Thoughts on Reviews

Back in September of 2014, I posted this:

Like many new independent authors, I was naive about the publishing and marketing world. I believed when an author wrote a book, if it was published and got good reviews, it meant success was right around the corner. (Great American novel…or at least great American cozy, here I come!)

 

After publishing four novels, all getting pretty decent reviews, and finally dipping my toe into promotion and marketing, my fantasy bubble has well and truly burst. While there are a few lucky authors whose writing careers took off the way I’d ignorantly imagined, most of us must scramble frantically simply to get our books noticed and begin to build a reader base.

 

I was surprised when I learned of some of the ways being used to get reviews and push good ones to the top of the list. I had foolishly assumed after the first few reviews from the author’s friends and family, all the rest were authentically from readers who cared enough about a book to post a critique. Imagine my dismay to read a nasty “revenge” review of a friend’s book, after she had given an honest, but unflattering review of another author’s work. Who does that?

 

Loss of innocence can be a painful experience, but usually one which leads to  greater wisdom and maturity. I’m looking ahead with eyes more widely open than before, but with hopes and dreams intact, as I learn to swim in the turbulent waters of the independent author.

Since that posting, Amazon has made efforts to improve the review process, but it remains fairly iffy.  A recent survey on a Facebook readers’ group asked readers what the three stars in a review meant to them. The responses showed exactly how inexact the review process is. About half the respondents said three stars meant, “Okay” or “Average” and anything less was a stinker. The other half said three stars was a bad review, four stars was average and five stars was reserved for really outstanding books. Quite a few of those surveyed admitted they only give good reviews, to spare an authors’ feelings, further skewing the average.

All of this is to say that authors and readers alike should not put too much faith in the average star rating of books. I’d suggest disregarding the best and worst of them and letting the book description and sample pages be your guide.

2 Responses

  1. I’ve counted myself lucky to get more good reviews than bad. But I don’t get as many as I’d like from the stand point that it does drive the algorithms at Amazon and other sites and gives you more exposure. I don’t give away free copies of my book for reviews. And I can’t be sure those few I’ve given away at facebook parties and other marketing things have even been read. It’s a crap shoot. All I know is I really appreciate the ones I get because I’ve worked months writing a book and I try and take heart in the words of those who brag on those efforts. I try to take away something worth learning from the harsh critiques of those few who didn’t like the story, the characters, or whatever else the reviewer has taken issue with. And I always comment in a positive manner on the reviews even if they’re bad.

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