How to Review a Book on Amazon

OR How to Not Be a Moron

Photo by Brad C. Wilcox

It still baffles me how utterly clueless people are sometimes. I was just looking at a book on Amazon, and there was a one-star review that said, “I thought I was ordering a paperback.”

That’s all it said.

Because this person was too confused to realize what he was ordering, he gives the author a one-star rating for his book.


Please pay attention—

When you review a book on Amazon (or anywhere else), what you are reviewing is the BOOK ITSELF, NOT, I repeat, NOT your ability to figure out what format it’s in.

If you want to start reviewing your bewilderment throughout the day, you can start your own website, a blog perhaps, that highlights your mistakes of comprehension and awareness in as much detail as you like.

For example:

July 19th

I went grocery shopping today and thought I bought milk, but when I got home, I saw that it was actually a bag of tortilla chips. It didn’t go very well on my cereal.

Aug. 12th

Today, I mowed the lawn but discovered later that I had accidentally used the jackhammer instead of the lawnmower. I guess I better call the plumber.

Aug. 27th

I went to work today and everyone was screaming and throwing their hands in the air. I thought we were having an earthquake, but then I realized I was at Magic Mountain on a roller coaster, and everyone was just having fun. I don’t work at Magic Mountain.

Sept. 11th

I bought a book on Amazon today. I was excited to read it. It sounded really good. But when I got it, it was an audio CD and not a paperback. I tried to listen to it anyway, but when I put it in the toaster, it wouldn’t play.

This type of personal blog would serve you far better than writing out your mistakes in a review of someone else’s hard work crafting a story.

It may come as a surprise, but that’s what the review section on Amazon is for. It’s so you can write your thoughts about the actual content of the book that you bought. That way, when other people look at the book’s page on Amazon, they can get an idea if it’s something they might like and want to buy. I know, weird, right?

No. Not really.

It’s pretty basic common sense.

I see this phenomenon fairly often, and it really is strange. One type of person that does this I think is similar to the dolt that posted the above review in that they think they are on eBay.

They will write a product review that says something like this:

“Great seller. Fast shipping.”


So that’s what you thought of the Acme 12-speed blender? That really helps me make my decision, you dimwit.


A product review, whether that be a book or anything else, should be describing your thoughts about the product itself. Not about the seller OR the shipping OR your inability to figure out what you are actually ordering.

It’s about the product itself.

Do I really need to spell that out?

Apparently I do. Because I see this type of thing too often.

What the rest of us can do

For those of us (thankfully the vast majority) who are sentient enough to understand the above points, we can at least take small actions to help edify those less fortunate, and save writers like ourselves from the short-fingered hands of imbeciles everywhere.

1. Report the review as inappropriate.

It’s easy to do. Just click the button and for the reason, type in “This review is not about the book (or the blender or whatever).” I’ll be honest, I don’t know how much this helps, but at least someone from Amazon should take a look at it, and if enough people do this, hopefully the review will be removed. I think we should do this even if it’s a good review, as in the above example of “Great seller. Fast shipping.” It doesn’t help the potential buyers in any way, especially because on Amazon there are often multiple sellers selling the same product. So the review “Great seller” ends up on the product page of fourteen different sellers, all of whom may not be “great.”

2. Comment on the review.

Some people do this already. They are fighting the good fight. This is particularly true if it’s a low star rating. Some are polite and try to explain why the review isn’t fair to the author, as one did in regards to the review that instigated this post of mine, and some are right to the point, like another on that same review that simply said, “Twit.”

I have to admit, I like them both.

3. Write your own blog post. Or share mine.

We’ve got to get the word out somehow. Education is the key. With all the tragedies that are rife in the world today, this seems rather insignificant. But it might not be. Think of all the authors trying to make a living, trying to feed their families, and get their stories read. One star reviews that have nothing to do with their book could be hurting them. Then that money they were going to send to UNICEF might have to go toward rent. That money that was going to put their kids through college so they are learned enough to know the purpose of an Amazon review might have to go to buying bread and tortilla chips—I mean milk. That book that may have helped someone with their anxiety or inspired them to do something meaningful with their lives may never get into their hands and they may end up reading Twilight instead.

It’s pretty clear. Idiotic and irrelevant reviews are harmful.

So please spread the word.

P.S. If you’re curious, this is the book I was looking at today: Flesh and Bones by Paul Levine. I haven’t read it yet, so I make no comment as to its content. Although I might write a review about how I meant to order a spatula.

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