Reviews: The Good, The Bad, And The Other Ones

If you’re an indie publisher reviews should be important: they can decide whether a book sells well or not (if at all), drive new readers to your online media, inspire new readers, etc etc. Or they can kill you dead. Or, in this case, just blow you out of the water (I’m betting that the review to actual sales ratio is about 10:1). Whatever your opinion is, when it comes to reviews they do throw their weight about. But are they all that helpful?

Best case scenario: you publish a book and it gets a lot of positive, well-written, inciteful reviews. It gets you noticed and you sell a lot of books. 

Next best: you get a lot of positive reviews but they’re not well-written or they don’t have much to say. They’re not inspiring new readers to buy your book and some of the reviewers have names like ‘Uncle Bill’ and ‘Mother’. Looks like you’ve got a lot of family and friends willing to write a review for you but, to be honest, people spot these sort of reviews and see them for what they are – they’re reviews that merely pay lip service and a lot of potentially new readers are put off.

And then: some reviews. Probably the most common scenario. A mixture of good and bad. The good reviews are great, but the poor ones, the one-stars and throwaway comments are crippling. The key thing here is to remember that you’ll always get poor reviews; suck it up and move on. Take solace in the good reviews. 

Not so good: pay people to write reviews for you. Yes, there are websites out there where you can buy reviews (I’ve mentioned them before but never put up any links to them…) A couple of hundred dollars will get you a handful of glowing reviews with five stars. I’m not sure – given the life-cycle of books in online stores like Amazon – that paying $$$ for reviews is worthwhile. Financially anyway. But if you’ve got the cash to spare? More cash than brain cells, in my opinion.

Towards the bottom of the barrel: one review, one star, no comment.

No reviews? It doesn’t necessarily mean that your book is worthless. But I’ve realised – while I’ve been thinking about reviews over the past few weeks – that if I’m shopping online I skip over the products with no reviews in favour of those that do. Even those with a couple of average reviews give me more insight than nothing at all.

So what’s it all mean? I’d like (just like everyone else) to be able to delete bad reviews but can’t. I’d like (just like everyone else) to be able to create a hundred Amazon accounts and write a hundred brilliant reviews for every book I publish but I don’t have the time and Amazon’s not that stupid anyway. And like I’ve said (or written) before: there aren’t any easy quick fixes. This whole indie writing/publishing malarky is long and hard (add your own punchline. And review. Or not…)


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