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On Book Reviews And The Comment Factor

A photo the books The Black Count, Brilliance Of The Moon, and I Capture The Castle.  The Black Count, a brand new book with a photo of a man wielding a sword, takes on Brilliance Of The Moon an older book also wielding a sword, but both are literally trumped by I Capture The Castle, a classic

Last week on Twitter, Trish, Literary Feline, Just A Bookworm, and I, briefly discussed the difference in comment numbers when writing a review of an older book versus a review of an ARC. You can view Literary Feline’s opener here if you so wish. There was a balance between our answers, but it got me thinking, especially as Bookworm had begun the discussion by remarking on her surprise in finding that some blogs only review ARCs.

The comments factor is something I’ve been interested in from an statistics perspective for a while. The “data” available suggests the obvious – people are more likely to comment on a review of a book they know.

But that doesn’t provide a conclusion entirely, because there is a gap, if you like, between books that are known. In other words, if we put books into categories, we’re likely to find that people are most likely to respond in extremes – classical literature which everyone has heard of and possibly read will get many comments, as will ARCs that are doing the rounds. There is of course a place for modern classics, such as Harry Potter.

It makes sense that considering so many books are published each year, unless you’ve chosen a best-seller, less people will have read it. And if they haven’t heard of it they’re less likely to comment because they won’t know what to say – unless, perhaps, there is a grand hook in the review that enables a theme to be exploited by discussion. In general we tend to prefer to only comment if we’ve something valuable to say.

This obviously leads to my own experience, which aligns with the above. If you want to review a book at the optimum time, if there is such a thing, you have to take into account the book’s age, fame, if your readers have read it, and possibly also the day of the week.

And I think for those of us who like posting about both ARCs and older books, this method will elude us somewhat because of our more varied audience. A person who reviews only ARCs and even more so a specific genre of book is far more likely to have a good response across the board. Same as someone who solely discusses Victorian literature, for example. Of course if you have readers who comment on everything you write it’s of no consequence, but I think most of us, when reading blogs, tend to choose the posts that most interest us on any particular day because we have lives outside of blogging that need time, too.

What have you found – do you get more comments on older or newer books? And what “sort” of book reviews do you comment on the most? Indeed do you avoid some reviews altogether?

The inspiration behind the photograph: The Black Count (the brand new book) takes on Brilliance Of The Moon (an older book) but both are literally trumped in their battle by I Capture The Castle – a classic.


Tanya Patrice

November 19, 2012, 2:12 am

Personally, I generally don’t even read a review, much less comment on it, unless I’ve read a book. I also don’t do “traditional” book reviews on my blog, but use a “weekly reading” post to put my thoughts out about 1 or 2 books I’ve recently read. This post generates comments because it’s linked to a meme – and I usually comment on others in this meme.

Again, this is for me personally, but I do a lot of list posts – and I started out blogging this way, because I figure if I mention 10 books, there’s going to be at least 1 book that on there that people have read, and thus can comment on. I also tend to like these posts for that reason, and plus it’s interesting to see books with a unifying theme.

jenn aka the picky girl

November 19, 2012, 2:30 am

You always have such thoughtful posts, and I think you and I fall into a similar category, in that we have a pretty eclectic lineup of reviews. I read new and old books pretty evenly, and sometimes I worry that that is a turn off to some readers, but ultimately, it’s how I read. I can’t apologize for that, and I certainly don’t plan on changing.

I don’t often comment if I haven’t read the book unless the reviewer really made me want to get the book. Audra from Unabridged Chick almost always sells me on the books she reads. :)


November 19, 2012, 11:45 am

I read “whatever” but actually mostly newer books. I think it makes complete sense that people comment on books that are “in the news” as it were, or classics that they have read themselves.

I do indeed get fewer comments on older books. That doesn’t stop me from posting my reviews, though!


November 19, 2012, 11:51 am

Definitely I get more comments from people who have already read the book I’m reviewing, but as a commenter I don’t think I distinguish. And as a blogger I don’t time reviews for comments at all. I just read what I read and post the review! If no one comments (as is often the case!) so be it!

Ana @ things mean a lot

November 19, 2012, 12:32 pm

I don’t doubt there’s a correlation, but I don’t think it’s straightforward. I can think of some hugely popular blogs that focus on new releases (say, Fantasy Book Critic) that don’t tend to get many comments at all. People are reading, but the commenting culture seems to be different in that particular section of the blogosphere. To be honest, I can’t take this into account when deciding when to review of a book or what to read – I like comments as much as the next person, but it’s just too exhausting :P


November 19, 2012, 12:49 pm

I find that classic and well known books I review get far more comments than the new review copies I read. I don’t let it bother me much though.


November 19, 2012, 2:58 pm

If I am honest, you are pretty much my only commenter, and you put a lot of effort into commenting on things you’ve not read (which I really appreciate) so I don’t really have any data on which to base and answer.

As a commenter I find I only comment on books I have read or books that I want to read.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

November 19, 2012, 5:53 pm

I find I get the most comments on books that are about 5 years old. Interestingly it isn’t the best selling books that get the most comments, but the slightly obscurer ones that people might not have had the chance to discuss yet.


November 19, 2012, 8:01 pm

Tanya: That’s a good point, and there’s always the possibly of spoilers. You’ve some good ideas there, and you’re right, a list of books is likely to yield at least one that someone will know (I know I’ve found that when I’ve read your posts). A pretty fair and inclusive method!

Jenn: Thanks :) Yes, I’ve noticed you post similarly. Likewise, old and new and varied genres make me wonder if it’s too, well, varied, but if honesty and being yourself makes for a better blog, then that’s the way it’s got to be. And there’s no use reading books you don’t want to read. Yes, Audra’s one of those people I was thinking of when I wrote about hooks, not only does she create a lead for discussion, but her reviews are fair and she does a good job at winning you over.

Judith: Oh I agree, fewer comments should never stop you reviewing older books! Yes, there’s that possibility for discussion with current books and classics that is more difficult to obtain for the usual backlist, there being so many books out there.

Rhapsodyinbooks: That’s interesting that you don’t distinguish – a completely different angle I hadn’t considered. Yes, I’d go with that, an open mind towards comments makes you appreciate the ones you get even more.

Ana: That’s a very good point, comments do not always equal popularity (as an aside I think this is a big reason for a case against page views or comments being used to denote popularity). Oh definitely. You can worry over comments and timing, but although there is something in that it’s not always the way things go and nor should you let it rule your blog.

Jessica: Interesting! I think there’s too many factors in blogging and the way people read blogs to let it rule.

Alice: I’m always happy when I arrive as second or third commenter etc. My comments would be down to your good writing :) Your commenting method makes perfect sense, and you’ve flagged the want-to-read idea – that being a big reason for reviewing, to draw people in, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t include it.

Jackie: Interesting statistic! That makes sense, I guess, if you review someone people know about but haven’t talked about themselves. I know that there are occasions where something I’ve written in a comment will end up in my own review, the comment the first writer inspired in me being what I build upon for my own work.

Alex in Leeds

November 20, 2012, 12:09 pm

I kind of see my posts as split into two categories: the books that people might know/read/comment on and the really niche non-fiction/obscure classics that people might search for info on or be intrigued to stumble across but won’t find in a regular bookshop or know much about. They’re serving different purposes so I don’t really compare comment stats on them. I can see why the five year old books draw comments though as there’s more chance someone recognises the cover/has read it.


November 20, 2012, 1:59 pm

I do think that I receive more comments on books that are a bit older, but since that’s what I mostly review it’s hard to say for sure. I do know that I receive the most comments on personal type posts that may or may not have anything to do with books! People always tell me that they’re scared to venture into the personal but I’ve found people really relate (or at least they pretend to).

I am more likely to comment on books that I’ve heard about and especially if I’ve read them or plan to read them. After I’ve seen a new book so many times it does take my interest, but most of this attention comes from twitter rather than blogs. I’m not in the market for shopping books so I’d much rather read posts where I might have something to add to the discussion rather than add something to my wishlist. You know?

Although–Ana does make a great point about comments and audience. I think with some of the “big” blogs who focus mostly on ARC or new release books have a large audience who doesn’t comment. I personally like my small audience who is extremely active in commenting. Who knows. ;) Sorry for the novel of a comment! Also–do you have a subscribe to follow-up comments feature?

Maria @ A bookworm’s life

November 21, 2012, 10:08 am

This is such an interesting topic, especially because I think the correlation between the new-ness of a book and comments on its review is not straightforward. On a blog where all reviews are of ARCs (although their existence is a bit of a novelty for me) obviously the newer/most anticipated books will get the most hits. But comments? Not necessarily. I find that if a post already has a few comments along the lines of what I would want to say I don’t bother commenting.
Another thing is that if I’ve never heard of the book and it belongs to a genre I’m not interested in, I don’t read the review. And sadly I don’t even comment on all the reviews I would like as I do most of my blog reading through RSS while on the train.


November 21, 2012, 3:42 pm

Charlie, you always make me think :) Love that!

I’m wracking my brains, trying to think of what inspires me to comment on a post. If a question is asked I’ll answer, if I feel I have something to add to the conversation that hasn’t been stated I’ll comment. If there is a review of a book I’m interested in I’ll usually comment.

As Maria said above if there is a review of a book outside of my usually genres I don’t comment. Or, if there are a ton of comments already I feel like I’m late to the party and usually don’t comment.

Like I said, this has me thinking!! :D


November 21, 2012, 5:34 pm

What’s the point of only reading reviews of books you’ve already read? I don’t know if i understand that reasoning. It makes me a little sad as I always like to think of bloggers as introducing people to NEW books, rather than just reading reviews of the same books they’ve already read.

I don’t really think that much about commenting any more. It’s just exhausting, and it seems to happen more for books that might surprise you than those that you would expect. I do think classics get a lot of comments, and maybe the newest trending books. But I don’t know. I agree with Ana – I really try now to make sure my reading dictates my blog rather than the other way around, and I’ve been much happier that way. So hardly any ARCs in my reviews now, which may make me less popular, but much happier :-)



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