woman gif review photo by kira auf der heide
On Writing

A Shameless Pitch for Reviews

Book reviews are gifts to authors and to readers. A definite win-win.

There is a good reason parents of old (?) steered their children away from pursuing careers in the arts. It is difficult to build a following and generate enough sales of your art to eek out a living. Fast forward to the 21st century and the information age where it is possible to go ‘viral’ with the right exposure and reviews.

But this does not just happen, at least not for the vast majority of authors, but there is an easy step you, the reader, can take to help.

Think about the last book you enjoyed. Maybe you posted on Facebook about it, maybe you lent it to a friend. You did that because you wanted to share your enjoyment of the book with others. Or maybe to support the author. That’s a great step, but an even more useful step is to leave a public review on a site like Amazon.

How do these reviews help?
  • Reviews give potential readers an idea of whether they should consider investing their time and money in a book.
  • Reviews help books move up in search rankings and make it more likely that new readers will see it. The presence of positive reviews is one signal that a book is good and likely to be enjoyed by other readers.
  • Reviews help to establish the credibility of the author. If you have never read any books by an author before, positive reviews may give you the push you need to give the author a try.
  • Reviews make it easier for authors to get their books into bookstores and other venues that rely on reviews to vet books for their short lists.
  • Reviews make you feel good about supporting an author whose work you enjoy and about sharing a book with a large audience.

We live in a world where people are more likely to vent Review on typewriter Markus WInkleronline if they hate something than if they love it. So, if 100 people read your book and ninety-eight people love it, odds are you might only get reviews from the two people who did not.

Here are some reasons people don’t leave book reviews:
  • I don’t have time to write a review. This is totally understandable, but a review does not need to be long. A short comment on whether you liked it or hated it, and maybe one thing that stood out or how it made you feel. “Loved it. The main character was so engaging.” It will take a little more than the time it takes to read the latest meme but is so much more rewarding.
  • I got the book as a gift or borrowed it from a library so I can’t review it. While verified purchases may receive a higher rating, you actually can look for the book on Amazon (once you have bought at least $50 of any kind of merchandise on Amazon with a valid credit or debit card) and leave a review regardless of whether you purchased it or not. And you can always leave a review on Goodreads regardless of your purchasing power. 
  • The author has a lot of books/ a lot of reviews/ is with a major publisher so my review will not matter. All reviews are important to authors and yours might just be the one that interests one more reader buy the book.
  • I don’t know how to leave a book review. Here is a tutorial on how to leave a review on Goodreads reviewsAmazon and on Goodreads. You need a Goodreads account to leave a review there, but you can easily sign up with your FB account and it’s a fun place to talk about books and find new reads.

Be kind. Remember that you are not ranking the book against Pulitzer prize winning novels. A five-star means that this was a truly enjoyable book for you, not that it was the greatest book ever written. I personally don’t write reviews unless I am recommending a book or if the book is objectively problematic. I don’t see the need to damage an author’s reputation because I did not connect with a book.

Thanks for reading! I am off to write reviews for the last few books I read!

(Feature photo by Kira auf der Heide)

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