Sunday, December 5, 2010

Did they read the same book?

Below are two reviews posted on about a book about the pizza business. How can a potential book purchaser decide which reviewer to rely on?

*****FIVE STARS: "Great for Budding Restaurateurs!" As a business owner who has looked closely at opening a restaurant, I find Henkel and Brown's book to be the best single-volume insight into that process. The authors take the reader from the typical but business-flawed dreams of restaurant ownership through each step of the process. Those painstaking details, which are so accurately and thoroughly presented in the book, are truly invaluable for anyone considering a career as a restaurateur.  Most importantly, the authors have already conducted their readers' market analysis: by limiting their analysis to a specific type of restaurant, they provide readers with information that is specific to their concerns. The book's twenty-three chapters cover every important aspect of the process, from buying a shop, to bookkeeping, to marketing, and to dealing with the local food and health safety officials. The CD-ROM that is included with the book features an editable business plan. In short, this is a must-have for anyone even remotely considering opening a restaurant. Buy it, learn, and be successful!

*ONE STAR: "Waste of money." I can't think of any information in this book that was helpful to me. It is so basic and elementary that you thumb through the book thinking your 12 year old daughter could be more insightful.

Don’t let a negative review ruin your day or your life. Some reviewers have hidden agendas. (Maybe she is currently writing a competitive book.) Others will dismiss a book they don’t like, regardless of merits. Some miss important parts or make erroneous assumptions. Some pan books written for people with more or less knowledge than the reviewers have.


  1. My answer is "neither". I would need to find more reviews (on Amazon, or hopefully elsewhere; I'm not a fan.) Your comments on the second review are spot on, but in my opinion the first one also exhibits "symptoms", it is too good to ring true: universally positive; very detailed and comprehensive; complete in and of itself. It smacks of the kind of review that the author, or someone else who stands to gain by the success of the book, might have written and posted under a pseudonym. I understand that you probably limited your examples to two to conserve space and time, but my point is that the more review examples one can find and digest of a book (or any other good), the better the odds of accurately identifying the reviewers' biases and making a sound judgment.

  2. "Competitor poaching" is something that a lot of authors have to deal with, especially for non-fiction. It's unfortunate, and also difficult to prove.

    I've gotten a few negative reviews on my tax textbooks that were suspicious, but there's no way I can prove it was a competitor.

    I've also had some really scathing reviews that were legitimate buyers, and that feedback helped me avoid the same mistakes on future books.