When my first book, ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, came out in 2014, I talked about it constantly.  Family, friends, and coworkers were happy (I assume they were happy!) to buy a copy.  Whenever I sold one to them, I asked that when they were done, they leave a review.

They would lift their eyebrows at me. “Like, tell you what I thought of it?”

“Well, yes,” I would say, “but could you also please leave an honest review on a website?  It helps with sales.”

They would stare at me suspiciously, as if suddenly the book I’d handed them might bite.  “Um, sure.  A review.”

Reviews are important to a book’s success, although they aren’t the only thing that makes a book thrive.  Many people, however, aren’t familiar with reviews or reviewing.

The Good

People read reviews.  They care what others have said and it helps them to decide if this book is for them.  Take ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW for example.  The novel involves three separate perspectives.  People have raved about that and people have ranted.  It all depends on personal taste.  Now let’s say that Eileen loves novels with multiple perspectives.  She reads the reviews, sees the book has that, and she buys it.  Laura, on the other hand, hates multiple perspectives.  She reads the reviews and decides this isn’t the book for her.  Rather than buying it and hating it, she moves on to another book that does match her taste.

I can’t forget to mention that reviewing is fun!  I wish we’d gotten to “review” books in high school instead of writing ten page essays on them.  It would have made those mandatory, often depressing, reads all the more enjoyable.

The Bad

I feel as if there should be reviewing etiquette so everyone plays fair.  There are some things I’ve seen that just send me into a tizzy.

People leave one star to mark the book as “to be read.”  That isn’t fair because it brings down the overall rating and if someone is browsing reviews, they might think the person genuinely didn’t enjoy the story.

People leave a poor rating if something was wrong with the product.  Say it never arrived in the mail or a page fell out.  With books, the reviews reflect how you enjoyed the story, not the product. Leaving one star because “it fell apart” works with a lawn mower, but not so much with a novel (especially because people don’t know if you bought the ebook or paperback).

I hate to say it, but sometimes reviewers lie.  Now I’m not saying they do it on purpose, but you have to be careful how you word things.  I’ve seen comments like “The author did no research before writing this.”  Do you KNOW the author didn’t research anything?  It might feel like that, but your research might just not match the author’s research.  A comment like that can turn readers away.

I’ve also seen “the author should have used an editor” and “this is an example of a badly self-published book.”  In both cases, the statements weren’t true.  The book was edited and it was published by a small press.  I wouldn’t mind if the reviewer said, “This could have used a better editor” or “it felt like it wasn’t edited,” but statements that aren’t true can have a negative effect on potential readers who take them as facts.

I can’t forget anger rating.  I’ve known authors to get into petty wars with each other, and rate books just to bring down ratings.  I’ve also seen perspective authors become jealous when a critique partner is published and they aren’t.

Sort of in the same vein, I hate it when a reviewer makes a comment on one of my books like, “I don’t get why the author chose to _____.”  I didn’t - the editor told me to do it!  I always want to leave a comment saying that, but I refrain.  I don’t want to start any drama.

The Necessary

Many people will look up a book before purchasing it.  They look to see how many ratings it has.  If it only has a few, they pass, thinking it isn’t any good.

Amazon will only pitch your book to its customers if you have over 30 reviews.

Many advertising sites will only accept your book if you have so many Amazon reviews, and oftentimes those reviews have to have a certain rating (more than ten ratings and over 4 stars is the most common that I’ve seen).

You need reviews with five stars and one stars.  Authors might cringe at a one star rating, but it makes your book look genuine.  Ten five star ratings looks suspicious.  Did the author coerce people into rating it like that?  Did the author cheat somehow?