Reviews, and the art of not caring (too much)
I've just seen the first reviews of AURORA on Amazon UK, and so far they look pretty good. On Amazon US I'm still waiting, but hopefully I should start seeing a few reviews soon.
Today I want to discuss reviews, and their impact on readers, sales and even the writer. That's right, reviews impact writers as well. So here is my take on all this.
Reviews are an important part of selling books. If a book has no reviews it's either brand new or nobody has read it. That's how it looks, anyway. Reviews tend to give credibility, or social proof, and many readers prefer to read the most popular reviews even before they read the book description.
Positive reviews, meaning 4 and 5 stars (on Amazon the scale goes from 1 to 5 stars) is a clear recommendation to other readers, and whenever I as a writer see those, I appreciate that the reader has taken the time to express their opinion. However, when a book receive many negative reviews, that can kill sales. Of course, that could mean the writer should to take a good look at the book. There's usually a reason when the reviews are generally negative. It doesn't necessarily mean that the book is badly written, but it might...
So I'm aware of how important the reviews are, and that they are generally helpful, both to the reader and writer. But there's another side to reviews, which can be very damaging.
At some point or another, all writers get their first 1 star review. A review that shreds the book to pieces and lets the writer know excactly how much they suck, and what a waste of time the book was. Such a review can not only kill sales of that book, but also kill the writing as well. That's when a writer needs to assess why he or she is writing. And what to expect when you put up something you've written for sale.
You see, the trick is not to care too much. Sure, sometimes a bad review can teach you something valuable, and for those the writer should be grateful. That's how you grow and evolve. But there are a lot of opinions you should pay absolutely zero attention to as well.
Because it's all about taste. A couple of examples first. In the Amazon UK store my novel Exodus has got great reviews. Out of 5 stars (maximum) it's got nothing below 4, and the average as we speak is 4.4. In the US the average is 4.3 and the lowest are two 3 - star reviews. Which is fine; my books aren't for everyone. Still, there are a few things to learn. From studying the reviews I learn that I can improve my characters and settings. Great!
Now, when it comes to my short story The Tunnel, the reviews differ wildly. Remember, this is a story that is (as we speak) given away for free, to give the reader a chance to get to know me and my writing. Meaning, a lot of people who wouldn't normally read books in my genres will download it. And it is most definitely a SHORT story. The reviews here are far less educational. Mostly it's "I loved this story" or "this is absolute rubbish". Which is all fine, but nothing to pay attention to (except being happy with the former and ignoring the latter...).
Because that's what taste is- a matter of opinion. Sometimes it makes sense, such as when a reader loves third person point of view and hates first person point of view, or think that the story was too plot driven and not enough character driven. Other times it makes absolutely no sense, such as this one review where the reader loved the writing and enjoyed the story but gave it one star for being short...
Regardless, it's all a matter of taste, and there's nothing to do about it. I do read my reviews (even though I know a lot of writers choose not to), but I also try to distinguish between those that can teach me something and those that are merely expressions of taste.
There is no way to please everyone, and what turns one reader off might be the very thing that hooks another. So whether it's 1 or 5 stars, the main thing is that someone read the story. The second is that they cared enough to leave a review. And for that, I am truly grateful.
What are your thoughts on reviews? Do you read them? Do you ignore them? Would you read a book that has no reviews at all?
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