That is the question, especially if you are a reader and are looking to provide valuable feedback, support, or to help the author raise awareness of their work. If you are a writer, you already know how important reviews are to you and your work. If you aren’t sure, read on.
Before I became a writer I had no idea that reviews were so important to a writer. I mean really, I just read a book, and if I liked it I told my family and friends. I didn’t contact the writer and tell them I’d enjoyed their book, and I certainly didn’t even think about going onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo to post a review. I’d never heard of Goodreads, Smashwords, or the scores of other reader/writer websites that have sprung up on the net. Why would I? I was blissfully ignorant in the ways of the publishing and writing world.
All that changed when I decided to pen my own novel. Suddenly I wanted and needed to learn all I could about this new venture. I never considered it a hobby. I always knew that one day I’d write, and that when I did, I’d give it my all. That’s when I started reading about the importance of reviews. Of course I’d read the reviews posted about top selling writers and their newest work, and sometimes I’d even read those reviews so beautifully and glowingly featured in the book’s first pages or back cover, but I figured the only ones that counted were the ones from the New York Times Best Seller List, or other highly acclaimed and sought after literary professionals and authors. I was no professional reviewer or famous author, so why would what I had to say matter to anyone?
The more I read, the more I began to understand, and appreciate, just how much my own little words of support and feedback really could impact a book and it’s potential sales. I realized that the writers really did value reader’s reviews, perhaps more than those oft quoted literary luminaries. I was a real person, who hadn’t been paid anything to purchase the book, read it, and comment on whether I liked or didn’t like it. It doesn’t get more real or grass roots than that, and that’s pretty cool, I think.
That’s not to say the other, paid for reviews, such as Kirkus Reviews, don’t matter. They do, and they hold a lot of sway within the industry. But so do ordinary reader’s reviews and comments. As a writer, I can’t tell you how excited I am when someone reads my book, then takes the time to let me know what they thought of it. Of course I love the five star reviews, who doesn’t, but even the ones that come in with three and four stars have value and merit. Those reviews point to potential areas where I may want to tighten things up or give consideration to. All feedback is valuable; you just have to decide what to do with it.
Reviews are especially helpful for other readers though. Personally, I always check out the reviews of a new book or author, to get a good overall feel for the story and writer. That doesn’t mean I go by reviews only though. It’s just another way for me to ascertain whether or not I think a book is of interest to me and worth my hard-earned money. In that vein, reviews are extremely valuable to writers and other readers. Honest, carefully written reviews are worth their weight in gold when it comes to selling books, whether ebooks or print. That’s why virtually every online book retailer clearly provides readers with the means and access to provide an honest review of books they’ve read. Some, like Amazon, even go so far as to email their customers a few weeks after purchase to ask how they liked the book and provide a direct link to write a short review.
In talking to family, friends, and book signing attendees about reviews, many express the fear that they don’t know how to write a review. They think there must be some grand, magical, or special literary talent you have to have to do so. I remind them that all other readers and writers want is an honest opinion of their reading experience with the book. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. It can be as short as, “I really liked it”. Ideally though, a book review should address three things: whether you liked the book, or didn’t, what you liked/didn’t like, and why. An example of this might be, “I really enjoyed this book because it made me laugh and think about subjects I hadn’t considered before,” or “I didn’t enjoy this book because the characters didn’t seem very realistic, so I couldn’t connect with them.”. Reviews are subjective, meaning each person is going to either like or not like it based on their own internal set of criteria, and that’s perfectly fine. When a book starts gathering more reviews and ratings, patterns begin to emerge, so that potential new readers can see what the “general consensus” is about the book.
Then there’s the rating. Rating is a system whereby there are five “stars”, and each star has a rate. On Amazon, one star is for “I hate it”, two stars for “I don’t like it”, three stars for “It’s okay”, four stars for “I like it”, and five stars for “I love it”. This break down will translate very closely to other sites rating systems, so don’t worry about having to learn a bunch of new systems. To be fair to other readers and the author, if you are going to take the time to rate a book, please also write a short review in the “Share your opinion” section. Without the comment, no one will understand why you gave it the rating you did. This can even be done anonymously, if you’d rather not have anyone know who you are. A few of my readers have done this, and I respect their privacy, while appreciating their time and feedback.
The final reason reviews are so important is because it affects how easily a book is found among literally thousands of other books in the same genre. You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to have written a book that people are responding well to, but because it doesn’t have enough reviews and/or rankings, it’s virtually impossible to find by potential new readers who might enjoy it and are just doing a generic search. Without those important reviews and rankings, your book falls to the bottom of the list and at the end of countless pages of other books.
So, as you can see, reviews (and rankings) are extremely important. Not just to writers, but to other readers as well. Once I started providing brief reviews of books I was reading, I found it not only easy, but enjoyable as well. It was my small way of thanking the writer for penning a good book and entertaining me, or teaching me something I didn’t know before. Other than the five minutes it takes me to write a quick, thoughtful review, it doesn’t cost me a thing, but I know it’s value.
What are you reading right now? Have you ever written a review, and if so, what did you take away from the experience. If not, what’s stopping you.
Your comments and feedback are important, so please also feel free to comment below.