An Appreciation for Amazon Customer Reviews

I confess I love the book reviews Amazon posts from its customers, but perhaps not for the reason you might think…

In the traditional publishing world, an author’s connection with the world of readers has always been vanishingly distant. If your book is accepted you sign over the publishing rights, in perpetuity, to the publishing company. Then an editor is assigned to you. In the past, editor and author worked together to create the best manuscript possible. The relationship was rich and personal. But, as I say, that was in the past. I have never had an editor who actually edited my work. They were principally concerned with acquisition. That’s been my experience over the course of twenty books and counting.

In this system the author is separated from readers by several distancing stages: First, the book is published. Let’s say the publisher likes the book and offers the author an advance (against hoped-for future royalties) of $50,000. The promotional budget is unlikely to exceed five percent of the advance. You can imagine how far $2,500 will go for “promotion.” The published book then is sent to the wholesale distributors who serve bookstores, in the hope bookstores will hear about the book and order it.

The bookstores are the first and only connection the author has with readers. Thus, for years, publishers sent authors out on “book tours” to speak at bookstores in major markets. But that, too, is a thing of the past; publishers no longer support book tours. As a consequence, an author today has no direct relationship with readers or bookstores. There are just too many barriers.

That’s where Amazon becomes significant.  Say what you will about Amazon’s effect on the publishing world generally, their main impact for authors has been to connect them directly with their readers though the customer reviews posted on any book’s site within Amazon. It’s author direct to reader and reader direct to author with no barriers between. Comments, even conversations result. That’s called relationship.

I am lucky in that my novels consistently receive four- and five-star reviews from Amazon readers. That’s nice, but it’s not the point. The point is what readers actually say in their reviews.  And sometimes it is gut-wrenching. Readers will connect with a theme in one of my novels and bare their personal experiences in situations similar to those of my characters. Thus, we connect. If two of my characters should fall in love during the course of an eventful week, some readers will write that the same had happened to them. Other readers (thankfully few) refuse to believe such a thing ever could happen. That saddens me.

My favorite customer reviews, though, are from readers of my novels. The books are mostly set in Britain, a place that is like home to me. Readers write that they don’t have to visit those locations because, having read the book, they feel they’ve already been there. That tells me I have succeeded. That’s direct connection with readers, something the traditional publishing industry can never provide.

And for that connection, I am grateful to Amazon.


  1. Judy Johnson says:

    I am waiting for another visit with the wonderful characters in the Davies and West series. What unique corners of Britain will we explore next?

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