Well… As every writer knows, reviews are important. However, reviews seem to be a fickled beast. If one was to receive a large number of 4- and 5-stars, someone like me starts to question how many of those reviews were posted by friends and family. The odd negative review actually gives merit to those high-ranking reviews. On the flip side, if you have a large number of negative reviews, readers will begin to steer clear of your book (possibly even future books), and sales will go down. To complicate matters, if your book has hardly any reviews at all (good or bad), people are leery and unwilling to try their hand at something new — especially from a new, untested author.
Let’s not forget that getting reviews is a mission and a half.
For my book, Hidden Traps, I didn’t quite know what to expect, and now I feel all confused and uncertain.
When I started writing Hidden Traps, it was because I had this wealth of knowledge on how one might protect themselves on the internet, and I had this uncontrollable need to share that knowledge. I had started writing the information as a series of blog posts, but quickly realized that the topic was WAY too big for a blog series. It would dominate the blog and take away from what this blog is meant to be: random, eclectic advice on writing and publishing.
Even when I was writing Hidden Traps, I found that some information needed to be cut. I had to focus on key concepts to get people started. I didn’t want to write a doorstop of a book, yet the topic itself is actually that big.
So I went through the process of writing a book, and learnt more about my topic and the publishing process along the way. Everything that I’ve learnt will be incorporated into the other books in the series, which are still in planning stages.
But let’s focus on this review beast for a moment.
Many early reviews come from family and friends.
Unless you have a massive following already (at which point you are unlikely to actually read my blog, because you already have this publishing business licked — at least the marketing side), then it’s to be expected that many of your early reviews will come from family and friends. Let’s face it, reviews are hard enough to get at the best of times. In a way, it feels like you need to beg for reviews, but if you do, the account police at Amazon get heavy handed and can delete your account.
Then you get people like me who told their family and friends about their upcoming book, but not a single one has actually read it. Even my husband hasn’t read my book. (It’s an emotional sting that we just ignore and don’t go there.) But in all fairness, I did write a niche book. My husband has no need of social media in the way I do, and he certainly has no desire to ever write a blog or run website. (If it ever came down to that, he’d likely flob that task onto me.)
In my discussions with other authors about reviews, many of the indie-authors have said that they don’t bother leaving a review if they can’t leave 4 or 5 stars. While some will let that go as low at 3 stars, to me this practice sort-of defeats the purpose behind a review. Potential readers look at reviews to see if something might actually snag their interest and keep them engaged. I don’t know about anyone else, but I actually look at those low-ranking reviews. Are they people who were just talking out of their ass, or did they actually have a valid point?
Within the first week of release of Hidden Traps, I got two reviews. When the first one came in, I was flying high. I had no idea that it was coming, and it was so positive, especially coming from a person in the IT industry. The second one came from one of my ARC copies that went out (and I sent out a fair few number of them). However, that’s where the reviews stopped, and I think I know why.
Leaving reviews can have a negative impact on your reputation — good and bad reviews.
In my book, I actually warn writers against leaving reviews on sites such as Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews, good and bad, can make you the victim of a vicious attack from the internet trolls.
Consider a book that many writers love to hate: 50 Shades of Gray. I’ve lost count of the number who call it the worst writing ever (not that I would know either way, because I’ve never actually read the thing), but what if you’re the lone writer that actually liked 50 Shades. Because of all the bad mouthing that goes on in certain circles, you don’t want to be that one author who enjoyed the book, because you’ll be lynch for saying so. (I’ve seen it happen, and the writer had such a mission in defending her position. Thankfully, it was a friendly group, and no on-going attacks will be forthcoming.)
Or it could be the other way around. You could honestly not like a book, but the book’s fans could become malicious in their attacks against you. (I had this actually happen to me. I discuss the incident in my book Hidden Traps. It’s actually why I don’t review on Amazon or Goodreads at all.)
Instead of leaving reviews, the best way to show your support is to tell others about the book. It’ll spread the word much faster than reviews ever will. However, reviews play a big role on the ranking of a book in the Amazon store. Finding those actually willing to leave an honest review — good or bad — is extremely difficult.
You can still get reviews when you don’t review.
To get reviews on your book, especially if you’re a newbie, you have two choices: send out the ARCs or freebies and hope they come; or beg, but in a nice begging way. Most reviews are done by way of review swaps, but when you refuse to review a book for whatever reason, convincing others to review your book is difficult.
There are many review sites out there now, many aimed at various target audiences. However, be leery of the sites that expect you to pay them for the review. Other than providing a copy of the book, you should NEVER pay anyone to do a review.
For those who are self-published, providing a copy of your book for review should be easy. For those who are traditionally published, you can actually buy a gifted copy of your book through Amazon and forward the gift code. (This latter method works for those who publish through IngramSpark or other channels too.)
Knowing that you have a path forward, it just becomes a matter of finding a good reviewer whom you feel would give your book an open and honest review.
Recent Review of Hidden Traps
When Hidden Traps was released, I contacted Ekta Garg from The Write Edge Bookshelf to review my book. I knew whatever she had to say would be honest and fair. All of the reviews on her site highlight both the good and the bad, and are worded in such a way that they can soften the blow for the negative reviews. She does this because she loves books, and her reviews only appear on her site. Unless you choose to share it with the world, the review can be buried.
The review for Hidden Traps was recently released. I’m not sure how I feel about the 3-star equivalent rating (Borrow it as she calls it on her site), but I must not feel too bad about it, because I’m sharing it with the world.
Here are some of the things that she said about Hidden Traps.
In many places, Mohr’s practical advice will resonate with authors. Creating a separate email address for newsletters and subscriptions to blogs and websites makes a lot of sense.
Most authors will appreciate Mohr’s intent, no doubt, and she does offer useful information and advice. It may just take writers a little longer to work through the manual than they might have initially anticipated from first impressions of the book.
You can read the full review here.
(As a side note, just become I can, this post contained 51 instances of the word review. LOL OMG, that is bad.)
There are so many different elements that go into forming an online platform, but there are many traps that writers are unaware of. Are your social media posts just links with a few disjointed words, making you look like someone who can’t complete a sentence? Were you hit with charges you never expected when you created that website? Are you leaking your personal contact details across the web without even knowing it?
Learn about many of the hidden traps of building an online writer’s platform, and how to avoid them. At the end of the day, it’s about protecting yourself and your reputation.More info →
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017