This article is for readers and, of course, writers who are readers, as all writers must be. So perhaps this article is for everyone, other than those who disdain either reading or writing (poor souls).
This piece is a compilation of several posts I have previously published on this site, as far back as June 2012. Not much has changed on this subject. What I wrote then is even more applicable now. It is about the power of the review.
In “What Friends Can Do For Authors” (March 2013) I pointed out that many great books have been written, books of a such quality as to rival the best of the ages, that no one has read. Why? They were never put before the public. In the past, agents and publishers have played a shell game with books, selecting the manuscript they believe will earn them money. Quality has not been the only consideration; to make a living, publishers must consider current trends, the writer’s platform, and the expectations of that particular publisher’s readers. Nothing is more frustrating to an author than to write the greatest book never read.
In this digital age, the age of the Indie writer, it is increasingly possible for an author to bypass such obstacles. But there are new difficulties. So many books are published today that your book might well be buried under layers and layers of inferior books, never to see the light of day. While I continue to believe that great quality will eventually bring a book to the surface, the author may not live long enough to see it.
The reader’s voice has increasing impact on a book’s fate. Agents and editors admit they keep a watchful eye on reader reviews at Amazon and Goodreads, looking for that surge in popularity that suggests a potential winner, and hoping they can acquire that property in time to develop, package, and sell it. The books that sell best are those that appear to sell best by their number of strong ratings and lots of reviews. A catch 22, of sorts.
When visiting sites like Amazon.com and browsing through the infinite layers of books and eBooks, the reader may believe (if indeed we actually think about it) that the best favor we can do an author is buy the book. Actually, that’s the second best favor. The best is to review and rate the book.
When it comes to neglecting to write reviews, I am as guilty as most (and more so than many). It does take time and effort. But I allow the task to loom larger in my mind than it actually is. I feel I need to write a thesis. I don’t. Just a few simple sentences suffice. I believe the fear of writing a review may prevent many people from doing so. It is unfounded. I read a review to try to determine whether a particular book is for me. I would rather read one or two succinct sentences than an essay. By the same token, I notice the number of reviews, the number of people moved enough by the work to make the effort to comment.
Don’t put off writing the review; it only gets harder. Write it immediately after you have finished the book, while the characters and plot, and your emotions, are fresh in your mind.
It is even more true today that the power to elevate or negate a book lies with the reader. This is how it should be. But readers should realize their increasing impact on the book market today. The wheel has somehow turned. Where once the reader’s opinion was never sought, today the composite view of many readers matters more than that of a professional reviewer.
One more thought…the absence of a review from a reader is not the absence of an opinion. It counts as an adverse opinion. It says the book had so little impact on the reader he didn’t bother to write one. You can bet Amazon has that wired into their formula!