Carnivalesque: Liking, Tagging and Moving up the Queue at Amazon

Welcome to Carnivalesque and our Travelling Blog Show! Each week Joanne Brothwell, Hayley E. Lavik, Jana Richards, Janet Corcoran and I get together to start a discussion on a topic we think interesting. This week’s topic:

Like Me, Tag Me, and Moving Up the Queue at Amazon! Should we Like and Tag books or Review books we haven’t read?

Jana: J.A. Konrath, who is quickly becoming my hero when it comes to book promotion, says “Review each other. Buy each other. Support one another. We’re all in the same boat, and we all need to row.” So I’m inclined to say sure, go ahead and tag someone else’s book, even if you haven’t read it. Hopefully someone will do the same for you. I haven’t done a lot of tagging, but I understand that it helps to categorize a book. When a reader purchases a vampire romance novel by Big Name Author, another book with the same tags by Suzie Not So Big Name Author, may pop up when Amazon helpfully suggests that “Readers who have bought Big Name Author’s book, may also enjoy…” We’re merely categorizing books based on the description the writer gives us to make it easier for a reader to find that book.

Where things get murky, at least for me, is when we give reviews on Amazon. I got caught in a review situation once. An author I know asked if I would review her book on Amazon. In return she would review one of mine. I agreed, thinking it was a great idea. The only problem was that I didn’t care for her book. But she’d already given my book a nice review so I felt obligated to do the same.

I’ve been asked to write a review on Amazon on a few occasions since then by other authors. However, since my experience I’m reluctant to do so unless I’ve read the book and really liked it. I want to be able to give an unbiased, honest review, and if I don’t feel enthusiastic about the book, I’d rather say nothing at all.

Joanne:  Liking is different to me than tagging or rating books. I might Like a book that interests me, or that is on my to-be-read list. This seems okay to me.

Tagging? Before trying to answer this question, I didn’t even know what tagging really was or what it did. So I looked it up on Amazon: “Think of a tag as a keyword or category label. Tags can both help you find items on the Amazon site as well as provide an easy way for you to “remember” and classify items for later recall. You can add up to 15 tags per item.”

Based on this, I suppose it is fine to tag items you haven’t read yet, especially if you’re wanting to use it to find or remember items. I guess the added advantage is that the author will benefit from the tag as well. I don’t know, am I the only one here who doesn’t have a problem with it? I’m curious to see what you guys think!

Janet: My quick answer? No! The long answer? I am not a reviewer or a tagger, yet I do recommend books all the time. In person, usually, or over an e-mail – I have been known to be quite bossy when it comes to suggesting book titles to friends (especially when I know they would love it based on what they love to read). And in all those recommendations, I very rarely talk about what the book is about. Yes, I’m still having nightmares about school days’ book reports! I give a brief synopsis and then explain that because they love dark and edgy, they’d love this book or because they enjoy a good romance, they’d love this book. So to review a book online – yikes – and its something I struggle with considering my friends are writing amazing books and I should be helping to promote. And one day, it may be my turn. I’ll get over that one of these days, but if you think I’m going to tag or review a book I haven’t read, then you’re wrong. I take pride in my book recommendation ability and would feel like a heel if I suggested a book I hadn’t read to anyone – friend or stranger. Can you tell I feel strongly about this? You bet I do!

Karyn: I don’t mind tagging books and liking authors on Amazon. After all, I’m hoping people do the same for me when the time comes. Amazon sells a crap load of books after all! I don’t mind helping authors classify their books, especially if I think of a tag they might have missed. (Your welcome, Joanne.) It’s my understanding that the more tags you have the better chance of your book popping up when that criteria is searched out. Tagging books helps authors like me – the new and unknown – get noticed sooner rather than not at all. Amazon may recommend you read my book if you liked this book, and so on and so on. I just wish I had time to keep up with all the requests from my fellow authors!

But I draw the line at reviewing books I haven’t read. I don’t mind writing reviews for books I’ve read and enjoyed.Thankfully, I haven’t come across a situation where I didn’t like the book! Frankly, I don’t put much stock in reviews on Amazon. Especially, if I suspect three quarters of those glowing reviews have been written by your family and best friends.

Hayley: Clearly I haven’t spent much time on Amazon. I didn’t even know this was a thing. I don’t tend to do much about books after I purchase them. I’m bad about review sites, I forget to star things on Goodreads…but I’m huge on word of mouth. If I read something I enjoy, I tell people, I give copies as gifts, and from a reader’s standpoint, I feel that matters more.
The idea of trading likes and tags with people who may not have even read your book, for the sake of ranking, feels like a lot of work for very little result. A book won’t get anywhere on the fuel of small reciprocal groups alone. Yes, those tags and likes may help new readers find your book on page 1 instead of page 5, but I still feel like the energy involved could be better spent elsewhere gathering authentic readers who would like and tag on their own, and generate word of mouth.
But then again, I don’t like or tag, so who knows?
There you have it friends. What’s your take on the subject matter? Do you Like and Tag books on Amazon? Do you read reviews on Amazon?

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13 thoughts on “Carnivalesque: Liking, Tagging and Moving up the Queue at Amazon

  1. “Like” (for me) has become an acknowledgment of “been here, read this, didn’t click away, but didn’t comment” — a baseline measure of liking — but I forget to click more often than not, so something not getting one from me means nothing at all.

    Amazon reviews: Sometimes the Amazon summary about the book leaves out crucial information that reviewers might include, like a comparison to an author I really do not like or a description of a subplot that (regardless of how well written) I do not want to read. I completely ignore the yea or nay vote and look for the descriptors that warn me this will be money badly spent.

    As for feeling pressured to write glowing reviews, write them for folks like me who don’t care whether you loved it — then you need not feel guilty for thinking the story has flaws. Instead, write the facts: “… three subplots and several ex-lovers swirling ill-will and creating havoc for our couple.” After all, I might be looking for exactly that layered a plot.

    • Good morning, Lynn! This whole liking and tagging is pretty new to me. As I get more comfortable buying books online it will become more automatic.

      Yep, I like it when reviews stick to the facts, too. You have to be honest! Oddly enough, I don’t pay attention to really subjective reviews unless their bad. Sometimes the very reason they dislike the book means I’ll like it.

  2. Great question, and awesome answers, ladies. =o)

    With Amazon, I ‘like’ books I haven’t read, but I don’t think about tagging them when I probably should throw some tags around. I definitely wouldn’t review something I haven’t read. Most of my reviews these days are confined to Goodreads and are less like a book report than my general impression of the book – liked it, loved it, squee.

    I very rarely read reviews anywhere – especially if I liked the book. I’ve run across too many trolls, slamming books for the stupidest things. One star because it’s only in Kindle format? Please. Oh, and reviews that through in so many spoilers, after I read the review, I don’t need to read the book. Meh.

    • Hi B.E.! This is all pretty new to me. Up until recently I didn’t purchase much from Amazon. I’m getting more used to the idea of liking and tagging. Like you I go to Goodreads to rate books or infrequently give a small review.

      Don’t get me started on ‘spoiler’ reviews. Why do they have to do this?

  3. I’m rowing, Jana! But I’m still learning the right strokes. J.A. Konrath sounds like an excellent resource. Must check him out!

    Nope, Joanne. No problem with it. As long as I kinda know the author and what they write. There’s always lots of requests on loops to tag or like this or that. I’m thinking 15 tags is a lot of tags.

    Janet, I remember when reading books was less complicated. You liked it you told someone else. Or anyone who would listen. Although, if I did hear about a book that I wouldn’t like but I knew someone else would, I would let them know about it. But I don’t think I’m ever going to become a book reviewer. Ever. Even for books I like.

    It is time consuming. That’s for sure, Hayley. And worth it? That remains to be seen. But you still have to get the book in front of people who will spread the word of mouth news around town. The way people buy books is changing. Word of mouth is still the most excellent way to spread the word. But I buy books based on other stuff, too. Amazon just sent me a recommendation list this morning. There were some interesting picks on it!

  4. Liking and tagging are an easy way to support fellow authors. Trading glowing reviews on a regular basis is a good way to give yourself a reputation as a shill for other authors. Then there are the editors who review their company’s books, and the authors who create fake identities to promote their own books. Yes, it goes on constantly, and the meltdowns when an author or editor is exposed can be epic.

    • Welcome, Mona! I think so, too. I just have to get in the habit of doing it and helping out fellow authors. Fake identities! Holey Moley. I barely have the time to be myself! I’m feeling a lot naive right now! I can’t believe people would go to those lengths…

  5. Amazon, B&N, and other book-buying sites have algorithms set up. The number of likes, tags, ratings, and reviews all go into the formula. And that formula determines WHERE a book shows up in the mass of similar books. It also helps drive a book into the top 100 *whatever category*. If you like an author and like her/his book, the best thing you can do is click on those stars and drop a few words into the review pane, even it’s it’s only, “I really liked this book!” The main thing is to be honest. As an author, I want to know if a reader didn’t like the book and why. That helps me become a better writer. As a small press and now self-pubbed author, I don’t have a promo budget and I have to depend on word of mouth, which includes those ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. My friends are good about getting the word out but to reach a large segment of readers who might like my books, it really does boil down to those likes, reviews, and stars.

    That said, should you review a book you haven’t read? Oh hel…lo no! You can like it. You can even agree with the tags. But to rate it and review it? Do the author the service of actually reading it. I’m trying to practice what I preach. I may not get it done on Amazon, except for those authors I really love and my friends (who I loved too!), but I’m trying very conscientiously to rate and review every book I read on Goodreads.

    Okay. Getting off my soap box now. LOL

    • Silver, Amazon just sent me recommendations today based on my liking of Blood Moon! Some of them looked great and I never would have heard of them if not for Amazon’s ‘help’. I’m like Jana, I don’t like to review books I didn’t like. I can’t get over feeling mean. It’s silly, I know. You’re right, there’s no way to get around the fact that Amazon and Goodreads are big influencers. It’s important to support and have a presence there!

  6. I do tag, like, and review. The other two are easy and there is no personal attachment to doing them. The reviews… Yeah, those are harder. I read another post on reviewing friends work and it said to concentrate on what is good about the work. After all, each person’s cup of tea is different.

    Great post, gals!

    • Welcome, Vicki! Exactly, concentrate on the facts and make it more objective and positive than objective and mean-spirited. Or heaven forbid, to misrepresent yourself and be dishonest! I think you can also find something good to say while giving it a fair rating!

  7. Hi everyone! Sorry I’m late Karyn. I was staining my fence. I’ve still got brown stain under my fingernails!

    I didn’t know authors and editors would go to the extreme of writing themselves a glowing review. I feel pretty naive too, Karyn! It makes me wary of Amazon reviews in general.

    But people do pay attention to these reviews. I ran across a Kindle blog once where the criteria for being able to guest blog there was at least 10 5 star (or maybe it was 4 star) reviews. I’m not even close. It makes me wonder now if some of those reviews might be bogus.

    Jana

  8. I’m even later than Jana! Darn country living and the internet issues! Anyways, it was really interesting to see what everyone had to say. It sure has informed me and I’ll definitely be putting more thought into this topic.

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