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 indiereader.com or DailyCheapReads.com 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!