Look who decided to come back to me. (Looks around) I see some new faces, which means you aren't following the first two rules!!! We don't talk about James' Blog! Hold up… wait… scratch that, yes we do. Talk about it a lot. That would be very helpful to me if you did.
Come in, come in, you know where to sit. Make yourself at home.
Oh, I see you are admiring my sweet new green lamp. Ya, it's pretty cool. I got this fancy ring that turns it on and off, too, and a lot of other sweet stuff. Alien tech is so coo—erm—radio shack—I got it from radio shack. But they're sold out, so don't look for one.
So, you've come for my knowledge on reviews today. Reviews are a HUGE part of this book business we find ourselves in. They can be uplifting; they can be soul-crushing, they are great for marketing, they help sell our books, they can even crush our book sales.
First off, if you are a new author or soon to be an author, let me tell you there is nothing quite like getting your first 5-star review. It will make your heart jump; you will smile so large your cheeks will hurt, and you will feel on top of the world. That all those hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours, sleepless nights, and everything in-between was worth it.
Hold on to those moments, take pictures of those moments. They are the ones worth remembering.
In reverse, the first 1-star you get will cut you emotionally deep and make you feel like you have no idea what you are doing. You will read it repeatedly, trying to convince yourself this person is wrong and has no idea what they are talking about. Did they even read the book?
It's okay; they happen. Deep breaths, 1-star reviews are not the end of the world, and I'll tell you why in a moment.
Now, if you get a few 4- and 5-star reviews first, it makes that first 1 star a little less painful, but when you get a 1-star first… ouch, that stings.
But fear not!
5-star reviews will come, and so will 1-star, hopefully, more of the one and not the other. And every time, you will smile or want to cry. Accept that now and life will be easier.
Okay, now here is a BIG DO NOT! And I mean DO NOT! I don't use bold letters for just anything unless I am super serious.
Never, and I mean never comment on a review on Amazon and other bookselling sites. NEVER.
Believe me; you'll want to. You'll want to say "thank you" to some and "fuck you" to others. You'll see bad reviews and want to try and justify to the reviewer, "you clearly didn't understand this part, or that part," or some variation of that.
It is not worth it. It will hurt you worse than the bad review will. People will see the comments, they will talk about them, they will post them, and it will get around. And if it spread far and fast enough, it can crush you before you even have a chance to get on your feet. I've seen it happen to four different authors over the years.
You will hear other authors say, "Reviews are for the readers, not the authors," which is absurd and makes me roll my eyes every time I hear or see it.
Reviews are for both; it is a 50/50 relationship. Yes, they certainly do help many readers pick the next book they are going to read. If you have enough reviews, it helps you stand out on amazon and get your book in front of more potential readers. So yes, in this regard, they are for the reader.
They are also for the author. Those reviews are left because of something you created. If you had never written that book, those reviews would never exist. Yes, reviews are a validation of what you are doing. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with wanting a little validation for what you are creating. Reviews are a great way to feel that.
But it is also one step more for the author. Reviews are also a great way to grow as an author. Many reviewers are nice enough to tell us what they loved about our stories, and amazing reviews will go that one step further and tell us what they didn't. And this isn't a negative, and authors need to stop seeing it as such.
Criticism is part of the game. Embrace it. If a reviewer has taken the time to actually point to things that may actually be wrong with the story, aka plot holes or other major details, pay attention. But more regularly, they point out things they themselves didn't like personally. This character was annoying; the action scenes were too much or too little, the dialogue was shaky in places, etc. These should not be dismissed. Log them in your brain, and as more reviews come in, if others feel the same, this is a growing moment for future projects. Things to maybe work on and focus more on in later WIP's.
Constructive criticism is how we become better, don't lose sight of that.
Now you might feel the moment you get a bad review; it will be the end of the world selling books. Not at all true, so don't swear you'll never write again just yet.
I have found for myself and talking to many other authors that as painful as those first 1 or 2-star reviews were, they helped book sales.
It's a weird concept, but I noticed very much the same with nearly all my books. So I dug further and asked around to other authors and readers what their thoughts were.
It turns out there is A LOT of readers that are suspicious of books that only have 4- and 5-star reviews. They feel like the author paid for reviews or had a bunch of friends and family review them. On a different flip, some other readers assumed the book was doing well enough if it had all high reviews and moved on. (I know that's weird, but it's true)
Now when asking these same readers about books with bad reviews, things got interesting.
Most readers enjoy reading the bad reviews. Sometimes those are the only reviews they read before buying the book. They are looking for key things that they themselves dislike (bad editing, certain themes, etc.) But a lot of readers want to hear what negative things people have to say and then go, "I don't believe this person knows what they are talking about, I'm gonna read the book and see for myself." (Again, weird, but I'm not making this up.)
Then there is the more common reader who sees a mixture of good and bad reviews, a star ranking hanging in the 3.5 to 4.2 range, and thinks, "This is an honest book. Some people loved it; some just liked it, others hated it. It is real. I should read it."
So, when you get those first few bad reviews, don't fret so hard that it's going to kill your sales. You might be surprised to find your sales go up. And don't despair over those REALLY stupid bad reviews you might get. The ones that are clearly trolls or someone you pissed off. Readers are smart; when they read those, it just makes them want to read your book more because they know it's a troll review trying to hurt you.
Reviews are also a great marketing tool, clearly for the obvious reasons. But also for your social media. A little copy and paste or screenshot, and you post those great reviews with your book link some hashtags, and you're set.
Now you should know, this is a great way to gain some free exposure and build interest. It's not going to help you sell hundreds of copies. And it would help if you also didn't overdo it. Few times a week tops. But it might help you sell a book or two each week. It also shows on the fence readers that others liked it and slowly puts your name and cover in their minds, so when they see it again, they remember it was something they were interested in.
Okay, let's take a pee break before we get into the next part of this conversation. Let me just pause time with my new fancy ring—wait—you guys aren't paused—god damn it, Ryan Reynolds, you lied to me!
Whatever, I will deal with him later…
This next part may be a hard pill for some to swallow. There are a lot of strong feelings towards this particular aspect of reviews. But it is no less one of the most important things about reviews that I think needs to be discussed more, and what I am about to say I feel needs to be more commonplace.
Authors leaving reviews for other authors.
This sounds like a simple and pretty straight forward amazing thing. There are many of us, we are all struggling, reviews are needed and important, and we all know what it's like and how important this is.
You'd think that, but no.
This topic irks me in the indie author community and one I have had very many conversations about with various authors. There is a horrible and dangerous threat and stigma around authors leaving reviews for other authors, and it really needs to stop.
1-Authors just trading reviews is cool, but not when it's just a high five all around. You 5-star my book, and I'll 5-star yours. And yes, this happens a lot. Half the time, neither even read the others book. This is just wrong and cheap and is not the way to do things, in my opinion. It destroys our integrity as authors.
2-Authors who refuse to leave negative reviews. This blows my fucking mind. I get not wanting to be an asshole, but you can leave a low rated review without being an asshole. I have talked to many authors who will not leave a review unless it is 4 or higher. This is so bizarre to me. They claim they don't want to hurt the author's feelings, or just because they didn't like it doesn't mean they should post that and hurt the chances someone else might not buy it because of that review. WTF? This infuriates me to no end when I get told this. Reviews are reviews are reviews. Leave a review. Good, bad, or in the middle, just leave a review. This whole 'protecting' the author stance isn't helping the author. Your less than favorable review could help the author, but constructively pointing out what YOU didn't like about it. Stop assuming your opinion is going to make or break the author. But start thinking that it might help them down the road in other works they write. If authors don't hear the negative side and all they hear is good, it hurts their chances of improving their skills and becoming better. So please drop this attitude and just leave the reviews 1 star, 2, 3; it doesn't matter.
3-There is another dark twist to this authors, leaving reviews for authors. And this one angers me more than the last one. The authors who threaten other authors who do give them lower star ratings on their books. If you are one of these authors, go fuck yourself in the face with a brick. If someone leaves you a less than favorable review, you do not have the right to attack them and tell them if they don't change it to a higher one that you will 1-star their book and have all your friends 1-star their book. If you do this, it makes you a piece of shit and will ensure you will NEVER become a successful author. That kind of stuff comes out. People talk, and once your name gets mentioned and spread around, it will crush you. Also, a few screenshots of you threatening and saying you will do it get sent to Amazon, and you and your books are forever removed. Furthermore, if you can't stand the fact that not everyone will think your writing is golden, then being an author is not the path for you.
Sadly this last one is something I hear many people afraid of, and it needs to stop. Attacking one another will never see any of us be able to rise above. If we are too busy fighting and fearing each other, we will never be able to support each other and grow.
United we stand, divided we fall.
I am sure you are all tired of my rambling by now, but I hope this added some insight into reviews and what they can do for you, and why you should leave them, also, why you shouldn't let them destroy you or let them go to your head.
Now get out—I have to go fight Ryan Reynolds.
indie author of the week
Robert b. hayek
Ten years ago, Jon Drake lost his father when a man gunned him down on the orders of Alexander Caine, the most powerful man in his hometown. Now, encouraged by Vladimir, the mysterious leader of the Legion of Samurai, a vigilante group of warriors fighting criminals across the world, Jon returns to his hometown to seek vengeance against Caine. But soon things become complicated when he runs into a childhood friend named Jessica, who is on her own mission of justice for the death of her mother. Jon soon becomes conflicted with what he really wants as he spends more time with Jessica, and he falls in love with her.