Friday, March 4, 2011

Reviews--why they are important

Someone asked why in a comment to a previous post. This is such a vital discussion rather than respond to the comment, I wanted to make it an entire post.

There are different types of reviews, of course. There are professional ones in PW and Library Journal. There are (mostly amateur) reviews on blogs. There are Amazon, B&N and Smashwords reviews, theoretically done by regular readers. There is some overlap of course.

I'm going to ignore the first. They're simply out of our control. But the second two, especially for indie published authors and their readers are vitally important.

Now I am going to speak as a reader. Keep in mind that most authors start out as and to a large extent remain exactly that. I'm a reader. Every year there is more content out there for me to choose. Now the second GRR Martin's Dances with Dragons is out I'll pick it up. The same with Elizabeth Moon's new novel. I won't bother with reviews.

But that is two novels. I usually read between 50 and 100 novels a year. How am I going to decide on what to read? Family recommendations? Sometimes, but my family doesn't necessarily like the same genres I do.

So instead I'll go to blog sites like or and read the reviews. They will probably point me toward a few novels I'm interested in. But once I'm on Amazon, you can bet I will take a look not only at the five-star reviews. I will also read a few of the one and two-star reviews. I'll read the blurb. Then I'll pick out some of those novels to read.

So the reviews are essential to my decision of what to read out of the many thousands of novels which are published every year. I depend on other people sharing their experience with me.

As a writer, well... you simply reverse the thinking, I suppose. I want readers who like the sorts of thing I write to find their way to my stories and enjoy them. How will they do that with all the "noise" in publishing? By other people saying, "Hey, I enjoyed this." Or if you didn't enjoy it, tell people why. What you hated actually might be something they're looking for or else you'll save them a bad experience.

But on either side, many of us depend on readers to take the time and extra effort to share their reaction to novels. I admit it's a lot to ask, but the reviews don't have to be elaborate. Just a simple statement of what you liked or didn't. I liked the characters. The plot was too slow. *ahem* Vampires shouldn't sparkle! If you make a mistake or two in the grammar, don't worry about it. Authors are supposed to be the experts on that, not readers. Perfect grammar is nice but not a requirement.

So I strongly encourage people to take a few minutes after they read a novel they purchased on Amazon or B&N to post a review. Help us all out!


subrosa said...

Good points Jeanne, but the problem is that I use the local library for my reading material and Amazon won't let me write a review because I haven't purchased the book through them.

I really must make more use of my iPad to buy novels and perhaps I'll become more aware of the indie market.

Oh, did you know about World Book Night here in the UK?

Be patient with the website as they're brand new but it's a good idea. I've allocated most of my 48 books but will be giving out around 15 in the local library on Monday.

subrosa said...

Jeanne, this site is linked to WBN and it may be of interest to you too.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Thanks for the information about World Book Night. I'll take a look at it.

You might try buying a book through Amazon so you can review there. Did you know that you don't have to own a Kindle to read books published for Kindle? That is something a lot of people aren't aware of.

subrosa said...

Yes I did know that Jeanne and I've downloaded the Kindle app onto my iPad.

J. R. Tomlin said...

That's good. Amazing what you can find for Kindle and some of it very reasonably priced.

Jenny said...

This is a great post, Jeanne. I almost always read reviews before I buy something, especially an eBook. And not just one or two of the five star reviews, but several reviews in ever rating to get an overall feel for what people thought of the story.

I also review everything I read, even if I didn't think it was the greatest book in the world.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Thanks, Jenny. I've seen so many people say that they didn't like to review or didn't see any reason to bother so I felt it was worth discussing. Glad you thought I had something worthwhile to say on it. :)