I don’t know about you, but more days than not I see posts being shared by authors and bloggers emphasising the importance of leaving a review after reading a book. “How to really make an author happy? Review their book!” or authors offering books for free with the hope of having some reviews left afterwards.
It can be easy to think that this is all for monetary reasons; buy my book and then review it telling everyone else to read it so I can make more sales and be laughing all the way to the bank (which will probably be closed anyway…) but actually, there are many more important reasons why reviews mean so much to authors and readers alike.
I have worked with several authors now, some of which are traditionally published, some of which are self-published. Some have topped the New York Times Bestsellers lists, some have only made a handful of sales to close friends and family. They vary in their content, their background and their successes but, every author I have worked with shares one thing in common; they care. They have moments where they doubt themselves, their talent, their story. It doesn’t matter if a top 5 publisher has snapped up their book, it doesn’t matter if their best friend who is their toughest critic says it’s their best yet – they still question “Is it good enough? Will people like it? Will a reader ‘get’ what I was hoping?”
When publication day comes around, authors have told me they feel anxious and nervous. They almost dread the first reviews coming in. They’re filled with self-doubt but it’s too late to make a change now. So, when the reviews pop up on Amazon, Goodreads, Netgalley etc and are shared on social media, and they’re positive, the reader has ‘got’ it! They liked it! They were ‘moved’, ‘immersed’ and ‘lost’, the author lets out a sigh of relief. They are reassured, their sensitive souls eased for a while and they feel inspired and encouraged to continue with the next book.
Whether you write reviews or you write novels, it can be a lonely place. You can spend a lot of your time in your own company writing away. By reading reviews, you are part of a community – you’re sharing your opinion with people, you’re interacting as you forward details to others, you’re part of something. Friendships can flourish through reaching others with your love of books. With the likes of Instagram hashtags, Facebook book lover groups and Twitter author take-over accounts, there is no better time to feel a part of something. Reading has become fashionable, gone are the days where you’d be smirked at if you said you preferred snuggling up with a brew and a book to partying the weekend away, now you’re accepted, part of something and on-trend! By reviewing, you’re not only helping market that book for the author, but you’re helping yourself become a part of something, to meet others, to enjoy sharing your opinion.
Reaching a wider audience
How do you find out about books? Through tube posters? Reviews in magazines? Whatever is on the shelves in the supermarket or being promoted on Amazon? Sometimes, the very best books I have read, have been because a review has popped up on my timeline and I’ve liked the sound of it and instantly gone to purchase it. I wouldn’t have come across these books otherwise and I know I’m not the only one. There are only a certain amount of books which can be highly promoted and appear on billboards and the sides of busses, by reviewing and sharing your thoughts you’re helping more books be seen, be in front of people who would enjoy them but not necessarily have come across them if it wasn’t for your review. Your review is putting the book ‘out there’ and providing it with a whole host of possibilities that it may not otherwise have had. There are a whole host of amazing books that have been written and deserve to be devoured by others but don’t have a huge publicity team behind them, reviewers can help widen the audience for these books.
Sometimes, we may see a book and something may put us off – perhaps the cover isn’t one which would normally appeal or a book in the same genre was one you didn’t enjoy very much or perhaps the publisher’s description isn’t intriguing enough. Sometimes, it is the reviews which really reach out to us, that are believable and realistic and enable us to relate to the reviewer. The review may relate to us – the person who wrote it also has a limited amount of time to read but still made lots of time for this novel (wow it must be good then!) or they didn’t like the previous novel by this author but this one is a million times better… something within the review may capture you, may make you trust the opinion of the reviewer more than that of the publisher or the quotes which are on the cover. Of course, the publisher will tell you this is a ‘gripping, out of this world thriller with a shocking twist’ or ‘the best book you’ll read this year’, but a reviewer? They don’t have to use such language, they don’t have to tell the audience to go and buy it. Instead, they feel more real and it almost makes us trust the words of the reviewer more. If a reviewer has taken the time to review the book and share their thoughts with others, then what they have to say is valuable. Reviewers, therefore, can be a lot more influential than the marketing gurus behind a book. You, the reviewer, has the power to make a big difference.
Ultimately, the main hope from authors is that when people review their books, that it will encourage others to read them. Your review can do just that but it doesn’t only benefit the author; it may help the reader too. There are many different reasons why someone may choose to read the book; escapism, to learn from, to gain comfort from… they may feel depressed and lacking the motivation to pick up a book, they may not even know where to start in terms of which book to read next… your review could be the little nudge they need to pick up that book. It could help give them the escapism, the lesson, the comfort that they need. Yes, an author will be smiling and happy that your review has reached more people and encouraged them to buy their book too, but the reader may be influenced even more by your decision to review.
Writing a review of a book can feel like you’re providing feedback to the author, that it is the author and the publisher who are benefiting from it and it’s all about sales and money and stats… but actually there are humans behind the scenes and these humans – whether it be the anxious author, the demotivated reader, the isolated booklover – can benefit hugely from someone who has taken the time to review a book.
Authors, readers, bloggers, people who don’t normally choose to pick up a book, can all appreciate the review for a variety of reasons.
So, next time you read a book and you’re wondering whether to review it, think about the number of lives your words could touch.