Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Why Book Reviews Are Oh So Very Important

8774134-important-rubber-stampBook reviews are, first and foremost, for readers. But they're also for authors…and advertisers.

As a reader, I use book reviews to help make buying decisions. I write them because I want to help others make that same decision.

As an author, I sometimes read reviews because I want to know what I'm doing right or wrong. There are different camps on this one. Some authors never read reviews because they feel very strongly that reviews are for readers. Also, they don't want to become upset or distracted by a negative review. On the other side of this are authors who read every single review, good or bad. They use this knowledge to (hopefully) make themselves better storytellers.

Which brings me to the last group that uses reviews: advertisers. Before I get into that, though, let me talk briefly about why advertisers are important to authors.

As a relatively unknown author, I rely on advertising to help get my books in front of people. Sounds simple enough. But the field of effective advertisers has narrowed considerably in the past 1-2 years, and so has the competition to get listed. It used to be that advertisers took anyone and everyone. Pay them the money and they'd feature your book. But readers soon grew wary of these sorts of 'email blasts' because there was no guarantee of quality. So along came a new style of advertising where advertisers started curating the books sent their way. No longer was it acceptable to have poorly designed covers, content riddled with grammar and other errors, or, getting back to the point of this post, poor ratings and reviews.

Not only that, but advertisers began to require a minimum level of stats before they'd even consider a book for listing. Many of them now require a minimum of 4 stars for a rating and 10 reviews. Further, they look at the content of those reviews, weeding out any books with 'too many typos' or those that 'need editing.'

I can only deal with one of those criteria: the last one. The quality of the work is entirely on the author.

But the reviews are entirely on the reader. Sure, I can help it along with review copies, which I have done, but you still reach a point where you need the reader who you didn't contact or don't know to step up and leave a rating or review.

So, the next time you finish a book, think about taking a few minutes to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or elsewhere. Reviews don't need to be long or in-depth. A sentence or two is sometimes enough. A review doesn't have to be positive, either. Sometimes a negative one is just as beneficial as a positive one.

And if you've read one of my books, why not leave a review now? I'd really appreciate your honest opinion. I'm pretty sure other readers will, too.

The Effect of Negative Reviews, or Why I've Stopped Reading All Reviews

Someone out on KindleBoards asked the following question:

Do negative reviews ever make you feel like giving up?

The responses were varied but there's definitely a common theme: Don't let them get to you.

Early on negative reviews did bother me. Now? Not really. In fact, I've gotten to the point now where I don't even read reviews. It doesn't matter if they're good or bad. I know a lot of writers do this. I can't help it if a person likes my writing or not, and while it's validating and reassuring to read a good review I tend to get sucked into the negative ones too once I'm out there. I can't do anything about them either way, so unless the person has pointed out some mechanical errors what am I going to do with it?

Another reason I've stopped reading reviews is because I think readers and reviewers should be left alone by the writer. I didn't always think this way. Initially I was liking and commenting on any review that came my way. I think some of that early writer enthusiasm has worn off, though, and so now I've taken on a more hands-off approach. It's different if a reader/reviewer initiates contact first either through Twitter or Goodreads or some other channel, but if that relationship has not already been established I leave it alone. It doesn't matter if it's a good review or a bad one. People are all over the map on this. Some think that because we're now living in such a connected world that such behavior is normal and even appreciated. I don't know… I think as a reader and reviewer myself that having an author jump on a review of mine with comments, etc. is kind of creepy. Almost stalker-like. Even worse, it makes me hesitate to say what I really think. I don't want my own reviewers to have any hesitation. I want the gospel on their thoughts. So Stalker Scott is laying low.

The last reason I've stopped reading reviews is because they really don't nudge me one way or the other on my writing journey. I'm not doing this to be liked or loved or to gain the appreciation of the masses (or the opposite). I'm also not doing this for money (read this if you have any illusions about the potential for independent writing riches). Last, and this goes against the goals of many other indie writers, but I'm also not doing this in order to enter into a new career. I like my current occupation as a software engineer just fine.

All this being said, I do appreciate people taking the time to leave reviews, but I've come to believe that those reviews are not for me. They're for other readers to help them make an informed decision about their next read. I can only control the product itself. Not what other people think of it once it's 'out there'. If I've learned anything out of life at this point it's to only worry about the things I can control. Reviews isn't one of them.