I recently tweeted a photo of my “TBR” pile . . . not “to be READ,” but “to be REVIEWED.”
I’d been giving my work area a far-too-long-delayed cleaning, in an attempt to regain (the illusion of) control over my collection of books. On an impulse, I started stacking up books I’d read but to the best of my recollection had not yet reviewed . . . oh, my. What a guilt-inducing exercise!
Why guilt-inducing? Because some of those books are Indie-published. Even for traditionally-published writers, their reviews play a part in their ranking on Amazon’s lists. And an Indie without very many reviews is in many ways INVISIBLE.
As Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant note in their indispensable Write. Publish. Repeat, (white spine, middle of my pile; sorry, guys, soon, I promise!), “Regardless of whether your reviews make you feel good or bad, that’s not what matters in the big picture. Reviews mainly matter because they serve as social proof. The more reviews a book has, the more legitimate it will appear to people . . .” (italics are mine; p. 299 of the print version).
If someone reviewed a book, that is supposed to mean they read it (please DO read them! Anything else is fraudulent behavior that no one appreciates and many websites have effective means of punishing).
I have often held back from writing a review if I am critical of some aspect of the book, but (especially for Indies) I’m trying to mend my ways in that respect, at least on sites such as Amazon. That’s because even critical reviews are valuable. (I still prefer not to review books I just don’t like at all, on this blog)
Critical reviews are never fun for authors to get, but even if a certain percentage of those who read the book didn’t like it and say so in a review–they still were interested enough to read part or all of the book, and cared enough to write a review. Others might read what was meant to be a thumbs-down, and think, “hey, that sounds interesting!” (because not everything one person dislikes is “bad” to someone else).
Let me give you a case in point. I double-checked my memory about several of the books in that pile (“did I really not write that review? I sure meant to!”). In the cross-checking I ran across a review by someone else for Remanence, by Jennifer Foehner Wells (I did review that one, thank you!! Also posted the review on this blog, which should tell you what I thought about it).
The guy (yes, it was a guy, but you guessed that, I bet) who wrote it criticized “the amount of time spent developing a touchy feely/romantic relationship between two main characters.”
This, of course, is one of the many things I love about Wells’s novels: three-dimensional characters who are more than just their job or their mission. They have personal lives and relationships (not all of them romantic) with other characters. Thus, this guy’s “I dislike this” review reflected an aspect I really liked, and (alongside all the reviews by folks who loved the book) might have induced me to read it, if I hadn’t already enthusiastically done so.
So go ahead and write those reviews. Take the time–especially if you liked the book, and double-especially if the author hasn’t garnered 1,000 reviews yet!
For an Indie (basing this guideline on Platt & Truant, again), 10 or more reviews are reasonable, but not stellar. More than 100 reviews means the author’s made a respectable showing, and might be worth a look from someone who’s not sure. More than 1,000 puts the writer in a much more impressive league, alongside bigger-name, more established writers. Every review is important, even if it isn’t the one that pushes the writer over a threshold, because every review gets them one step closer.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go write some book reviews . . . .
IMAGES: I took the photo of my own “TBR Tower.” If you wish to re-post it, please do so with an attribution to Jan S. Gephardt and a link back to this blog post. I found the “I support Indie Authors” meme on Jo March’s blog, via Pinterest. Thanks, Jo! The cover image for Jennifer Foehner Wells’s Remanence is from her website. The cover artwork is by Stephan Martiniere. If you haven’t yet read Remanence, you should buy it from Amazon and read it! Don’t miss the rest of the Confluence Series, either!