After just releasing my first mystery, The Clock Strikes Midnight, I’ve been struggling to get reviews posted. As a reader I depend on reviews (or word of mouth) to decide what to read. I listen to radio reviews of the top bestsellers, and I also read reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It helps me determine if a book is right for me. Not everyone likes what I like. That’s why I enjoy reading all the reviews. Then I often order a sample to taste the book before committing myself. My guess is many readers do the same thing.
The one difference between what I do as a reader and other readers do is I write reviews. After I finish a book, I go to Amazon and Goodreads and post my thoughts. I do this as a way to pay back all those reviewers who helped me decide what to do. I suppose I naively thought everyone did the same thing. I have many reader friends, avid readers like me. I assumed they did as I did. Read and reviewed books. I was mistaken. My friends, colleagues and connections read, but they don’t review. So many people have told me they have read The Clock Strikes Midnight, but they haven’t reviewed it. Why? “I’ve never done that before.” Okay, is that like listening to NPR and never giving. Ira Glass might say so.
What I hope this post will tell all those people who read but don’t review is we writers cherish each view. Here are my thoughts on what reviews mean to writers.
We have no other way to hear from readers. Not being bestselling writers, we are not hearing from people through fan mail. We depend on those reviews to see if all our hard-earned efforts paid off.
I’ve learned that my readers like the depth of my characters. But, some have said the characters were not all likable. Granted some of the characters weren’t supposed to be likable. But, I wonder which characters were considered unlikable. I do hope my main characters were likable in the end. This is something I would never know were it not for the reviews.
When you write a pithy sentence in your review, I cut and paste it for my Tweets. I also talk about my book in those terms. Amazon compiles what is said in reviews most often. I use those statements to help people understand what readers are saying about the book.
We don’t get paid very much (or anything at all). It’s through the reviews where we get our pats on the back. Recently one of my writer colleagues posted an amazing review in our Yahoo writers group. She did this to spread the word about her book, but also because she felt so rewarded by the review. We all loved reading it and getting vicarious thrills up our backs.
Indeed we know not everyone will love our work. That happens. I’ve written bad reviews of books, but I’m very careful. I want readers to know what I liked and what I didn’t like, but I don’t want to crush the writer’s spirit. If you write a bad review, think about that lonely writer sitting day and night at his/her computer. That writer has no one to share the work with. He or she must go it alone and hope others understand what prompted a decision to g
o one way or another. Be kind, but be truthful. There’s no need to crush a writer. Just share what you liked and what you didn’t like.
Bad reviews aren’t all bad. If the reviewer is honest, the writer can learn from that review and grow. In the end, as a writer we must expect that not every reader is going to love our work. But if they respect our work, it’s worth it.
Keep it up and remember your review means a lot to the writers and keeps us motivated to keep writing.