. Avatar
    Brennan McPherson June 7, 2018 at 4:19 am #

    I read all my reviews. They’ve helped me make positive changes to my writing, and understand my own brand better. As painful a process as it can be. . . it’s been helpful.

  3. Avatar
    Rebekah Love Dorris June 7, 2018 at 4:50 am #

    I once heard someone brazenly admit they wrote fake reviews, both glowing and scathing, for pay. “I never believe anything I read online,” the person said.

    I guess it’s like gossip. If you partake, you’re particularly susceptible, at least in your own mind. If you don’t, it isn’t a big worry. I’m glad your reviewers are gold. Like you. 🙂

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 6:56 am #

      You are so sweet, Rebekah! Yes, we have to be careful online. So depressing there’s an industry where people pay for fake reviews. 🙁

  4. Avatar
    Daphne Woodall June 7, 2018 at 4:56 am #

    I will read various star level reviews and sometimes you can read between the lines to discern. It’s harder to give a review especially if you know the author. I don’t easily throw out 5 star reviews. Great or less may mean it wasn’t my favorite genre.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 6:57 am #

      I make it a policy not to review books online for that reason, Daphne. I’m friends with too many wonderful authors!

  5. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson June 7, 2018 at 5:20 am #

    I gravitate to the one and two-star reviews to see what people didn’t like. But then, I don’t believe every bad review I read either. Some can be downright cruel. I’ve never heard of Fakespot. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 6:59 am #

      I don’t believe every review, either. I look for consistency in reviews to make a final judgment. For instance, if three reviewers say the writing is poor, that may be the truth.

  6. Avatar
    Sarah Hamaker June 7, 2018 at 5:47 am #

    I always want to know why a reviewer praised or passed on the book (or item or service). Sometimes, it’s simply a “didn’t like this” one-star review, in which case, I ignore it. Other times, the reviewer gives specific reasons–sometimes, those reasons matter to me, while other times, it wouldn’t bother me.

    Bottom line for me? Tell me specifically why you liked or didn’t like the book or product. Just rating it isn’t enough.

  7. Avatar
    Crystal Caudill June 7, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    For the most part, I don’t read reviews for fiction. I know what type of books I like and know my tastes don’t always line up with others. Reading is so subjective. To determine if I might like a book that I will look at the preview or “look inside” feature. If it doesn’t have that, I will be much less likely to buy it unless a friend I trust has recommended it to me.

    When it comes to non-fiction, I read a spattering of reviews from all different star levels. It helps to give me a broad view of it the resource will be helpful to me, and again that “look inside” feature is crucial.

    I prefer to shop for books in person so I can flip through and skim, but online is so convenient, especially as the Christian Fiction section shrinks in stores as well as the number of stores themselves.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 7:00 am #

      I love the “look inside” feature, too. That’s helped me decide yes or no on many a title!

  8. Avatar
    Angela Carlisle June 7, 2018 at 6:37 am #

    As a reader, I usually only read reviews for a new-to-me author or one that I loved some of their books but was meh about others. I do read both negative and posive reviews because since I buy most of my books (preferably new to support the author’s sales), I have to show some discretion to avoid going broke, lol. Bankruptcy due to an inordinate amount of reading isn’t recommended. 😉

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 7:01 am #

      Thank you for buying books, and for being a reader of books! All of us appreciate you very much!

      And yes, it’s not impossible to overbuy books. My groaning bookshelves can attest to that!

  9. Avatar
    Sharon K. Connell June 7, 2018 at 7:11 am #

    I’m a reader and a writer. When it comes to reviews, I try not to give a review that too low on a book if I didn’t care for it because there are all kinds of readers out there. Someone else might truly love the story or the style of writing. And being a writer myself, I have to be careful of giving those reviews. I’m not reading the book to critique or edit the work. My reader’s hat needs to be firmly placed on my head if I’m going to tell other readers what I liked about the story, and forget about what I personally didn’t like.

    Amazon has a good system when it comes to reviews, stating if the review is from a real customer. However, I’ve given out several books as gifts to my readers. When I do that, I ask them to mention it was a gift book in their review.

    I’ve never heard of Fakespot either. If a writer has to resort to acquiring fake reviews for their work, I feel sorry for them.

    Thanks for the information, Tamela.

  10. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 7, 2018 at 7:32 am #

    I get more useful information from one-star reviews, for I find that they tend to follow Tolstoy’s dictum, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

  11. Avatar
    Terry Whalin June 7, 2018 at 7:39 am #


    Interesting article about reviews. Thank you. I read reviews–for my books and others. I had never heard of the website you mentioned. I tried it with my Billy Graham book and the 81 reviews and it ranked a D. I’ve monitored these reviews from when my book launched four years ago. They are NOT suspicious. I have some doubts about this website from this single experiment.

    Straight Talk From the Editor

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

      Terry, wow, that’s ironic! Thanks for running your own experiment and sharing what you discovered.

  12. Avatar
    Damon J. Gray June 7, 2018 at 8:04 am #

    I rarely read online (Amazonish) reviews for many of the reasons cited above. However, I love it when someone I respect and trust comments (here, Facebook, their blog) something along the lines of “Hey, I’m reading this book by ABCDEFG, and it is having effect XYZ on me. You may want to give it a read.”

    I have purchased a number of books on that basis, as well as other products and services. Indeed, I just purchased a video course on memoir based on the enthusiastic recommendation of two friends.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 3:17 pm #

      It’s great to be in touch with trusted friends to find out what books to read. A much better resource than random people, I think.

  13. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D June 7, 2018 at 11:34 am #

    Tamela, I read reviews via Amazon from time to time but most of the time I am purchasing a book I need and just buy it. When I’ve read it, I do post my review of the book on Amazon, though I usually give rave reviews because I read about the book on the Steve Laube Agency blog and the books are usually excellent.

    I did give one negative review a few years back but that was pre-Laube days and it really was a horrid book. I don’t remember what it was called but I threw the book in the trash. Hollywood will probably make a movie of it, if they haven’t already.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 3:18 pm #

      That could explain some of the bad movies out there! Glad our blog is a source of great information for you!

  14. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson June 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

    I do read book reviews, especially if I have heard about the book and am not sure about other books the author has written. I read the reviews and then, read the book and form my own opinion. 🙂

  15. Avatar
    Stephen W. Hiemstra June 7, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

    I write a lot (over 200) book reviews for my blog (T2Pneuma.net). Reviews are an essential part of my strategy for nonfiction writing and a good way to network with other authors and publishers.

    One of my editors described my reviews as more book commentaries because I strive to summarize the book and leave the assessment primarily to the reader. A presentation on my approach can be found on my blog (https://wp.me/p8RkfV-1V9).

    Fakespot.com is an interesting site. When I checked the rating for my oldest book, it came back with a reasonable assessment, although it took a long time.

    Online I read reviews both good and bad. I typically read reviews to see if my impression of the book matches that of the reviewers. Often I repost my own reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but mostly for books lacking reviews.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 3:20 pm #

      That’s a wonderful service, Stephen. Thanks for sharing the link, too. I especially like that you post reviews for lonely books. I see ads for books all the time and visit Amazon, only to see no reviews. It’s nice when there are a least a few!

    • Avatar
      David Young June 7, 2018 at 10:54 pm #

      Interesting. And several of your books look intriguing. I looked them up on Amazon.com

  16. Avatar
    Maggie McKenzie June 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm #

    I rarely read reviews as I don’t find them helpful.
    My choices for books are quite haphazard. Do I like the cover, title, subject or an author I’ve already read.
    I might get a dud and then nothing says I have to finish it. I also find some real gems like when I was at a used book store and ran across a plain cover copy, and no blurb, of ‘Levi’s Will’ by W. Dale Cramer. The title alone drew me and now I’ve read everything else he’s written.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

      Now thanks to you, those of us who don’t know W. Dale Cramer have an author to add to our list!

  17. Avatar
    Ed Lane June 7, 2018 at 1:47 pm #

    Based on what you said about the reviewer who gave a good book one star l’m a little concerned. I suppose we have to hope the majority of reviewers know the star system! Lol

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 7, 2018 at 3:24 pm #

      I know, right? It can be easy to get ratings systems mixed up, but when reviewing, it should be a matter of reading a couple of existing reviews to make sure you aren’t dragging down a book’s overall rating with a mistaken rating!

  18. Avatar
    David Young June 7, 2018 at 3:19 pm #

    I am afraid I do not look much at reviews. In fact, I usually avoid them if I don’t have garlic in my pocket. Concerning my own books, I don’t think I am as mature as some of you. I have thought some of them were dumb beyond belief. A few were bad but not necessarily in acurate. And I think some were really good. I guess they all seemed to be about my book.
    And I had never heard of of Fakespot. I looked up my first novel, In The Wilderness. They gave my reviews an A. I was pleased. I didn’t look up the others, but I fear knowing about it will drive me to

  19. Avatar
    Nancy B. Kennedy June 7, 2018 at 3:28 pm #

    Fakespot is a great resource! It detects when a clutch of 5-star reviews posted on the same day is a coordinated publicity effort for a newly launched book. But I think sometimes it detects deception where there is none. It often says something like “the reviews sound suspiciously alike.” Well, people’s vocabularies generally don’t vary much when they’re writing reviews on a site like Amazon. You have to take Fakespot with a grain of salt, too.

  20. Avatar
    Anna Bourassa June 7, 2018 at 3:37 pm #

    I tend to look at 4-star reviews first, then 1-star, in hopes that someone will warn me if there’s inappropriate scenes in the book. I usually read from all categories and find the 4-star rating the most reliable. Most of the time. While I rely heavily on Amazon reviews, my first resource is authors I love and follow, like Nadine Brandes and Sara Ella.

  21. Avatar
    Anna Bourassa June 7, 2018 at 4:00 pm #

    I should add that reading reviews on Amazon can be a painful experience, especially if it’s a book I already love and enjoyed. I know a little of the painstaking writing process and what it takes to complete a book; so to read someone’s criticism and unkind word choice is sometimes sickening. Speaking for myself, if I don’t like a book, I can’t bare to write a poor review. I’d rather leave a 3-star rating and say something like, “The author is clearly talented and the plot is unique; I just couldn’t relate to the teenage protagonist…”

  22. Avatar
    Tisha Martin June 7, 2018 at 4:17 pm #

    Great blog post, Tamela. I hadn’t heard of Fakespot before, how interesting! I do read the one-star to the five-star reviews because I want to see what readers thought. One caveat: a review is a review is a review and, like the book, is subjective. So if the book has been recommended to me or if I am intrigued by the blurb, I will most likely read it, especially if the first page catches my attention.

  23. Avatar
    Kelly June 8, 2018 at 4:40 am #

    I do read reviews. If I think characters sound too whiny for example I have to see if other readers thought the same thing…so I know I’m not alone in my thoughts! I always read the bad reviews first to help me determine if I want to buy the book.

  24. Avatar
    Marie Wells Coutu June 8, 2018 at 7:20 am #

    Sometimes I read reviews and like you, Tamela, I read some of the one-star reviews to see what the reviewer didn’t like. Usually, if there are more five-star than one-star reviews, I’ll read the book anyway unless those who didn’t like it give really good reasons that coincide with my own tastes. But if a book is recommended by a friend, I’ll read it without looking at the reviews at all.

  25. Avatar
    Kathleen Denly June 8, 2018 at 11:56 am #

    I’m glad your books scored well.

    My husband told me about Fakespot a few months ago. We actually had quite the discussion about whether it was reliable or not.

    As someone active in the book blogosphere I usually recognize several of the reviewers of new releases and know without a doubt that those, at least, are not “fake” reviews. So when my husband told me about Fakespot I ran my own “experiment” on a half-dozen newly released books where there were seventy or fewer reviews and I recognized a large number of the reviewers as either bloggers or regular reviewers I’ve had some interaction with. In almost every case, Fakespot scored them poorly because the reviewers were obeying the law and stating that the book had been gifted to them. Later, the purchased-book reviews rolled in and the rating improved, but very slowly. In one particular case, I recognized all but three of the reviewers and it still received a score of D.

    Admissions of receiving free product in exchange for any review has a negative effect on Fakespot scoring of that product’s reviews. Yet even Amazon allows an exception when it comes to books and the FTC requires book reviewers to state that we received that book for free.
    Fakespot claimed to be fixing the problem (https://bit.ly/2JtI6RU) but the linked article is dated 2016 and I ran my “experiments” this spring (2018). I have personally decided that while Fakespot *might* be helpful (with a grain of salt) for other products, it is completely useless for books. The good news is they will purportedly reanalyze a book’s rating upon request.

    In regard to your question: I do read reviews. I typically begin by reading three-star reviews and then the lower star reviews, then finally the four and five-star reviews. Regardless of how many stars the review has, if they don’t explain *why* they gave their rating, I completely dismiss it. Like you, I am looking for consistency in reviews. Like another commenter, I am also looking for comment details that will allow me to discern whether I would likely agree with that particular reviewer’s opinion or not. For example, if someone notes that a book was “too light” or “too short” as their reason for lowering their rating, but I’m in the mood for a light, quick read, that wouldn’t be something to dissuade me. On the other hand, if four people complain that there was no obvious reason for the hero to be attracted to the self-centered, materialistic heroine other than “it’s in the script,” then I’ll pass.

    • Avatar
      Rebekah Love Dorris June 8, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

      That’s a really great point. Knowing how many of us carefully consider the merits of 1-star reviews should encourage authors who wake up to a dismaying 1-star “The package arrived late” review. We readers realize that book reviews aren’t as cut and dried as product reviews. So no worries if your star rating isn’t perfect. We get it. 🙂

      • Avatar
        Tamela Hancock Murray June 11, 2018 at 6:33 am #

        I wish there were a separate category for delivery and product condition complaints.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 11, 2018 at 6:33 am #

      Wow, that’s great info, Kathleen, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!