How Important Are Reviews?

article-new-ds-photo-getty-article-129-37-92826390_XS-ehowAuthors write for many reasons, but one big reason (presumably) is because we want others to read our novels, stories, poems, or essays.

 

gatekeepersThe publishing world has changed significantly since the days when I was first writing. Back then (and at the risk of aging myself, we’re talking about the first half of the 1990’s, LOL) there was one path to having your work available to readers: traditional publishers. They were the gatekeepers, the “golden ticket” to a tangible, beautiful book on a shelf, distribution, and ultimately, readers.

The publisher handled things like galleys, and securing reviews from reputable reviewers who would then print those reviews in publications or later, online, to entice (provided the review was good), readers to give the story a try.

I’ve had my share of great (and a few not so great) reviews. Several of my books won or placed as a finalist for national awards like Reviewer’s International Organization or the Romance Writer’s of America RITA Award (Secret Vows), or major publications like RT Book Reviews (For “Best Medieval-Set Historical” and/or “Best Historical K.I.S.S. Hero”:The Crimson Lady, The Sweetest Sin, Beyond Temptation, Sinful Pleasures). My last published novel, The Templar’s Seduction, was favorably reviewed by some major publications like Publisher’s Weekly.

But the game of reviews has changed entirely, now that I’m moving forward on my own. I’m technically still a hybrid author (the phrase coined by Bob Mayer back in 2011), in that several of my books are still being published by HarperCollins; however, with the shift into a new genre and after a seven year hiatus wherein I didn’t put out any new books, the landscape has changed.

call_for_reviewersI’m actively seeking reputable reviewers/venues to review my upcoming book. In about three weeks, I will have printed galleys available to send, even, if that is preferred over digital copies.

But of course being one of literally thousands of self-publishing authors in today’s book and reading landscape changes things. I liken it to several thousand people standing in a field, waving flags and calling out, “Look at Me!” “Pick me!”

That’s what reviewers (and ultimately readers) have to choose from.

How can they tell what books are well-written, well-researched, professionally edited and copy-edited, with care and professionalism?

They can’t.

And therein lies the problem.

buried-in-books courtesy of the brainy bookblog

photo courtesy of the brainybookblog.com

In today’s publishing landscape, it’s exciting and open and anyone with a great idea can write their book and put it out there. The gatekeepers are gone. But it leaves an abundance of material from which reviewers and readers must choose, and the ringing question becomes, how to on one’s own accomplish what the gatekeeper’s used to do: secure at least a read from reputable reviewers. Of course there is no guarantee the work will get a positive review…but one will never know if one’s book never even makes it onto a reviewer’s desk.

So, what do you think? For readers (who may or may not also be writers), how important are reviews for noticing a book you might want to read? Do you have other tried-and-tried methods of finding books to try?

For writers, how do you handle the business of reviews? Do you actively seek them out, or just wait until after your book comes out for your everyday reader reviews to come in on amazon and the like?

 

 

10 thoughts on “How Important Are Reviews?

  1. Sandi Christman says:

    Mary, I have to say that I pay the most attention to my friends’ recommendations when I consider purchasing a book. This does not get the book out to the public, though. I am influenced by critiques online, critiques in the media, and critiques in magazines. Since most of what I read is digital, I also read the reviews published there, but don’t give them as much credence. You do have a quandary to sort through with this. All my best! I am looking forward to reading the newest installment in your publishing saga.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, Sandi! I hear what you’re saying and think the process is pretty organic for most readers…which is where the marketing conundrum comes in. People can’t read what they don’t know exists. However, who, except the huge traditional publishing companies, has the kind of budget that allows for exposure?

      I suppose I will just have to put it out there and hope that if someone reads it and likes it, they tell others about it and encourage them to buy it etc. etc. What will be, will be and life must continue to be lived (and other books written!) in the meantime. 🙂

      Like

  2. Like youtube, wattpad, or blogging… I think people look for the number of “likes” art receives rather than recommendations by reviewers, or critics. A reviewer is a single positive (and sometimes presumptuous and well paid) opinion, 100,000 likes is 100,000 positive opinions that,more likely than not,have no hidden agenda. Now more than ever we need to be self marketers especially on the web. Artists themselves must be their own agents and publishers. It is a hard task for those who love their art and hate the “business” of art.

    I have spent the last 6 months working on getting my art up on line and have sacrificed the joy in my life…creating artwork. And sadly I have only just scratched the surface. But the positive side of the last 6 months is I have learned a lot and once I have a “system” of self promotion it should go much faster and I will be able to find a balance between self promotion and creation of artwork.

    I wish you continued success in the future. ; )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, graphicmatrix! I hear you about the whole review thing. Some reviewers also have an ax to grind and preferences that almost ensure they won’t like a book they post a negative review about.

      I also agree about the self-marketing…but it’s a vast space in cyber-world, isn’t it? And as you’ve said, too much immersion in the business side of things can not only sacrifice the joy in one’s life, but also sap the life from one’s work. Where does that tipping point happen? Finding the balance is key, or else one’s creative spark is consumed in the fire of the world. It calls to mind one of my favorite Tennyson poems, “The Lady of Shallott”.

      Best of luck and much success to you as well. I will check out your blog further for some of your work, but if you have links to other places I should look as well, please comment again here with that. I love to support artists of all kinds, through purchases and/or shared links and exposure that way. 🙂

      Like

      • Thanks I wish I could be of help to you as well but I don’t really know how…. besides buying a book or two…. and I doubt that will change your fortunes….lol But if I come across a resource I think might be helpful I will certainly pass it on to you!

        Like

  3. A reader weighing in on your question:

    I do notice reviews on the back or cover, but… it’s only a fleeting distraction. Recommendations from friends and of course a peek at the first page ultimately pulls me in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, b4thirty8! What about full, written reviews, like the ones left by people at amazon, Goodreads, or other online or magazine (like Romantic Times or Publisher’s Weekly) venues? Are they something you would look at in helping you decide whether or not to buy a book?

      Like

      • If I read full reviews, it’s usually because I have some friends on Goodreads and am curious when I see they have taken the time to write a review. I wish I could say that I research more before making selections, but I don’t. I have a genre or two that I like and that’s largely what directs my interest.

        Like

        • Ah, I see. Thanks for giving me your feedback. I’m pretty similar, so I hear you. I usually choose based on interest and reading about the book…though I will sometimes become aware of a book by stumbling across a review. I don’t mind digging around in lists of books in a genre I like though, so that helps me find new books to read, too. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s