When I began writing, I thought it was, you know, all about the writing. Then one day, I discovered my traitorous inbox sheltering 15 ARCs, or Advance Review Copies, looking for new homes along with a list of 26 review sites to send them to. (Yeah, I know. I did the math.) I quickly learned that the flip side of writing includes, no-embraces, marketing and promotions. That email represented the first salvo in the ‘review war.’
This construct of the literary community turns fine men and women into panhandlers desperately seeking someone from one of those aforementioned review sites willing to read their book, and offer an opinion in writing on social media. Now the ‘please leave a comment and a few stars’ plea at the end of every book makes more sense. In the past I’ve thought ‘I read your book, what more do you want?’ My bad.
What really got me started on this topic was a question posted by David Duhr of WriteByNight. He asked: Do Book Reviews Influence You? Sitting here contemplating the greater mystery of authorship and all it entails, I started pondering the importance of reviews. Is it worth the time and effort seeking reviews? Who, if anyone, am I helping if I write one?
The answer depends upon which one of me you’re asking. Me the author, the reader, or the reviewer, as each one of me has a different perspective.
As a reader, nope. I don’t read reviews; they’re boring. If I’m thinking about purchasing a particular book and the info boasts that 234 people have reviewed it, I’m not going to wade through 234 opinions. The back blurb holds much more attraction for me.
As a writer, I would kill for 234 reviews. They make me feel all warm inside. Well, good reviews do. The bad ones, not so much. If I’m honest, I enjoy real people’s reviews best. It’s not that I have anything against the pros, it’s just that if someone who purchases my book needs a break I’m proud to deliver, and humbled if they really liked the story. And of course, maybe those reviews will lead to sales. What author doesn’t want to sell more books? Ahh, but then maybe not. I’ve seen books that have fantastic reviews and craptastic sales. Maybe the regular people aren’t reading them either. So, who is? Other reviewers? Publishers? Agents?
As a novice to the craft, writing reviews scares me. Can the fine line between copying the work as a synopsis then piling on pages of analysis, and ‘Yeah, I liked it. 5 stars,’ which tells us virtually nothing, be found? As I’ve published a book, does that now make me a professional reviewer? Is there such a thing? What about release protocol? When is the best time to release a review? And the worst of the worse-the book totally sucks. Just pretend you haven’t read it? Is there such a thing as plausible deniability in writing? See what I mean? Mine field territory.
Maybe someone should write ‘Book Reviews for Dummies.’ I’d buy it.