Reader reviews are one of the most fundamental ways we authors have of getting our books out into the world. Tragically, we have a harder time getting readers to write those reviews than we do convincing them to eat their own…
But, Josh, I hear you thinking, we’re not all mountain hermits like yourself with nothing better to do. You think it’s easy for us to come up with some fancy review?
First of all, mean. And second, who the heck’s talking about anything fancy?
Here’s an example of a perfectly good review: “The thing I enjoyed most about this book was [insert literally anything here].”
Or even: “Really liked it!”
Or how about just giving it some stars?
I believe the psychology behind why it’s so hard to get people to leave reviews (and I count myself as one of those people) is that we’re mostly driven to give feedback for things we hate. That visceral response of dissatisfaction or even rage makes us want to lash out, to hurt others like they’ve hurt us. Whereas the joy and engagement that comes from a well-written tale fills us with a sense of contentment, and contentment doesn’t make us want to do anything but sit there basking in it. Just think about what gets you commenting most on social media!
Now, of course, many readers do write reviews. And people like that are angels on Earth who mean the world to us authors. And here’s why they’re so important…
Many people require what’s known as “social proof”—as in, others saying something is good—before choosing anything, whether it’s a book, car, or date. In fact, some people won’t give anything an honest try unless they’re given permission in advance to like it.
Just as important, good reviews give books a bump in the algorithm so it pops up on people’s feed (and if you get 50 Amazon reviews, I’ve heard your book gets included in some newsletter).
My cosmic folk horror novella, MALINAE from D&T Publishing, has sold pretty darned well, recently won “Novella of the Year” at Horror Author’s Guild 2021 Baba Yaga Awards, and scores of people have personally told me how much they enjoyed it. While I deeply appreciate everyone who has left reviews, thus far it’s only got a couple of dozen ratings on Amazon (barely more than SUSIE THE FARTING CAT!). What that means is MALINAE almost never comes up organically on anyone’s feed.
Speaking of reviews, remember when you’d take a test in school, and you had three options for grades?
1. 100% (A+)
2. 80% (B-)
3. 60% or below (F)
Yeah, me neither. But that’s how the 5-star rating system used by Amazon, Goodreads, and almost everywhere else works. Can we please go back to ten?
Now I get not wanting to give every book you like a perfect score. But ask yourself this: If that book was a test of 100 questions, could you really point out 20 they got dead wrong? If not, why not round up and give the poor shlub 5 stupid stars? It’s not like you’ll run out!
Anyway, thanks again to those of you who review books, and an extra thanks to those who’ve reviewed or are soon to review MALINAE (or THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR, which I edited for Denver Horror Collective).
Remember, unlike during an election, book reviews are one place your vote actually makes a difference! (kidding!)