I’m sure that any reader who follows any writer will have heard the plaintive cries from any one or perhaps all of that author’s social media, pleading for a review. Any review. It doesn’t have to be a good one. Or very involved. For the love of all things good and green in this world, would you please leave a review! You’re probably sick to death of it, actually. Don’t fret, writers are sick to death of asking, as well. Unfortunately, reviews do help, and they’re one of the few things that are actually useful in helping an author out; particularly those of us who are largely unread and struggling to be seen in a very flooded market.
It seems like such a silly thing to be true — that someone’s opinion could matter so much in helping a book and its writer find their place in the world. Surely any other avenue would work, no? Well… perhaps a little, but nothing else has the impact of a review – both individually and as a cumulative effect. Even negative reviews can absolutely help! If ever you’re hesitating to post a review, let me try my best to convince you.
Yes, my motivations are entirely selfish. Shall we?
I think most people tend to think that the real impact is in individual reviews, but that’s really only half the story. This isn’t to say that individual reviews don’t help. They absolutely do. And here’s how:
A review will often attract a reader to your story. Now, to be fair, I only listen to my friends reviews/opinions when I am thinking about getting a book. I rely almost exclusively on such recommendations. However, I know many readers who do peruse the reviews of a book when trying to decide whether or not that book is worth their time. This isn’t only achieved with positive reviews.
Of course, positive reviews are lovely. It’s always wonderful to hear that a reader really enjoyed what it was we put into the world. It is tremendously gratifying when something you’ve created become beloved by those who have consumed it. But no writer (perhaps those who have been behaving badly, as in my previous post), expects that their story will work for every single person ever. We’re expecting that it won’t be for some people. Even still, we’d love (again, with some exception) to receive a review. Some of us use those reviews to better gauge the expectations of our readers/market, some take on the criticism to make their craft better. If it’s a particularly scathing review, we may cry first – and we will remind ourselves that the reviews really are for readers and not for authors (right, authors?). That’s if writers check the reviews at all. Some don’t.
Even when reviews aren’t glowing, they’re often useful. This isn’t just because the author can take the criticism on board and work on their craft, but because readers might absolutely dig something that someone else despises. What cracks me up (a lot), is the number of stories of people who have read a bad review of a book, and immediately decided that that was the book for them.
For example, a review which states something like ‘This books sucked because there were gay people’ (which is not far from some reviews I’ve read) has encouraged people looking for that kind of representation to purchase said book, and very often, that book hit the right note for this new reader. Sometimes, readers have beef with one another, and will pick up a hated book just to be contrarian. This is the level of petty to which I can only aspire.
With this in mind, I’ve had many people tell me that they find reviewing intimidating, because they’re very aware that they may be influencing the reader of a book, and that’s a lot of responsibility. They feel like perhaps it’s best to do nothing. Listen, just a star rating can help, if that’s what you feel you can do. That’s good enough. But if you can spare a sentence or two, that’s good too. No review needs to be so in-depth that it reads like a school book report. Just a simple “Wasn’t for me. I prefer happy endings” or “I cried so hard. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!” is more than adequate.
It doesn’t need to be complicated.
But! Influencing the minds of possible readers is not all that reviews do.
There is definitely a cumulative effect to reviews; especially on Amazon. Amazon is, unfortunately, the largest online bookseller we have, but its practices have a knock-on effect with other places where books are sold (which is to say, they employ similar policies). There is a critical mass of reviews for a book that Amazon will use to start adding in the book into the recommended sections while people are shopping. It’s essentially free soft marketing for writers – if they reach that critical mass. For Amazon, that’s fifty reviews. Other retailers may require more or less.
This soft marketing can be absolutely invaluable for a writer trying to find their niche in the writing eco-system.
Your review, however paltry you feel it may be, might just be the one review that tips the balance and kicks off a wonderful ride for a writer.
Does any of this mean you have to, must or even should leave a review?
No, of course not. If you just don’t want to, you absolutely don’t have to. What a silly notion! But if you’re on the fence about it, or you’re really just looking for ways to throw a writer a bone (or your whole-hearted support), do write a review. Good or bad, you’re helping everyone – authors and readers!
Alright, I’m entirely done being selfish.
Now go out and throw your favourite writer a bone.
If you want.
No pressure, though.
(And authors, NEVER respond. M’kay? M’kay.)
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, occasionally teaching at the University of Ottawa, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, teaching about historical death, and cuddling a furry murderer. Her latest novels are Skylark, Daughters of Britain, and Human.