This month in my post I’ve decided to touch on a topic most of us readers and writers are familiar with but that never gets too old: the importance of book reviews.
As a self-published author, I have developed a new appreciation for book reviews. I have always been a voracious reader, but before I became a published author I seldom left a review. The books I usually read were written by established authors, authors whose books amasses hundreds, if not thousands of reviews. What difference would one more make to them? Why go through the trouble when an author or publicist might not even glance through it or give it a second thought? But all that changed after I, too, found myself in much need of those.
For new authors book reviews are vital. Emerging authors – especially indie authors – often don’t have the first clue how to get started showcasing their work and gaining visibility. They don’t have a publisher behind them backing their work. When it comes to promoting their books, they are left to their own devices. Reviews help introduce their books to a wider audience and potentially increased ratings. Without them, they not only lose out on sales, but risk fading away into obscurity.
Writing a review can help the author understand what the readers enjoy about your books, what they think is missing and what readers are looking for. They can be a source of inspiration to writers and motivate them to write even better books. The feedback authors receive from their target audience enables them to grow and improve, as well as help to promote their books.
Writing a book review isn’t easy. It takes a lot of effort to put into words all the feelings that the reviewer experienced and conveying them to potential readers, and if you end up hating the book, it can be even more difficult. A well written review can help the author in so many ways. It needn’t be long or elaborate, even just a few words will do it. No need to focus on the plot – the blurb already contains that information. Rather, mention how certain details in the story affected you and describe the genre and writing style.
Personally, I don’t like to review a book that’s not in a genre I enjoy, because there’s a good chance I won’t like it, but because I feel every new author deserves to be supported and encouraged, I base my rating on how well the book is written. When I write a review I imagine the kind of feedback I’d like to see about my own work. Too often people leave negative reviews or give a low rating because a particular genre ‘is not my thing’ or ‘my heart wasn’t in it’. If I’ve committed to reading and reviewing a book that is not a preferred genre of mine, I try not to make it personal. I focus on the prose and writing style, character development and pacing and provide details and quotes from the book that I think will speak to the author’s target audience. After all, book reviews are all a matter of opinion and just because one disliked it doesn’t mean every other reader will too. If the book merits no more than 2 stars because it’s badly written or poorly edited, I’ll contact the author and explain why I can’t give an honest review and provide constructive criticism. It’s only fair to the author, who has invested a lot of time and effort into writing it.