by Will Viharo
Due to the digital DIY revolution, almost anyone can publish a book these days. But anyone can review a book, too. The two are intertwined in a very significant way that cannot be overestimated in terms of the writer-reader relationship.
If you love to read books and want to show as much support as you can for writers in general, in order to keep the industry of literature alive and well, and encourage your favorite authors to keep writing, despite the dismal odds of success, this blog is for you.
Reader reviews are to independent writers what Yelp reviews are to small businesses. We all rely on our customers to spread the good word.
The more books a reader reviews – meaning ratings and comments posted on a particular book’s product page, the most well-trafficked platform being Amazon, whether you approve of their corporate practices or not, but also Goodreads – the more books that writer is likely to sell. This is good not only for the author, but for his or her fans, because this means they will most likely write more books worth buying, reading, and reviewing.
If you have Facebook friends that are authors, either aspiring or professional, you no doubt see repeated pleas for readers to post reviews of their books. They may come off as overly persistent, even desperate, to the point where it’s a turn-off. But one thing for you to understand is that, in almost any case, whatever the author’s status, they have no choice, because of they don’t publicly promote their books and pitch for reader reviews, nobody well. Which means their books are almost certainly doomed to sink into oblivion.
It’s a Team Effort, and We Need You On Our Side!
This hard fact applies to even well established figures like Rob Hart, author of the highly acclaimed mystery novels New Yorked and most recently City of Rose, the first two in a planned five book series featuring his private detective, Ash McKenna. Additionally, Rob is the associate publisher of Mysterious Press and editor of the popular site LitReactor. He’s a big deal in the field of independent crime fiction. And yet he even had to create a Facebook meme to publicly plead for reviews of his books (illustrating this blog, with his permission).
The reason for this is simple: when it comes to purchasing any product, consumers trust other consumers more than professional endorsements, which may or may not be influenced by behind-the-scenes friendships and backroom bargaining or some other form of subjective bias.
Even Amazon has taken to rejecting reader reviews if they somehow (subversively?) perceive a personal connection with the author, diminishing the objective integrity of the review, or so they claim. This practice has led to a vociferous backlash from writers and readers alike, so they may have backed off this controversial and frankly unfair policy, which seems to have extended even to social media connections between total strangers, further rendering it counterproductive.
Most writers are connected to other writers whom they’ve never met personally via various social media platforms. It’s called “professional networking.” And let’s face it: most readers are also writers, or so it seems. Many authors exchange free copies of their books in hopes of also swapping product reviews of their books. This is just how it works.
Dangling from a Grapevine
Many, many, many more potential readers browse Amazon than the various literary journals, sites and blogs dedicated to “official” book reviews. And if you’re a self-published author, or even a small press author (not really much distinction in a practical sense), getting your book accepted for review will take either a miracle or money, and most writers are short on both.
Sadly, many brick-and-mortar bookstores, the same ones complaining Amazon is running them out of business, refuse to even stock self-published or small press books, citing bottom line concerns. This makes it even harder for obscure authors to get attention for their work.
So then it’s up to the final arbiters of modern literature – readers – to make or break any indie author by spreading the news. As I’ve repeated time and time again, nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to raising the profile of any particular title. It’s both the most cost effective way to promote a book. But it needs to be organically organized, not by the author, but by his or her audience, which has the power to literally grow itself.
And Now a Word from Our Sponsor…
Let me close with this:
Please, please, please review my books. And if not mine, books you’ve actually purchased and enjoyed. It’s not just a request. It’s a requirement, that is if you want me, or any author, to keep writing books that you appreciate. Otherwise, what’s our incentive? We’ll just be singing in the shower, figuratively speaking.
Our collective careers are literally depending on your support as readers, now more than ever. A few minutes of your time and a thoughtful critique can make all the difference, even if it only lifts our sagging, self-defeatist spirits for a few brief moments. We’re grateful for the sincere effort, even if doesn’t result in a single sale. Sometimes it really is the thought that counts, more than you realize.
PHOTO: ROB HART