The importance of reviews and tips for readers

This is something I should bring up more often, but if you’ve been following me you’ve surely realised by this juncture that I am not one to continuously be posting new content. Especially anything long-form like, say, a boring blog on the importance of leaving reviews for authors. But since you’re here and reading, allow me to throw my idea of a spiced up blog post at you. You’re welcome, or my condolences, depending on how well I’ve managed to ‘spice’ this.

With the release of the final novel in my Once I series looming, I’ve once more started considering marketing and reader engagement – I did say I should bring this up more often. Now, one thing that authors struggle with is garnering reviews. Some, it seems, are able to gather huge volumes before their books even release through the distribution of ARC (advance reader copies) and other incentives, while others, using the same methods, scarcely receive a single review. Others find that once their book is released, though they have readers, though the people they speak to say they love their work, though they receive messages about their books, there is a distinct lack of reviewing going on. Now, I will say that you can market like a pro, have a huge fan base and consistent interaction and still struggle to garner reviews, while another writer may put in less effort and still receive review after review. It can be disheartening to be the person watching others seemingly succeed while you watch your review count remain unmoving.

The fact is, reviews sell books, and when you’re not receiving reviews it can begin to feel a whole lot like your book just isn’t good enough. This is not the case, not at all, but when reviews are such a huge part of successful marketing, not being able to garner enough attention from your readers to receive them certainly makes you feel that way. Now, I’m not saying all readers need to review (though it would be greatly appreciated if all did), but I am saying that a short review can make a huge impact for the book and the author.

I’m going to take a guess and say that every reader has at some point or other taken a squiz at the reviews on a title they’re considering reading, gone for a stroll through the comments to see what others have thought and ultimately based their decision to read or not to read on what they’ve read. Well, what does the reader do when there is no review to be read? No comments to stroll through? No sign that anyone has ever read the book in question?

That is a question I would very much like to know the answer to, alas, I do not.

You see, a lot of people believe that the illustrious someone else will leave a review, that someone else is better qualified to comment. But then, if it’s always someone else being left to the task, who actually picks up the torch? Not someone else, I will say that.

Now, some people don’t like to review books they dislike (others only like to review books they dislike. They’re the ones who live in the dark shadowy places. Don’t ever go there Simba.) To those who don’t like leaving bad reviews, firstly, thank you for being a nice person. We like nice people around here. Secondly, know that we appreciate your feedback, be it good or bad, and understand that a bad review can do just as much for a book as a good review. It’s all about how you frame it, after all, there’s a difference between saying ‘I really wanted to like this story, but for X, Y and Z reasons I didn’t,’ and saying ‘Well these two characters I ship didn’t get together so I’m only giving it one star out of spite.’  One is a fair review offering critical criticism (which is a good thing!) and the other is going to be mocked online by the writing community for the rest of eternity. In any case, though we like to mock the second review, it still helps the author. How? Simple. People read the review, start wondering why the reviewer shipped those specific characters, and decide to read the book to find out, and there we have it, a bad review that actually sells books! As for the good-bad review, if per chance the author is open to reading bad reviews, they may be able to take your observations and apply them to their work.

Honestly, I think the only type of review I disapprove of in its entirety is one intended to wound or cause insult and harm. Trolling and bullying is not acceptable under any circumstance. As I’ve said, we like nice people here.

Of course, there is another reason one may not wish to leave a review. Perhaps they don’t know what to include in their review, or how to write one? That’s okay! There’s no right or wrong way! You can write a single sentence, or a full blown litany. Comment on specific aspects or the story as a whole. Be analytical and technical or write a review that is 90% slang that only your specific generation will understand. A review is about sharing your feelings, thoughts, ideas and hopes regarding a story, how you do that is entirely up to you. Hell, a seedy gif counts as a review if you want it to. But if you’re still uncertain, jump on into Goodreads or Amazon and have a browse through some review on your favourite books to get an idea.

I won’t keep you much longer, just long enough for a brief summary. You see, reviews are a vital part of book selling, developing fan bases and improving your skill as a writer. They enable you to not only see what you’ve done well, but what you’ve done poorly and guide you in the tastes and expectations of your readership. So if you really want your favourite author to understand what you like in a book, tell them! Unfortunately, authors aren’t mind readers, and we gain just as much from your reviews as your fellow readers do, be those reviews good or bad. So please, when you come to the end of your next book, and you close the back cover and take a deep breath, feeling the conclusion settle over you like a bitter-sweet embrace, think of the author, and how they’d love to know their work affected you so. Or perhaps next time you find yourself slamming a book closed mid-read and hurling it hastily through the nearest window in a fit of rage, type out a quick review on why, you may find the issue resolved in the next book.

So please, leave a review; authors rely on readers. We’re nothing without you!

Thank you, and I hope you feel this blog has been spiced to your liking.

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