You see it at the end of a lot of Indie author’s books and even at the end of some of the major player’s books. It goes a little something like this:
If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a review.
Why does it matter? Why are authors so desperate for reviews?
Because it does matter, especially to Indie authors. Most Indie author sales are eBook sales. EBooks are sold through places like Amazon. In this digital age, the consumer is king. Buy any product on Amazon and you have a chance to leave a review. Those reviews end up as ratings and ratings have a real effect on how many folks buy the product. This subject is on my mind because I recently released Nick of Time with several free days and I’m hoping to get some reviews myself.
Most Indie writers don’t have big bucks to spend on marketing. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly successful and established Indie authors that have quite the marketing budget, but those are the superstars, not your average player. Reviews and ratings might be the difference in whether a writer decides to write another book, or which sort of book they want to write next. They may help the writer decide if that one book with series potential is going to be a series or a stand alone.
So, what does this mean to you, the reader?
Did you like that book? Did you like it enough that you would like to see more books by the author? Did you notice that one book that had series potential and wished the writer would write more of those?
If so, then review the book and say so. I wrote Wyrd House with series potential in mind. At least one sequel entitled Glass House. I scrapped the idea because I was worried the genre is too fluid. It’s a paranormal mystery with romance, but I feared it wasn’t romancy enough for the romance genre. Then I got some reviews and messages from readers telling me how they would like to read more. Now, I’m considering writing Glass House after all.
If you are reading a book from an Indie author who has just started publishing, those ratings and reviews might be what makes them decide to keep at it, or they might be what depresses them and makes them want to throw in the towel. The consumer has the power when it comes to selling anything, even art. If you enjoy an artist’s work, then a review is a good way to encourage more of it.
What if I don’t know what to say?
I tell you, whether it is a long and thoughtful review or a short and sweet one, your review is awesome. One of my favorite reviews for Nick of Time is of the short and sweet variety. You don’t have to be a writer to say if you liked a book or not, just be honest in your own words. My own reviews for the books of others tend to be short and sweet. Yes, I’m a writer, but I’m not especially expert at reviewing. As I wrote on a message board today, I feel like my reviews are all “I like book. Book good. Make me have feels.” I write them anyway!
What if I hated the book?
This depends on the reader. It is perfectly legit to leave that one or two star review if you feel the product wasn’t good enough, or wasn’t as described. These reviews help keep future possible consumers from wasting their money on an inferior product, whether that’s a new brand of toilet cleaner or a novel. If you feel there are major issues with the writing or the plot, then say so. Try not to give away spoilers for those who might still want to read it. If however, the reason you didn’t like it was because it was about dragons, and it was clearly described as a dragon book, maybe you don’t review it. Think it through, decide what you want to do, and do it.
What if the writer doesn’t like what I wrote?
Well then, it sucks to be them. If they are going to sell a product, they need to get used to criticism. Not only that, the writer may need to hear what you have to say. My first book, Descending, had some major typo issues, despite all the work I did and other readers who helped me tidy it up. A review that mentioned this helped me get the book edited and polished further. My other books have the odd issue, sure. I’m not perfect. I have an awesome editor, but not an entire flock of them. My books are very clean now, but not spotless.
Now, if a writer responds to your review and argues a point with you, then the writer is not acting correctly. Most likely they are a bit of a newbie and they have not learned to learn from their readers and not accost them. It’s a rare thing, but it does happen. My best advice is to ignore it.
What if I’m also a writer?
I’m a writer. I read books and I review them. I do not seek to trade reviews, as this is against Amazon’s TOS. Personally, if I can’t give a book a four or five star review, I don’t review it. Even if I feel it’s honest, I don’t want to be that writer who puts down other people’s work. Back before I was published, I might have given a couple lower star reviews, but I was just another reader then. If you are a writer, you will have to make up your own mind about whether you are comfortable writing low star reviews.
In closing, I hope that you consider reviewing the books you read. Keep in mind that all reviews are useful, the long and the short, the ones praising and the ones with criticism. The time you take to review a book is time well spent.
Full disclosure: I’m not yet published. I’m trying hard for the querying and agent route before I self-publish. When I do have books out there though I admit, I’m terrified of nasty reviews. The internet can be a trollish place and my skin isn’t that thick yet. Trying to decide if I even want to read the one-stars. If there was some way to know which ones contained fixable issues and which were just venom before reading that would be awesome.
Many many folks recommend a writer never read any of the reviews, and that is an absolutely legit way to go. However, a writer needs to find out how to deal with crit in a useful manner. You’ll get crit from editors and publishers too. The trick is to remind yourself it’s not personal, step away from the crit until the emotional response ends, and then try to look at it with an objective eye and see if it’s useful information or not. As for troll reviews, ignore them like the readers do. Good luck with the agent search. I tried that route for five years and then decided to self publish. I got tired of waiting. It’s tough for a debut author to get an agent, but not impossible.