Monday, September 1, 2014

Reviews: Do They Matter?

Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope you've had a wonderful summer and are looking forward to the changes fall might bring into your life; whether it's back to school for you or your kids, or a welcome change in the weather. Enjoy your day.


Good intentions. We all have them. Many times we act on them, but sometimes we fall short. I often find myself on the short side of good intentions when it comes to promoting books I really like. I tell myself as I'm reading, "I'm going to be sure to write a review for this one!" But when I close the cover on the last page, it somehow slips my mind.

As an author, I should know better. I know how important reviews can be, as well as the value of word-of-mouth promotion --- especially word-of-mouth promotion. When looking for a book to purchase, I often check the posted reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I realize that many of the 5-star reviews come from family and friends of the author, but you can still glean a lot from what people say about a book.

The competition for an author these days is fierce. Even with social media as a means of getting the word out, one voice can get lost among the oh-so-many. But we still have a sphere of influence, and we ought to use it when we can. The books we read that are really good, that move us in some way, need to be shared with other readers. And posting reviews, or promoting a good book on FaceBook, Twitter, or other outlets, is a good way to do that.

I appreciate any review my books get, but I love it when someone I don't know says something good about one of my novels in a review or in a post somewhere. And I especially love it when that reader takes time to contact me personally. It's made me so much more aware as a reader that I should do that as well. And I have, many times.

Readers and writers, we're in this together. Writers are looking for readers, and readers are looking for writers. Proverbs 15:23 says, "A word in due season, how good it is!" A review or other means of promotion for an author or book we like can be that good word. It can benefit other readers who are looking for something worthwhile in which to invest their time and money, and it certainly benefits the author, who works so hard to build their audience.

Do you rely on reviews when selecting a book to read? If you hear a good review about a book, does it entice you to check it out?


Megan Sayer said...

Oh reviews. Ohhhh REVIEWS! Hmmm.
I hate writing reviews. The whole thing has become so much more-than-complicated these days. I find it hard to write an honest review for authors that I know, even know a little bit. It's like standing in the maternity ward of a hospital being bluntly honest about someone's new baby...I just can't do it. I don't generally hold much weight on Amazon reviews either, knowing that many of these wonderful 5-star reviews come from starry-eyed friends and family of the author, and don't really represent an accurate general-public view of the book. Then there are the cultural and artistic differences between books I like and books other people like - there are only so many times one can say "I'm sure many people would like this book" without coming across as false and insincere.
This is hard for me, because what you say about the importance of word of mouth, and helping authors promote.
Trusting the reviewer is where it's at for me. I always take note of the Publishers Weekly reviews on Amazon, and will yay or nay a book depending on their say-so. Similarly, if a friend recommends a book on Facebook I will read it based on who they are, rather than what they say. Some friends I know I will love whatever they recommend, whereas other friends recommendations I'll steer clear of. Love them, just like different books.
See? Complicated.
I'm sure that, when I've got a book published, I'll recapitulate on all I've said here and wish desperately that everyone would review my book and regret all the times I've not reviewed others - but for now time is short, reading is personal, and some reviews are too complicated.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Megan, thank you for your honesty. You're so right, it really is complicated. And like you, I don't trust all the 5-star reviews I read, especially when it's obvious the reviewer is someone known by the author. But word of mouth is so vital to the success of a book, especially if the author is not an A-list author, but someone trying to get a strong footing beneath them. I look so forward to the day you have one of your books published. It will come!