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Book Reviews – How helpful are they?

Public reviews of books are seen by writers as the life’s blood of promotion, dictating how widely the books are likely to be read.

Let’s face it – without reviews, all that readers have to go on, about the type of book they are contemplating buying, are the editor’s comment and a back cover blurb (if it’s been traditionally published) and the writer’s brief description of the story.

If you are one of the growing thousands who have uploaded their books to the internet as an e-reader downloadable book, then online promotion is virtually limited to readers’ reviews whether they be good, not so good, or somewhere in the middle.

To check this out, go onto Amazon and look at some book reviews in a similar genre to your own. In many cases, if one has a number of reviews, chances are there will be wide-ranging opinions from one star (hate it) to five star (love it) and, strangely, even the most popular authors’ books can be subject to this wide range of opinion.

The Shopaholic

For example, Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic books. I bought one recently. It looked light-hearted and the blurb intimated it was a good laugh and that suited my mood at the time. Well I laughed, I cried with laughter, I laughed and cried till it actually hurt, and my husband was nearly driven to distraction by all the noise I was making and the fact that I kept interrupting what he was doing by insisting he must listen and proceeding to read and giggle out loud. Sometimes he smiled – more because he couldn’t actually understand what I was saying through my snorts and cackles – and sometimes he did actually laugh out loud.

Well, after the first book, I had to read more and another two quickly followed. Each one was as funny as the last – truly gifted humorists are definitely a minority breed. Successful humor can never be forced or calculated, it only works when it comes naturally and, to my mind, Sophie Kinsella definitely has the gift.

After the third book, I went online to find another and this time I thought I’d check out some of her reviews – expecting them, of course, to all be glowing. WRONG. Obviously there were a lot like myself who loved her books but there was a number of readers who had nothing good to say about them. I was dumbfounded.

But that is the point – there are books for people and books for other people. Think Fifty Shades of Grey.  It has thousands of reviews which are fairly much split down the middle as to whether it was a great or a horrible book. Almost as many people hate it as love it.

Now we come to the question – how does a writer get people to read their books and follow up with a review?

If you are as yet unknown, it is hardly likely without some kind of promotion that people are going to flock to buy your book. So what do you do? Ask friends and family to write a review? Join a group where everyone reviews each other’s books? Pay a reviewer? Or do you self-promote? Get a radio station to interview you? Talk to a reporter and get your picture in the local rag?

All these are valid actions and used by writers across the planet, known and unknown – to get that foot in the door and their names more and more recognisable. Because that’s where book sales come from – recognition and recommendation.

It’s a lonely life being an author and the cry is common – “But I’m a writer, not a PR Guru. I don’t have the time to be both.”

A tiny few writers are also great publicists but, for most, getting their books published, and their name known, is a long difficult road towards that magical place where they see their books flying off the shelves or into Kindles.

So, back to reviews.

Good, bad, or indifferent, they are necessary. As a writer you need to strive to make yourself visible to the reading public so, if you have written a book, like it or not, promoting it is an essential part of the process. If you want people to see and read your book, promotion is the first step towards gaining a review that will hopefully prompt others to buy.  

But, first, make completely sure the book you have written is the absolute very best it can be – it’s the only way to limit those bad reviews remembering, of course, that you will never please everyone.

So, before releasing it, have it checked by a professional editor, read by people you know will give you fair but honest feedback and do take on board their comments. Don’t get offended if someone doesn’t like it, or has suggestions that you may or may not use – if they are someone you trust to be fair and honest and they are a big reader, their opinion is gold. And, remember, even when it’s polished and sparkling like a diamond, there will still be some who won’t like it. The trick is to not take their opinion on board negatively – you probably didn’t enjoy every book you ever read and it’s a fact that even experienced, hugely popular, authors still have their detractors – it’s human nature, we will never all always agree.

If you have written a book you felt compelled to write and you have rewritten and edited until you feel it is worthy of being read then get it out there – don’t be shy, you will have your fans and your not-so-fans, that’s life. Then when it’s securely out in the book realm, get on with your next book, and your next. Readers love it when they find an author whose books they enjoy and they will come looking. In the end it’s all about how badly you want to write and how committed you are to the whole process of getting read. Think Barbara Cartland, according to the Guinness Book of Records in the 90’s, she was the most prolific book writer ever. She wrote something like 700 books and has sold over one billion books. Now that is commitment and, for the most part, without the benefit of the internet for getting her books known. 

A new book site, www.beezeebooks.com is one I am using to promote my own books. It’s free for the first year and they will link your book to its amazon source, where it can be purchased.

Good luck – and believe in yourself – you are the first one who will – when you do, others will follow.



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