Community review sites (also known as user review sites) have gotten a bad rap in recent years. They tend to collect negative reviews (people want to complain more than compliment), they can attract bogus reviews, and there can be questionable alliances (review sites being compensated by those it reviews). We have taken a number of steps to alleviate this problem with our site, but nothing replaces a certain level of human discernment.
As such, here are several things you can do as a SelfPubSmart.com community member to make the best of our site, either as a reviewer or reader of our reviews.
Tips for Evaluating Reviews and the Companies They Reflect
Consider the totality of reviews. Although we show an overall rating for each company, take note of how many reviews there are and the quality of those reviews. The overall rating of a company for which there are three one-sentence reviews is, to some degree, incomparable to the overall rating of a company for which there are a dozen detailed and thorough reviews.
Weigh the details of the reviews against your own needs and priorities. Someone may write a negative review of a company based on factors that don’t matter to you or your project. Although that review should raise a yellow flag in your mind, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be unsatisfied with that company; other considerations should be taken into account.
Assess the reviewers. We require membership to reduce (and ideally eliminate) bogus reviews. And second to that, we encourage members to post details about themselves and their books to add accountability and validation. So, if someone has slammed XYZ Company and there is no evidence he has published with that company, the review may not be legit. (We also audit reviews and reviewers to seek out and address these incongruities.)
Contact reviewers. Please do not contact reviewers directly to challenge them or rebut their reviews; the best way to do this is by posting a public reply to their comment. However, if you feel a reviewer has had an experience you can help with in some way, or the reviewer may have information that can help you, send that reviewer a direct message within our site by going to the reviewer’s profile page and clicking “Private Message.” We absolutely do encourage positive and meaningful networking among our members.
Compare review information with information from the self-publishing company’s website. Each company profile includes a direct link to their site; go there and see how reviews match their claims. Note irregularities that make either the review questionable or the company suspicious.
Look for patterns. As our site grows and we have more reviews, the value will increase. More reviews equal more patterns. If you notice trends—a particular company has many complaints about its quality, for example—pay attention, because that likely means greater validity to those complaints. Then, if you are still very interested in using that company, contact them directly, voice your concerns, and gauge their response.
Tips for Writing Useful Reviews
Be specific and thorough. We’re not asking you to write a thousand-word treatise (though we won’t complain if you do), but everyone appreciates a review that covers sufficient details. “This company is great!” doesn’t really help anyone and doesn’t earn you much, if any, good karma. (And authors need all the good karma they can get.)
Don’t ramble. Generally, reviews that contain more words are more valuable, but the exception would be those that ramble. If you have, say, three points of contention (or satisfaction) with a company, list and address those points clearly and succinctly. Leave your urge to be the next Hemingway for your great American novel.
Avoid revenge. We fully understand that some of you may be really, really mad at the company you used. And we’re more than willing to give you a platform to share that experience. However, it serves everyone’s best interest to avoid trying to exact revenge on the company in this forum with an angry rant. Instead, as mentioned above, outline your points and detail each one. If you feel the urge or need to use words and phrases like “idiots,” “completely moronic customer service,” “highway robbery,” or “they should all be shot,” then you’re probably not quite ready to write a cogent and useful review. Please try again later!
Write your review in another program. Take your time to do a good job, then when you feel it’s ready for the world, copy and paste it into our review system. While we expect our website to function properly at all times, you and we both know that technology is a fickle creature. Just as you’ve written the best review to ever grace the pixels of the Internet, you’ll hit “submit” and it will magically disappear into the ether for no apparent reason. Poof. Gone. Instead, write it first in a Word doc or text program or an email to yourself, and save it before sharing it with us. That way, if something hiccups in the process, your masterpiece will not be lost.