As an avid reader and long-time user of Goodreads, I’ve rated plenty of novels and occasionally I write a short review.
As an author, I’ve listened to other authors’ advice to “ignore the reviews” or “don’t sweat the reviews” (in a similar vein to the digital news advice of “don’t read the comments”). Negative reviews can, of course, put a dent in an author’s ego, discourage or derail their writing, and provide sleepless nights.
As a self-published author however, there’s no way I can ignore reviews of my books. It’s part of the book business. Feedback from readers is useful and insightful (and sometimes amusing). What’s more, the number of reviews on platforms like Goodreads or Amazon can determine whether you’re able to advertise in other spaces – like leading book websites and e-newsletters. Don’t have at least 20 four-star reviews of your book? Forget about being eligible to advertise.
Here’s a few things that have surprised me about reviews for my novels:
• A lot of readers don’t like swearing in novels, and they will remark on that (I occasionally have my characters swearing; it’s part of their genuine character)
• Readers can give a low-star rating while still writing glowing words about your book (and vice versa)
• Some reviewers will leave details of their own personal lives in reviews (ie they’ll write about what else has been happening in their lives, which impact the time they have to read)
• A lot of reviewers are the master of pithy headlines for their reviews (see Amazon for examples)
You may have seen me mention this elsewhere – I always need more reviews!
Mainstream publishing houses send their authors’ books for free to large databases, massive (private) Goodreads groups and more. It’s one way for them to garner thousands of reviews and ratings for their authors, and provide that much-needed “social proof” for their publications.
So if you’ve read Goodbye Newsroom or The Train Guy, please, PLEASE spend a minute publishing sharing a review. If you can’t do this on Goodreads or Amazon, you may want to share your review on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you share a comment with my hashtags #TheTrainGuy or #GoodbyeNewsroom that all helps. Thank you!
Author and PR consultant.