Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Why Do Writers Love Reviews So Much?

Reviews are the something of a holy grail quest for authors - particularly those in the early stages of their career.  They crave them, obsess about them, read them even when they shouldn't.  Even after a number of positive reviews, they still want more!  It seems there are never enough.

Of course, for most readers, the couple of minutes it takes to post a  review doesn't feel important or necessary when there are other things to do (and other books to read).  Before I had a book out, I was the same.  I'd bought the book, I'd enjoyed it, what more could be expected of me?  Posting a review seemed a bit of a hassle.  I would tell my friends if I particularly liked a book, and chances were good they would buy, read, and enjoy it too.  That seemed pretty good.

So why are authors anxious to get more and more reviews?  Are they really so desperate for approval?

Short answer: yes.  Yes, we are!  Writing a book is an intensely personal and isolated process.  Putting that work out in the world for public consumption is exposing.  Hearing that a reader enjoyed that work is hugely validating and motivational.  Everyone likes to know their work has been appreciated.  It might just be what the author needs that day to keep writing.

But it's more than that.

No matter what tools are available in social media, Amazon, paid advertising, etc, it all boils down to this: The best and most effective way to promote a book is good word of mouth.  That means customer reviews. They impact potential readers individually, and they impact other promotional opportunities. As an author, nothing else we do matters nearly as much to the sales of our book - and it's not us that does it!

"But wait," you say.  "Surely writing a good book matters more?"  Yes, in that without a good book to start with, those reviews are going to be bad ones.  But a brilliant book with no reviews will still not sell because no one is talking about it.

Potential readers look at reviews as part of their decision making process.  Posting a single review has ongoing impact on many many potential readers.  It is hugely beneficial and the more there are, the better the impact.  It's like financial investment - the more money you have to invest, the more you'll make from the interest.  You need money to make money...and you need reviews to sell books.

Reviews are also necessary for many other forms of book promotion.  Sites such as BookBub check Amazon customer reviews when deciding which books they will promote.  Without reviews, an author's promotional options are limited.

Even a less positive review helps.  Readers sometimes don't like to post because they think they'll be attacked for their opinions and sometimes that has been true.  But even a less positive review has value for an author.  The trick is to keep a review for a book you didn't like specific, respectful, and about the work itself, not the person who wrote it.  Also, think about what the intent of the book is and rate it for what it is - there's no point complaining that a serious drama story is not funny enough or that a horror didn't have romance.  Rate it fairly, according to its genre.  A sensible author knows that not every reader will love every book.

 Leaving a review need only take a couple of minutes but the impact on an author's career is huge. So if you liked a book, give that couple of minutes to post your thoughts about it.  They'll love you for it.

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