Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Call me a squeaky wheel!

The old saying goes that it's the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. My last post was about how only a few people take the trouble to post reviews online, and sure enough, I got a few more reviews in the last few days.  This made me notice something Amazon is doing when a book has five or more reviews. They generate snippets of a single sentence from three different people's reviews and mention when other reviewers have expressed the same sentiment. Below is an example from The Sixth Discipline, my free book, which now has nine reviews.  Note the middle entry,  from a review by someone who goes by the name Pink Dolphin, which says “Simply put I could not wait to find out what was on the next page and the next and the next.” Below the snippet it says two other reviewers made a similar statement.

I'm pretty sure Amazon is generating these in an automated way, using some sort of algorithm to identify positive language about the book (I have never seen a negative snippet) and even equating similar sentences. There are millions of books on Amazon, so I can't believe someone actually reads all the reviews. Somehow this kind of natural language parsing seems a lot cooler to me when it's being used to sell my books to you than when Google advertisers are trying to sell their products to me!

And I know five reviews is the requirement for snippets, because Tribes has four very nice reviews, but the column next to the stars rankings is empty.

On the other hand, Where Magic Rules, my fantasy novella, has five reviews and sure enough, it has snippets!

Note the yellow highlighting in that screen shot. That's to point out that WMR got a celebrity review from folk singer Janis Ian!

You couldn't expect me to talk about reviews and not mention that!

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