How important are book reviews for authors? Before we consider this question, let’s decide on what a book review is and isn’t. A book review is an opinion. It advocates for readers, letting them know what other readers think of a particular book. It is not a literary critique. A literary critique is meant to interpret the work and offer insight into its literary value. So what’s the difference? Book reviews are most often written by individuals who want to either recommend or not recommend a particular story. They are not there to decide what value the book offers the literary world, but to state their opinion on the story itself; was it entertaining, did it keep their attention, would they tell their friends about it? A book review tells what the story is about and may delve into the characters and motivation, but the idea is to assume the people reading the review are looking for an opinion to decide if they want to read the particular book or not. A literary critique assumes the reader has already read the book and would like more insight as to the theme and meaning behind the story. The reviews we see on Amazon.com and other bookseller websites are reviews written by people who just want to talk about a good (or bad) book.
So why is that book review important for an author? To start, if the author is new and has no other books to stake his or her reputation on, then a favorable book review is going to help sell his or her books. Let’s say we are looking for something to read and are perusing Amazon.com in a particular genre we like. We do a search for, let’s say mysteries/thrillers. Want to know how many books come up? 61,847. Yes, you read that right – over 60,000 mystery/thrillers. Many people will go on to look for a favorite author in the genre, but let’s say we want to try something new. We click on mystery/thriller new releases and it narrows our search down to 82 – a little more manageable, wouldn’t you say? But now how do we decide which of the 82 books we want to read? For most people, the answer is – read the reviews. Yes, that is a lot of reviews to read. I’m sure there are other ways to filter the choices down to an even more manageable number, but even if we manage to get it down to 5 choices; we still need to decide between those. So we read the synopsis and the review to see which one piques our interest and was also found to be entertaining to others who read it. So is the review valuable? In my opinion, it is invaluable.
If you happen to be an up and coming author or a well-known author, a book review is still a valuable tool. A name can only take us so far. There are many well-known authors whose books I have read based on just the name and had mixed feelings about the book. We can’t win them all. Having interested readers post reviews for our books puts us ahead of the game, in my opinion. It’s a way to have electronic word of mouth. Remember the old VO-5 commercial? She told two friends, and she told two friends and so on and so on and so on. Posting a review is like telling friends how much we liked a book; then hopefully they will read it and post a review – and so on and so on and so on… The more positive responses we have, the better. So what happens if someone posts a negative review?
If someone posts a bad review of your book, take it in stride. It’s not personal, it just wasn’t their taste. One bad review won’t ruin our chances of being read. Think of it this way, if someone cared enough to write the review, we know we reached them on some level, even if that level touched a sore point for them. I read a great article by Carol Pinchefsky on the subject of bad book reviews; you can find it here: http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=columns&vol=carol_pinchefsky&article=011
Good or bad, a book review helps our readers determine if it’s worth the time and money to buy our books. Have you ever dealt with a negative book review? How did you handle it?