As a fiction reader I have witnessed the ever increasing difficulty of reliably finding great books on Amazon and here’s my method for finding consistently good books on Amazon.
Readers struggle with this every day.
First let’s analyze why it seems to be so much harder to find a great book these days.
The first problem is everyone copying everyone else. There’s a technique some authors use called “writing to trend”. If a book happens to become really popular, really fast, the authors simply write books similar to that book. Then they use similar covers and very similar titles. Nothing original, and they are never any good. They are trying to ride the coat tails of a successful book and hope no one cares about their lack of originality.
Another gimmick authors use to trick the system is to put their book into some obscure Amazon category. For example, they put their spy thriller book into the Amazon category: Humor & Entertainment>Humor>Culture, Ethics & Regional (you can’t get much more obscure than that). In this category when they sell about 8 books, Amazon will give them the “#1 “Best Seller” badge on their book cover image.
So as a reader, we see the #1 Best Seller image and think “Wow, this must be really good”. You may be being tricked. It could be a scam/gimmick. You need to scroll down until you see the Product Details section. Then look at the bottom of that section and you will see the ranking for that book in specific Amazon categories. So, for example, if you’re looking for a Post-apocalyptic book and the book is ranked really high in some obscure category not remotely related to Post-apocalyptic, that’s a pretty good indication that the author is attempting to game the Amazon ranking system.
Have you ever read a book that had excellent star ratings and the book was terrible? Yep, me too and it is happening more and more often these days.
So let’s discuss how that can happen…
Some authors game the Amazon ratings system. Most people don’t know it, but there are groups out there whose sole purpose is to write 5 star reviews for other members of the group. So a group member announces they have published a new book and all the other group members go to the new book on Amazon and leave glorious 5 star reviews. Amazon no longer requires you to actually purchase an item in order to leave a review so this has become more common recently. And you can leave star ratings without leaving an actual review.
A more insidious variation of this is when one of the group members asks the group to start leaving 1 or 2 star reviews for certain books written by competitors. Some groups actually space out their negative reviews so there’s always a 1 or 2 star review towards the top of the reviews. Yes, it’s a slimy way to do business.
Amazon’s official position is that they don’t allow bogus/fake reviews and they take it very seriously. Really? Here’s a sobering fact, ”An analysis by the fraudulent-review-detection service Fakespot of 720 million Amazon reviews in 2020 found that about 42 percent were bogus.” The analysis was for all products, not just books, BTW.
I could go on with other methods used, but you should be starting to understand why it’s so difficult to find great books on Amazon these days.
But there are things you can do to make the process easier for you.
Don’t blindly trust any rating or review you see on Amazon. Instead, do this.
Open the Amazon page of a book you are interested in. Read the book description to see if it sounds interesting enough to check out further. Scroll down the page taking a quick look at the star ratings and keep in mind what you are seeing. Now click on the “Top Reviews” button and select “Most Recent” instead. Now scroll down and look at the ratings. You may see a huge difference when you do this. There may not be a single 5 star review on the page at all.
What you have hopefully done is eliminate some of the bogus reviews from ratings sharing groups. Most of their reviews will always be 4-5 stars and most will be left shortly after the book is published. But, once you select “Most Recent” you are more likely seeing real reader reviews. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have scrolled through the initial ratings of a book and thought, “this looks great”, then when I clicked on “Most Recent” the rating dropped like a rock.
Next I click on the “Read Sample” page. The first thing I look at is the book cover. If it looks amateurish or child like I immediately move on to another book.
If the cover looks good, I will then take a look at the formatting. I want to see the text left justified. Note that if the author has used “Drop Cap” where they capitalize the first letter of the first paragraph of a chapter, the Read Sample will not display this properly. This is a known glitch in Amazon and you shouldn’t allow that to negatively influence your decision at this point.
Next I read a few pages in the Read Sample page. I’m looking for a writing style that fits the genre and looking for a story that holds my interest. What I don’t want to see are typos, formatting issues, punctuation problems and authors who don’t know the difference between there, their and they’re. These types of errors/problems will immediately pull me out of my reading experience and my reading time is too precious for me to tolerate these types of issues.
I know this is a lengthy explanation but in reality it will only take you a couple of minutes to follow my method. And your reward will be a lot fewer “did not finish” and returned books.
Try my method and let me know how you like it.