According to Writers’ Digest, the number of people who write a review after they’ve read a book is roughly 10%. Why is that, I wonder. Is it disinterest, fear of writing, or is it that they simply don’t think of it?
For a great many people, the review can help them decide whether or not to buy a book. Yes, there are other factors. They like the genre or the author. They find the cover blurb or the first couple of pages compelling. But statistics suggest around 85% of us factor reviews into our decision.
I love reading reviews. I enjoy seeing what other people make of a work of art, be it novel or play or piece of music. A bad review won’t necessarily put me off reading a book, particularly if there are plenty of good ones to balance it. But if a book has been out for some months and has no reviews at all, well, that makes me uneasy. It’s like going out to dinner and finding you’re the only patron in the restaurant.
There’s something heartening in knowing that other people cared enough to share their opinion with others. People leave reviews on movie sites all the time — check IMDb and you’ll see. But they seem to forget about books and that’s sad.
Reviews remind us we have an audience
Here in Ireland, most people remember to thank bus drivers, waiters, and even police officers. We are vocal in our approval at concerts. We cheer and sing along. We applaud at plays and are not meager in awarding standing ovations when we deem them warranted. But writing a book review… what’s that then?
Writers, working in isolation with a vast distance of time and space between ourselves and our readership, seldom receive feedback. Yes, our family and friends will tell us we did well, but that falls into the category of expected encouragement. Lovely, of course, but not the same as a total stranger taking the time to write a few sentences about how much they liked our book. The review tells us we are not sending our work into the void. Someone is paying attention. It takes two hands to clap. The review is where the reader’s hand meets the author’s.
Reviews = Sales
It’s not all about the author’s ego, though. Think about it as a consumer. If you have a choice between a book that has 4-5 stars on Amazon with dozens of reviews, and a book with zero reviews, which are you most likely to purchase? Unless you are familiar with an author’s work, the chances are you’ll feel safer with a book that is obviously well-read and extolled. The more popular something is, the more attractive it appears to others.
A decent number of reviews can help authors up the ranking charts and these generate more publicity and sales which means the author is more likely to write more books.
The more customer reviews a book has on a site like Amazon, the more likely those sites are to display the book prominently to potential customers. It’s good for the readers because they can find books they’ll enjoy more easily, and it’s great for the author because the more visible her book is, the more sales she’ll make.
Reviews help increase our rankings on Amazon and other sites. Here are some statistics I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources:
- When a book hits 20-25 reviews, Amazon starts including it in those “also bought” or “you might like” lists. These lists help the author become more widely known, and help the reader to find books they’re likely to enjoy. The more reviews, the more attention the book is likely to receive.
- The number of reviews may affect the book’s ranking on Amazon’s sales charts. The higher the ranking the greater the publicity, the greater the sales.
- A healthy number of reviews helps the book to be accepted by various websites that offer free promotion.
- With a decent number of reviews, the book is more likely to be accepted by a number of indie bookshops. .
Honest Reviews Mean Honest Feedback
I read reviews and I take note. I don’t always agree with everything a reviewer writes (either the glowing or the insufferable), but where criticism seems valid, I try to make any necessary corrections in my later work. Your best friend or your daughter may be content with telling you you’re great (and I can live with that. Honest.) but the clear eyed criticism from the completely objective reader is enormously valuable.
Reviews can also tell me what I’m doing right. I was astounded by the response to Lady Beatrice when my first book A Biased Judgement was released. I was delighted and increased her appearance in the next book, Sherlock Holmes and the Other Woman.
If a reader loves a book — or even if they hated it — why wouldn’t they want to tell others? We do in conversation. “Oh, did you read…?” Why don’t we want to share our thoughts with a wider audience?
I think some people have a hard time coming to grips with the writing part. Perhaps they were traumatized by the school book report. Maybe they something like a five-page college essay with footnotes is needed to make it valid. Listen, one sentence can suffice. I liked this book because… Or even, I didn’t like this book because…
Obviously, the more analytical you can be the more useful it will prove to the author and other potential readers. I liked this book. This is why. This is my favourite character or scene. If you enjoy (insert similar author’s name), you’ll probably like this.
Think of it as a public service. You’re smart. You have great taste. Doesn’t the world deserve to know your thoughts?
The best way to thank an author is to write a review. And if you do write reviews after you’ve read a book, you’re fabulous! You’re a five-star reader in my estimate.