Reviews ~ The Kiss of Death or Heaven in Words

Your book has been published. You anxiously await the sales to get moving, to see the rankings moving toward the top 100, the top 10, or even the coveted number 1 spot. Then, while “ghosting” on Amazon, you see a review. Anxiously, you glance at the number of stars first and reality hits.

This reality can be a fist pumping screech of joy when you see five stars and a glowing review, or a “meh” at seeing three or four stars, with things mentioned like cliché, needs editing or proofreading, or plot thin. Your heart stutters if there are only two stars, and you’re wondering just what this person was thinking. Or there might a single star with the words “don’t bother with this book, not worth your while.”

What do the stars in a review system mean? Basically, they’re a single point to indicate how the reviewer felt about your book. Most reviewers won’t rate below three stars, unless the book has far too many problems with it to do so. Other people will use the review system as revenge for imagined slights, to slam another person’s book in an attempt to drive them out of the market. One thing we must all remember about reviews, whether reading or writing them.

A review is subjective. It’s the opinion of the person writing the review. That is why it’s so important to research well before you ask someone to review your book.

There are several types of reviews. Let’s look at each one.

First, there are those reviews by your family and friends. Unless you have an unusual family, those reviews can be counted on to be the best ones you’ll receive. They will speak of your writing in glowing terms. They’ll wax poetic over how much they loved the characters. Not once will they refer to any problems they noticed, since they don’t want to hurt your feelings. At best, while viscerally these reviews are great ego strokers, you should ignore these reviews and concentrate on other reviews.

Second are the reviews that come from people you don’t know who read your book. These are the best reviews. They are the ones without a connection to you. These are from your fans. A lot of these reviews will be four and five star, because a fan will like your work most of the time, unless you take a very different turn from your normal style. Even then, you might be able to sway your readers to follow your new style, if you make the book one that they’ll turn back to time and again.

Third are the solicited reviews. These are done by bloggers who don’t expect anything but a copy of your book to give you their opinion. A few of these types of reviews will bite you in the checkbook, if you let them. I don’t recommend soliciting a review from places that charge a fee. Kirkus Reviews is one of these types of reviewers. They give no time frame as to when your book will be reviewed, nor do they guarantee a good review, but they charge between $425 and $575 for the honor of having a Kirkus review. That’s a bit costly for most authors, who are struggling to brand their name and gather a following. Then there is the New York Times review. Who doesn’t want a review done by this well-known newspaper? Perhaps you had better rethink that. Their submission process includes the statement that an author's books must be available in a bookstore. That’s a brick and mortar bookstore, not the usual online venues. Today’s smart publisher uses print on demand (POD) to publish their print books. Why? Because of the ability to only have enough copies of your printed as have sold. There are no rows of warehouses with boxes of books stacked from floor to ceiling, awaiting orders from bookstores. The masses of people required to fulfill these orders aren’t necessary either. Those savings are reflected directly in the lower cost of a book, which in these economically strapped times is welcome.

My advice here is to concentrate on the many bloggers all too willing to review books and put the word out about them. Also, bloggers will post that review to Amazon and Goodreads without being asked. You’re gaining the potential of hundreds of new fans if their followers decide they want to read your book.

There’s an old saying—You get what you pay for. In this instance, it’s more like, you get what you don’t pay for. The review where the only cost is a copy of your book is apt to do you more good than the one you pay for.

Fourth is the revenge review, generally rated at 1 star with the caveat that if there was a no star, they would have used it. These seem to be getting more and more popular for many reasons. It could be someone who doesn’t like you and has decided this is the place to hurt you. Or a fellow author who is jealous of your sales and tries to destroy your fan base by trashing your book. Whatever the reason, these particular reviews hurt the most and you are usually stuck with them, unless you can prove the person didn’t purchase the book and you didn’t provide them with a copy to review.

Reviews are a subjective analysis of your book, someone else’s opinion. That’s all. The best way to handle reviews is to hold your head high and move on. Never get into a discussion with someone who gave your book a poor review. That will only hurt you in the long run. Hold your head high and act as if that person’s words don’t hurt.


C.Ley said…
Whatever the review, you got someone's attention! ;-)
Donna Alice said…
Good review of reviews! Very succinct and to the point! So hoping for more 4 and 5 star reviews in my own work.
KC Sprayberry said…
The only problem with reviews, as I see them, is they're subjective, based on a single person's opinion. Unfortunately, we need them to attract attention to our books.