I have to be honest: I’ve never been a fan of writing book reviews.
As a reader, I didn’t understand why my opinion mattered so much. Plus if I didn’t like the book I certainly didn’t want to hurt the author’s feelings (that’s my people-pleasing on full display for you!). In my mind, it was better if I just stayed quiet.
But all that changed a few years ago when I started writing again. And dreamed of being published.
If I were to ever put a book out into the world, then I knew I would have to deal with reader reviews – likes, dislikes, praises, and the ever-dreaded one-star comments – and I needed to support other authors by leaving them honest reviews of their books as well.
With the upcoming release of my debut novel, Perfectly Arranged, I’ve started to think about reviews more and more and have come to realize how much they really matter.
For both the author and reader alike.
Why book reviews matter
So you may be asking, what’s the big deal with reviews? It’s just someone’s random opinion on a book they read, right? Well yes and no.
Although most reviews can be subjective, they can be a goldmine of information for an author:
- Reviews can provide an author with an idea of who is reading their book. In the writing world, authors don’t write books for everyone; they write books with an ideal audience in mind. While a reviewer doesn’t provide all the information an author might want (age, genre preference, etc), they can get a pretty good idea of who is, and who isn’t, reading their material.
- Reviews can offer authors insights into what they did well in their book. Great dialogue? Fast-paced action? Deep, well-rounded characters? Honest reviews about a book or the writing lets writers know where their skills were strong and allows them to use that as confidence-building momentum as they continue working on their craft. On the other hand, a negative review can identify areas where an author might want to focus for future works, which should also be helpful.
- Reviews can influence readers/buyers as to whether or not they should purchase a book. If a book has lots of positive reviews, then it’s likely others will want to read it as well. In other words, reviews are powerful influencers and can make or break an author and their ability to survive in the book world.
- Reviews affect how people find or see an author’s books. While no one can actually claim how the algorithms works, the more positive reviews a book has on Amazon (which is the world’s largest bookstore) the more Amazon will show and share that book with others. That in turn, means more eyes on a writer’s work and more opportunities to get their book into the hands of new readers.
- Reviews can make an author feel good. Although not the point of a review, an honest, positive review can make an author feel good about the work they put out into the world. Writers are often insecure about themselves and the words they weave together, so having someone say how much they enjoyed the story, the writing, the characters, or the message they were trying to convey can go a long way in boosting their morale.
So now that we know how reviews impact authors, let’s turn the tables and see why they should matter to readers as well:
- Reviews can influences readers/buyers as to whether or not they should purchase a book. Yes, I said it above, but this time let’s look at it from the reader’s point of view. There are millions of books listed on Amazon. Even if you filtered down your criteria, you’d still get a large number of hits in a search. Who has time to browse all those books to find one they might like? Exactly. No one. So what do people do? They look at the reviews. If there are several positive reviews or a large number of them, they will likely go with that title versus one that only has ten reviews. Again, reviews are powerful influencers and can keep you from reading books you’ll never finish.
- Reviews help you determine the book’s value beyond the blurb. As enticing as the back cover copy may be (aka the book blurb), it doesn’t always reflect what the book is truly about. Blurbs are marketing copy meant to entice you to open the book and start reading. What it doesn’t do is communicate the messages, themes, and values the author is trying to convey. So how can a reader find out what those are? By reading reviews of those who have already read the book. It’s the best insight as to whether or not a book might or might not be a good fit for a particular reader.
- Reviews allow readers to let their voices be heard. Whether positive or negative, readers have an opinion on a book. It’s only fair that they have a right to express that opinion (as long as it’s done in a positive, non-condemning way) and let their feelings or thoughts on the book, and how it affected them, be heard.
- Reviews can be considered a thank you note to the writer/author. Writing a book is truly a labor of love. For authors, it can be nice to read a review that shows how their words made an impact on a reader. That’s why they write.
If reviews matter so much to both the writer and the reader, then why don’t more people post them? Good question…
Why readers don’t leave reviews
While I can’t answer for every book reader out there, I think there are a few general reasons why people don’t leave reviews:
- They don’t know how to write a review. Although it doesn’t have to be scary, fear of what to write in a review can keep some readers from leaving one. That shouldn’t be the case. You don’t need a English degree to post a review. Just a few simple sentences sharing the book’s premise, what you liked about the book (think characters, dialogue, plot, pacing, setting, themes, the writing overall), and whether or not you’d recommend it. To help you out even more, I created a short video that shares the do’s and don’ts of writing a review:
- They falsely believe if they didn’t actually buy the book they can’t leave a review. Wrong. Books make great gifts and perhaps you received one as a birthday present, or if you’re like me, you love your local library and check books out from there rather than purchasing them. Either way, just because you didn’t purchase the book doesn’t get you off the hook about leaving a review. Amazon, Goodreads and BookBub all allow you to share your opinion about a book even if you didn’t hand over a few bucks to read it.
- They don’t want to hurt an author’s feelings. Like I said before, books are a labor of love for an author. But most authors have grown thick skin; it’s a necessity in the industry. If you don’t like a book, don’t be afraid to tell the author, just do it in a way that is polite and kind. There’s no reason anyone should leave nasty reviews. If you don’t like a book, that’s okay. Not every book is for everybody, just don’t demoralize the author in the process.
- They think that if they don’t leave a review right away, they can never leave one. Again, this is just false thinking. It doesn’t matter if you read the book and leave a review 6 minutes, 6 days, or 6 months after finishing it, what’s most important is that you leave one! If you need an easy tip to help you with this, log the book in your reading journal with all the details of what you liked, when you read it, etc. and once a month spend 10 minutes copying and pasting a review on the different websites (again, Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub).
As you can see, book reviews matter. For everyone.
You don’t need to write a novel to leave a review. Just a few short sentences will suffice. But to the author whose work you’re reviewing, and for other potential readers, it can make a world of difference. So why not just do it? It matters more than you think.