Reviews: Just how Important Are They? ~ A Guest Post by Fran Lewis

You wrote a book and now it’s been published. All of your hard work has paid off and now it’s on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and you are looking for people to review it. Stop! Before you request a review you need to decide just who you want to review your book, their qualifications and the number of books that they have reviewed in the past. Reviews are subjective and two reviewers can often see the message the author is trying to convey in two different ways. That does not mean that one is right and the other is wrong. It means that what they have gotten from your novel will be presented in two different lights. Hopefully both reviews will bring you shining stars, more readers, lots of sales and positive feedback. Before I write a review I really look long and hard to find the author’s message, the true soul of the book and make sure that I spotlight the work of this author in a positive light. Not every review will yield five stars. Not every book is going to be the next great American Novel that will get you on the New York Times Best Seller List or even in Oprah’s Book Club. But, we can all produce a novel that has quality writing, great storylines and reaches a wide audience of readers. Before you ask someone to read your book make sure that they are a real reviewer, not a family member that is going to review your book just because you are a relative and definitely stay away from friends. All too often when I post a review I read some of the other ones and realize some reviewers never read the book. Some just say how great the book is and others how awful the book is with no substantial feedback, details or constructive criticism telling the author what would have made the novel better and given it more stars.

Reviews are important if you want people to buy your books and know that you are a serious writer. When you ask for review from a reviewer you will hopefully get one that is honest, straightforward and positive. You need to find out where they are going to post your review and the links so that you can post the link on your blogs or website. One thing you should never do, in my opinion, is pay for a review. All too often many feel if you pay for a review the reviewer might be biased and give you a positive review because you are paying for it. That is not always the case. Reviews are subjective and reviewers should not take on a genre that they are not familiar with, really  do not want to read or feel unqualified to review. Self-help books are interesting, books about science might not be what you want to read, historical fiction is great, but some history books might not hold your interest.

After interviewing many New York Times Best Selling authors and many self-published authors many have mixed feelings about the importance of a review. Some feel that reviews will boost sales good or bad. Some really do not care or hold too much stock in a bad review. Others feel that they are the ultimate approval of their writing.

Authors have to develop a thick skin when it comes to reviews. Everyone at some time is going to receive a negative review. Don’t let it stop you from writing. Don’t let it bring you down. Take it for what it’s worth which is one person’s opinion. If the reviewer states that he/she hates the book because it is boring or they really do not understand what you wrote I would not really worry or get upset after reading it. If the reviewer states that the plot line is weak, the characters are not believable and the action and dialogue need work they need to tell you how and why. But, that is still only one person’s opinion. Many authors ask for reviewers to read and review their books before the release date to get a handle on what readers think about their novels. When reviewing a book that I feel deserves less than four stars I will not review it. I prefer to summarize the book for the author to use for promotional purposes and not place it on a site, which requires rating it with stars. I will post the summary on my author sites and my review site that I run on Facebook but I will not write a negative review. What I might find not five stars or even four someone else might disagree. Reviewers can be tough and some even down right mean when taking apart a new author as I have seen before. Reviewing for publishing companies, well-known authors and new authors is the same as far as I am concerned. I have read books by New York Times Best selling authors and found that they are not five stars. I have read books by self-published authors that I think should be on the top ten picks on the New York Times Book Review Section of the paper. I never pan a book and I never tell an author in a review that he/she has typos or grammar errors. Most books unfortunately do have some errors few are error free. When a book has errors that detract from the storyline I message the author with this information. I never put it in a review. This would be one of those times that I would just summarize the book and not rate it.

So, you wrote a book and you are totally excited to see your name on the cover and your picture on the back. Don’t let anyone get you down. Don’t let reviews decide whether you write your next novel. Sometimes it takes two or three to get that perfect five stars. Write those novels, short stories or even novellas and give yourself FIVE GOLD STARS : You are a success because you accomplished what so many wish they had.

Fran worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters Degrees and a PD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The title of my new Alzheimer’s book is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain and Because We Care.

She was the musical director for shows in her school and ran the school’s newspaper. Fran writes reviews for authors upon request and for several other sites. You can read some of my reviews on Ezine.comand on ijustfinished.com under the name Gabina. Here is the link to her radio show www.blogtalkradio.com, Fran is the author of Faces Behind the Stones, Bad Choices and her latest in her Bertha Series: Bertha and Tillie Forever. 

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8 Comments

  1. I see a lot of people tripping about their reviews. I have certainly gotten angry over a few, but get this: my newest release has sold over 5k copies in the kindle store (at $7.88 or more) and just recieved its 9th review today.

    The Sword and the Dragon has been in the top 100 of Amazon epic fantasy for 2 years and only has 90 reviews. I’ve seen books come into the charts and get 300 reviews and then slide away while mine just sat there, not getting reviews. It stuck in the 40s for almost 9 months. Then bam, like twenty reviews over two months? Who knows?

    This is all just my 2 cents.

    IMHO I think a single review by a notable reviewer holds a ton mnore weight than a dozen by average readers. But dont tell them that…lol :-)

  2. I personally think there is about 1% of the population that gets me. They can cut me up all they want…. Reviews can kiss my arse… since… well I have no book on Amazon! When friends say nice things I truly don’t believe them because they are my friends but coming from a brutally honest family they could be the best reviewers of all time! LOL

  3. Good points, Lisa. The reviewing industry, particularly over at Amazon, gets bad press but reviews do help me decide whether to buy (not particularly the superlatives but the reasons why the book would be recommended) so it’s an industry that has to take itself seriously.

  4. I think in the age of ebooks and indie publishing, the role of reviews, and the importnace of them has changed. It is inevitable. As the industry changes, so do the branches that relate to it. I am not saying reviews are important, they clearly are, and many people will look for reviews when making a purchased, but I think with the generally lower prices of ebooks, people are more willing to take a gamble on a book that sounds interesting.

    I read reviews, but often if I read a bad review, it doesn’t stop me wanting to read the book myself.

  5. What a great post, Fran. I read every review I receive. Yes, some are from people I know, others from writers and the rest from readers. I love them– even the few negative ones. I also hear from readers that don’t do reviews. I know I’m a good writer and reviews help me see places to improve and places to build on. So bring on the reviews. And I prefer real readers– they’re honest!

  6. Lately I’ve been wondering what would happen if sites like Amazon and Goodreads took away the stars system and replaced with a simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down approach, like YouTube did. That might take away the extremes, and some of the temptation to try and game the system, as well as possible make people actually read the reviews and not just glance at the stars. I agree with you about not writing negative reviews. I will either recommend a book (which is the same as 4 or 5 stars) or I won’t mention it. There’s already too much negativity going around.

  7. Pingback: Reviews: Just how Important Are They? ~ A Guest Post by Fran Lewis « Dellani Oakes

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