Saturday, 28 May 2011

An opinion on reviews: the gloves are off!!

Pictures this: a reader searching for a potential book to buy in order to enjoy a lunch break, commuting, holiday, evening in, you name it. He or she finds the description of your book appealing enough to decide spending precious spare time with your main charactes and story. How wonderful is that? Nowadays, it looks like this:

E-publishing has shaken up the whole industry. Authors who have been rejected by agents and publishers in the past are now let loose onto the reader. While that's a good thing, it has its downsides: authors are a one-man company, responsible for everything including generating sales.
Today, I'd like to focus on reviews.
Many authors seem to think it's the reader's duty to review their books. I am of a different opinion: it's their choice. I've seen authors moaning and complaining that nobody reviews their book and quite frankly, I'm sick of reading it. Readers are readers, reviewers are reviewers and most writers are confident enough to write one, too.
Two years ago, I was a reader who browsed through book shops, going home with a few and did what readers do: reading. When I finished, I'd tell my friends about it, good or bad. It wouldn't have occurred to me to write a review, go back to the shop to hand it in or write an e-mail to the author. Neither would I expect this today. Don't get me wrong, I know reviews are important to help potential buyers decide, especially since we indie authors are on our own, but I wouldn't expect a review from anyone who's bought my book. I've asked a few people I know are confident to write one to give an honest opinion on the upcoming book, but I would never put a note in my book asking the reader directly. As a reader, I personally would be put off. Two years ago, it might have left me showing a similar expression:

The common reader, won't know anything about style, voice and character development. Some might not even know much about punctuation (I certainly didn't). All they care for is: does this book fulfil my expectations? Does it make me laugh, cry, feel with the protagonist? Does it leave me with a fluffy feeling when I finish? That's all they want.
So how to get reviews? If you're on facebook or twitter, look around, search for reviewers, make a call for them on fora. There are plenty of people who offer them. Some have threads asking for books in certain genres. Get in touch. Don't ask the poor reader to offer feedback that should have been done before publishing. Be grateful if you receive one, good or bad.

Let the reader do his or her job, that is reading and do yours, that is writing a good story, because that's what really matters and sells in the end.

Rant over. :-) I wish you all a happy weekend.


  1. I agree. Although I'm a writer and I understand why they do it, I find a call to review at the back of a book rather off-putting. When I raved to an indie author about his book, he thanked me and asked if I would mind reviewing it on Goodreads. After telling him how amazing it was I thought, yeah, I'm kind of preaching to the choir here, so I went and wrote the review.

    But as you say, most readers aren't going to get technical. They just know whether or not they liked it, they don't necessarily know why. I think it's best to leave it to them to decide whether or not they want to review. As you say, their job in this particular hierarchy is to read and enjoy. They don't HAVE to tell everyone else whether or not they did, or why.

  2. Correct. I see people moaning everywhere. If you stumble over an opportunity to ask someone to review, fine, but it's the general expectation of authors that really gets me.

  3. I have never in my life heard of anyone asking for a review at the end of their book! Really?

    What's great about places like Goodreads is that avid readers can star a work without writing a review. I think we often forget that writing so much as a post-it is hard for most folks. Authors play with words every day, and so I've grown accustomed to putting my thoughts on paper, but my reader friends HATE it. They are riddled with insecurity, afraid that they're going to sound like an idiot, or someone is going to find fault with their grammar. I agree with you, Stella. We should let the readers do what they do best ... love the stories and tell their book club.

  4. I so agree with you. I read to enjoy, to relax, chill out. If, at the end of a book I were asked to write a review I would feel put upon. And feel a little guilty, because I hadn't done it. Which, would really, really encourage me not to read anything by that author again. (Wasn't the fact that I paid for the book, enough?) There - that's my rant done.