I've written book reviews for all kinds of magazines: The New York Times, SF Review of Books, Chronicle, Playboy, UTNE Reader... and their influence *paled* compared to the spontaneous (sometimes insomnia-fueled) reviews I wrote, as a passionate customer, for Amazon, GoodReads, Audible, Powell's, my blog's viral feed, etc.
I love writing serious critical reviews; don't get me wrong. Those experiences meant the world to me at the time. But as an author, even then, I realized the glam "serious" book reviews was the luxury end of something much more powerful: word-of-mouth recommendation. That W-O-M experience is now happening on the web clothesline— it's written in quick bursts of truth-telling called the humble "customer review."
When you tell the world you think a blender— or a book— is awesome, even if no one has ever heard of your name, you are wielding a mighty algorithm sword. You're making an enormous difference in some author or inventor's life. No kidding.
People were talking yesterday that the famously-reserved author, Thomas Pynchon, had finally decided to make his backlist available as e-books. My first thought was, "I'm going to write a reader review about what it was like reading The Crying of Lot 49 on my first backpacking trip, up to Mineral King. And my period started."
For some reason, those three things are forever entwined. And you know what? Pynchon is going to be reviewed and talked about again, by nostalgic people like me, and new people, and it's going to be the best thing that happened to his bank account and legacy since 1968. Given the mercurial nature of author fortunes, that's a righteous result.
My favorite-- but most tragic-- review "consequence" was when I ordered and reviewed "The Harry Potter Vibrating Broomstick."
It was made by some subversive spirit at Mattel for the Toy Department. Many other "potty girls" (see news clipping above) like me wrote similar reviews.
The product was lavished with orgasmic praise on Amazon and then PULLED. The fiends!
I would like to meet that clever sexy toy-maker and shake their hand. And also ask for a replacement. The darn thing died after a month and if I'd been able to add a review about that, I would've. I want to FLY AGAIN!
Have you ever written a "customer review" that you realized reverberated a lot further than you thought it would?