Reader Blurbs

There's a trend I've been noticing lately where authors use reader blurbs in their product descriptions for their books. Almost all of these are independently-published -- at least from what I've seen -- but just today when I clicked on the link for the Kindle Daily Deal I noticed that Amazon was doing the same thing. One of today's deals isĀ The Quarry by Iain Banks, and instead of a blurb from an established author or a line from Publisher's Weekly, you find this:

Customer Review: "I quickly found myself lost in the story, laughing out loud while reading it and sympathizing intently with its protagonist Kit, his father and his father's friends."

That's not the only example. A few other books were listed as a Kindle Daily Deal, one of those beingĀ Rock Her by Rachel Cross, and the same kind of blurb:

Customer review: "This rocking book grabs you from the beginning, and doesn't let you go until its supremely satisfying end."

I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about Amazon, but one thing is for certain: they know how to sell books. So if Amazon is doing this, it must be somewhat effective, no?

Another reason this came to mind today is I happened to get a new review for my collection Real Illusions on Amazon. In part, the reviewer said:

"Once I know what the threat is I'm not scared anymore. This author knows that, and I loved these stories."

And another reader for the same book:

"Keeps me turning the pages way past my bedtime!"

And another:

"Ranking alongside the likes of Blake Crouch and Scott Nicholson as one of the best self-published thriller writers of the moment, Swartwood delivers a compelling collection of short fiction."

These are all readers who took the time to leave a simple review on Amazon. They're clearly fans of the book, and hopefully of the rest of my work. And I'd have to imagine they would be fine with me using their words to help sell the book.

But at the same time, I still question the legitimacy of doing such a thing, especially when there is always the question of writers paying for fake reviews.

I'll say it now: I've never once paid for a review. Have I offered free books in exchange for honest reviews? Absolutely. Everybody does it, independent authors and even major publishers. Half the time readers request copies and say they'll read and review, but they never do. I seem to have a core group of readers who will leave reviews for all my books, and I appreciate each and every one of them for their support.

But still, that doesn't answer the question of just how effective using reader blurbs to promote a book will be. After all, the reviews are there for readers to peruse before purchasing the book. Most times they'll check out the one-star reviews instead of reading any of the five-star reviews. Because of this, I saw one reader once give a book a one-star review, but then say that the book was actually amazing and that everyone needed to check it out and the only reason he was leaving a one-star review was because he knew everyone would look at it first. Clever, though I wonder just how effective that is, as the ranking does hurt the book overall.

Anyway, I'm curious to hear thoughts. If you come across a new book, are you more apt to believe a blurb from an author you are sort of familiar with or maybe never heard of, or a blurb from what the author or publisher claims is a reader?