Liked It? Review It!

Making decisions is something most of us don’t relish. I’m not talking about the big decisions here — buying a house or car, getting married, moving, having children (not always a decision!) — I’m talking about the little things. We’ve all had this conversation while driving or walking along with our significant other:

“Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?”

“I’m not sure. You pick.”

“I picked last time. It’s your turn.”

“No. I chose the last restaurant. You pick.”

“No, you.”

“No, you.”

Sometimes a squabble ensues; often the decision ends up being the same old place you always go, or nowhere at all. But how much does that discussion change if one of you read a restaurant review in the local paper?

“Where do you want to eat?”

“I just read a review of this place, ‘Joe’s Eats’. The reviewer said it was good. Let’s try that.”

“Okay.”

Much easier, right? You could substitute choosing a movie, going to see a band, or a host of other similar situations and the conversation remains essentially the same. The problem is that we don’t want to take responsiblity for a choice and end up disappointed. Then it’s our fault. But if the reviewer or a friend told you it was good, and it turns out they were wrong, you have someone else to blame.

Here’s another example.

In my family, we don’t have cable (by choice — there’s too much time-wasting, soul-destroying crap on TV) and we used to spend a lot of money renting DVDs every month (probably more than we would have spent on cable). When Netflix came along, we remedied that situation. How is that an example? Those of you who follow my blog will remember I am Canadian, and our version of Netflix has had some problems with different studios. While I can watch Thor or Transformers 3, I went looking for Blade Runner the other day and it wasn’t there. Given the lack of selection, we are left with one way to sort through the myriad of movies we often have never heard of: the star ratings. We don’t know who rated them, but that doesn’t matter. It gives us a guide as well as an out. If we start watching a movie and it’s crap, we can still say, ‘but it had a 4.5 star rating. It’s not my fault!’ (we tend to avoid most rated less than 4 stars). More often, we discover hidden gems we would otherwise never have known about because other people who watched and enjoyed took the time to make sure we knew it was worth it.

See where I’m going?

There are literally millions of books available through Amazon. Suzanne Collins, Stephen King, James Patterson, etc., have no problem finding readers, because the readers will go looking for them. But why, with all those books to choose from, would someone in Montreal, or Dallas, or Albuquerque, bother to buy a book by some guy named Bruce Blake (insert your name here, indie authors) who they’ve never heard of?

“Well, it’s urban fantasy, I like urban fantasy — that’s good. But it’s self-published, and the last self-published book I bought was crap. But it’s only $2.99, that’s not too bad. At least if it sucks, I didn’t waste too much money. ‘On Unfaithful Wings’? Interesting title. Kind of a cool looking cover. Geez, I’m not sure; I’ve already got so many books on my Kindle. I should just get it. No, I shouldn’t. Yes, I should. No, I– Oh wait, it’s rated 4.6 stars. That’s pretty good. Hmm. Oh, what the hell. I’ll take a chance.”

Click.

Thank you.

The moral of the story is, gentle readers, if you liked it, leave a review. Let others know how much you enjoyed it. I’m not talking about ‘The Hunger Games’ here — Ms. Collins already has almost 6000 reviews on Kindle (and a movie, which doesn’t hurt sales). I’m talking about myself and all the other independent authors out there who need your help: the ones you know and got their book as a favour (see? Canadian!), the ones you picked up free during a promo, the ones you bought (usually for $3.99 or less). Don’t be nervous — no one’s expecting Ernest Hemingway to write the review. If all you’ve got is “I liked the book. You should read it”, that’ll do. I would love to have that review.

And, if I may speak on behalf of independent authors everywhere: thank you from the bottom of my heart, not only for buying my book and taking the time out of your busy life to read it (who has time for reading when it takes so long to choose a restaurant?), but also for caring enough to let other people know how much you liked it.

Thank you. Now go review someone’s book.

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13 thoughts on “Liked It? Review It!

  1. Excellent and very well written! (I have that conversation with my husband on a daily basis…..no one ever wins lol)

  2. Wonderful blog! So, so true too. At one point in life (since I enjoy cooking and come from a family
    who own restaurants) I thought of opening my own place and calling it “I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”

  3. Though I’ve been writing for two decades, I made the decision to self publish last fall, and I’m editing like crazy to get my backlog of novels published. I’m not focusing on marketing yet. Takes a lot of time. I would rather have seventeen novels available when I make a new reader aware of my brand.

    That explained, I haven’t received a single review on those I’ve published. That’s a problem, so I jump on your wagon. I’ll worry about it when I’ve got all of my novels published, though.

    But…I have read (started to read) scores of Indie books rated highly. Either the storyline was less than I expected, the technical structure was woefully lacking, or the editing was atrocious. I learned quickly a 4.6 doesn’t mean anything. I have far better enjoyed novels rated a 3.

    We Indie authors have a lot to overcome. Those throwing poorly edited work out there is the worst. But not far behind is gratuitous reviews. I’m deeply concerned about the system.

    I wish I had an answer.

    But I offer the reader this advice. Just because a person has a ton of friends willing to write a review does not a great novel make.

    Hate me! I’m a cynic.

    – Mac

    1. That’s also true, Mac. There is no perfect system, but an author with only a few reviews is more suspect than one with many. Most of us could easily coerce a few 5 star reviews out of family and friends, but I think for the most part, everything comes out in the wash. A lot of people who buy a book because it is highly rated only to find it’s literary garbage are probably more likely to leave a lower starred review.
      Having said that, I’ve read many traditionally published books that I didn’t enjoy, seen critically acclaimed movies I didn’t like, and gotten bad food or service at 5 star restaurants. Everything is a bit of a gamble (especially for an author — we read differently than many readers do), but there has to be some sort of guide in place.

    2. What Mac says makes sense. A lot of 5 stars do make me nervous, but it makes it hard for writers like me, too.

      My book was uploaded on Amazon less than a month ago. Of my 11 reviews, 10 have 5 stars. My book was also shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia prize.

      Disclosure: one of the 5 stars is by a relative, I’ll own up to it. It had to be, because it was the very first one.

      The rest are by book bloggers and other reviewers, people who’ve analyzed my book in detail and posted thought provoking reviews.

      Does that now mean it’ll scare away potential readers?

      1. I think authors tend to over-analyze this. Admittedly, when I see glowing, over-the-top reviews, I get a little suspicious, but do readers who aren’t writers see it the same way? Anyone out there reading this who is just a reader and doesn’t write have any thoughts?

  4. My most favorite novel of all time was WHITE DRAGON. I wouldn’t even give that a five. Anne went on and on a bit…a little overwritten…even though I loved the book.

    I need to investigate if Amazon has a proposed standard. To me, five means EVERY literary element is exceptional (deviating widely from the norm).

    And how many non-writers even know what a literary element is?

  5. I would love it if the Amazons and B&Ns forced a script listing the literary elements, and the reviewer HAD to click 5 stars on every element to create a 5 star rating.

    I know, this anal engineer is going on and on

    1. Remember, Mac, reviews are written for the benefit of the readers, they’re not meant as critiques for the writer. As you said, many readers can’t name literary elements (they get them, but probably can’t identify them), hell, many writers can’t. Most average readers just know what they like. If it was all about literary elements, would Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer be bestsellers?

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