The Importance of Book Reviews – Why and How

Guest Post by Jeanne Felfe, Author of the Booklife Prize 2017 Quarterfinalist novel The Art of Healing

After you read a book, do you leave a review in at least one place: Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, B&N, Net Gallery, skywriting, etc? You can usually leave a review anywhere books are sold online, regardless of whether you bought it there. In 2015, I decided to leave at least one review for every book I read. Why? Mostly because I had to honestly ask how I could expect readers to review my books if I wasn’t willing to do the same. I keep track of the books in a simple spreadsheet—title, author, genre, date read, quick thoughts, where reviewed, and how I know the author (in real life (IRL), Facebook, signing, etc.)

Why is it important to write reviews?

Bottom line—reviews help readers decide which books to spend their money and time reading. I always read reviews prior to purchasing, especially if it’s by an author I’ve never read. Reviews provide genuine feedback that helps me allocate limited resources. By reviewing books you’ve read, you can have a direct impact on convincing others to also read it (or not). Word-of-mouth plays a tremendous role in determining whether a new book “makes” it. Reviews aren’t just an ego boost for the author—reviews actually play a part in how often a book shows up in searches, Amazon exposure, and ad opportunities.

Another reason to write reviews is that it provides you an opportunity to improve your copywriting skills. Copywriting skills you might ask? Yes! Regardless of how they are published, authors are responsible for a huge portion of their own promotion. Practicing writing snappy, concise reviews will help you write your own back cover copy, promotional ads, and snippets in various online forums, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

How do you write a review?

I’m sure we’ve all seen reviews that read like short stories—they take up multiple pages, and often include spoilers. I rarely read those. Instead, I look for short reviews I can consume in a bite. A few sentences is plenty. Include what you liked and didn’t like (and why), but NO spoilers.

What if, for whatever reason, you don’t feel you can leave a positive review? Who said a review must be positive—it’s more important to leave an honest review, even if it means leaving a lower star rating. When I check reviews, I first look at a few 1-stars—I want to know quickly what readers hated—some reveal things I might not want to read that aren’t obvious in the book’s description. Next, I look at some 5-stars—I want to know what readers loved. Lastly, I look at a few 3-stars—these are generally the most honest and relevant because they are likely from readers with no connection to the author.

What do you do if you might have liked the story, but the mechanics left something to be desired—editing, formatting, etc. If the book is self-published, consider contacting the author directly and let them know your thoughts. Some authors (the smart ones) will welcome your input as long as you’re truly trying to be helpful. You could save them a huge amount of wasted time and money on promotion by letting them know their book isn’t quite ready for prime time. Can this approach backfire and result in an offended author? Of course. But personally, I would rather a reader come directly to me so I have an opportunity to improve. If the book is traditionally published, you can still contact the author with what you’ve found wrong. You can also contact the publisher. Does all of that sound like work? It doesn’t have to be anything more than a simple email or Facebook private message (do not do this in a public forum).

As an author, you should be reading deeply and widely. While doing so, consider taking a few minutes after you turn that last page to leave a review. Someone might just do the same for you one day.

 

About Jeanne Felfe

Jeanne Felfe is a multi-published author writing in the mid-western part of the United States. Her debut novel, The Art of Healing, was a Quarterfinalist in The Booklife Prize 2017 competition. Since 2014, she’s had more than twenty short stories and essays published in a variety of anthologies. In 2017, her personal essay, Amidst The Weeds, won first place in the inaugural contest for the online magazine, Fiftiness.com.

Jeanne serves on the boards of both The Missouri Writers’ Guild, and its chapter, Saturday Writers.

You can find her at: http://jeannefelfe.com

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