A Cautious Tale About Recommendations
By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
As a writer, I am constantly looking for tips and insights to improve my work. In this process, I read books, blogs, articles and many other things. When I find a recommendation, I will track down the recommendation and sometimes buy the book.
Recently a long-term source of reviewing books strongly recommended a writing how-to book. This source said it was filled with practical tips for every writer. I went to the book's page on Amazon and ordered the book. I ignored the fact that this book was published a couple of years ago—and has zero customer reviews. The lack of reviews and customer feedback should have been a warning sign but I ignored it and purchased the book.
Last week I received and read the book. It turned out to be a lengthy rant with almost no valuable tips or advice. I wasted my money on this book and didn't find anything valuable. I will not be giving the name of the book or writing a review or promoting the book. I believe my recommendations and reviews have value and I want to recommend books—and not write about books I don't recommend. It's my personal stance on reviews. My experience with this book has tarnished my respect and appreciation for the source of the recommendation. In the future, I will check and double check those recommendations before I purchase the book.
When you get a recommendation for a book or an online course or a product, I encourage you to look for validation from another source. Does the book have customer reviews? How many reviews does the book have in relation to the date it was released? What is the overall ranking of those reviews? As I look back at my poor writing how-to book that I bought, I should have been clued into the poor content from the lack of Amazon customer reviews since the book has been out a couple of years. Yet I ignored this warning sign and purchased the book—a waste of my time and money.
When I teach at writer's conferences (which has been limited with this pandemic), people can easily look into my background and see that I've not just written one or two books but worked with a wide variety of publishers as an author. I've also been on the inside of three publishing companies as an acquisitions editor and for a season I ran my own literary agency. Just reading those sentences, you can see that I have had a wide variety of experiences in publishing and also in the magazine area (not just books). This type of information gives weight to my recommendations.
How do you validate recommendations? In particular, what adjustments do you make when you buy a recommended book or product and it doesn't meet your expectations? It's why I wrote this cautionary tale and I look forward to your comments and insights.