Authors, and books, live and die by book reviews. Now more than ever. In the old days, literary journals or better newspapers published book reviews and honestly, few ever read them. Today, reviews, probably more than any other factor, affect how online retailers sell books. It is every readers right, nay … DUTY, to review every book they read. If done well, it can only be helpful. The trick is doing book reviews correctly.
Dancing to the Beat of the Algorithm
Many online selling venues use reviews in software algorithms in calculating how, where, and the manner they market books. Today, major book retailers position and market all books based on reviews, sales, and author marketability. Stephen King could write a dog, and before he sells a single copy or gets a single review, it will top almost any list, solely based on the marketability of his brand. That’s life. You, my newly minted author, will rely on reviews to make sales.
Even WHEN reviews post comes into play. A review posted early and a book may be listed at the top of the online listings. E-tailers may even list it as a “best-seller” in select categories or “recommend” it more. There is not much we can do about how the 800-Pound Gorillas handle book sales online. We can help our fellow readers, and authors, by fairly reviewing books and either recommend, or even better, save them from disastrous expenditures of time and money.
Save The Next Guy – Post Reviews
Guy/girl/whatever. If an author writes their book poorly, post negative, but fair, reviews of it. Maybe your review will save Joe Next-Reader from doling out their hard-earned cash. Many online venues use ratings as their scorecards for books they list. Maybe if enough books get bad reviews, they will minimize the number of schlock books they sell. Yeah. Right. Well, you might save the next guy, anyway.
Objective vs. Cruel
When I say a “fair” review, I mean “objective.” Don’t just say, “I hated it.” Don’t make it personal against the author. Discuss the work. Typos, structure, flow, premise, storytelling, conflict, characterizations, appropriate audience age, etc. These are fair game for polite, even if it is negative, assessments. Remember, whoever wrote this is a human being, and may have spent years on this opus. When it comes to literary reviews, you shouldn’t follow your mother’s advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” But that doesn’t give you a license to be a dick. It just means, temper your criticism with objectivity, compassion, and accuracy.
Anonymous Sniping Sucks (A.S.S.)
Sometimes, web sites allow critics the shelter of User Names. Anonymity is not an excuse for jackassery. Don’t take your frustrated writing aspirations out on some poor schmuck whose work has actually seen print, even if it is substandard. Also, it doesn’t make you look smarter, if you are creative and witty while ripping the writer a new one. It makes you a witty dick. Don’t be a witty dick. Write an educated, well thought-out review of good points, as well as as bad points, of the manuscript you just read.
Good Book Reviews
Don’t be afraid to say if you like something. It’s easier to criticize than to create. It’s also easier to criticize than to be complimentary. What if you say you like something and the snobberatti hate it? So what? If a story moves you, entertains you, and you thought it was a good story in need of telling, and was told well in your opinion, you should say so. Maybe someone else shares your taste. How many movies did critics hate, but the public loved? Don’t feel like you need to jump on the Debbie Downer Bandwagon, just because other people panned it. Publishers rejected Alex Haley’s Roots over 200 times, over the course of 8 years, before he gained acceptance. So 200 supposedly knowledgeable editors thought it wasn’t worth printing. One did. You could be the one correct review and the majority could be wrong.
Good reviews also help authors sell books. The more books they sell, the more money they make. This equals more time they have to write another good book. The more good books out there, the lower the ratio of schlock to quality. Be a part of the solution. Promote good books and objectively warn others not to buy or read bad books.
To Be Continued…
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About Paul K. Metheney, the Author: Paul was the featured author for dozens of sports magazine articles, has two stories published in a recent anthology, a contract to be published in an anthology coming out later this year, is contracted for a collection of his own short stories, and is working on a much-delayed novel or two. Paul has nearly three decades working in advertising design, print, and graphic design. For the last twenty-five years or so, he has been working in the web design, SEO, PPC, social media, and marketing fields, including writing marketing copy for his client's blogs and social media on various subjects. Oh, yeah. He teaches those subjects as well at the local community college. Paul can be reached at his blog on writing, teaching, poker, travel, reviews, and all things politically incorrect at paulmetheney.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
In full disclosure, Left Hand Publishers, besides publishing some of his work, has contracted Paul's company, Metheney Consulting, as one of their book cover design artists and marketing consultants to help assist with author's branding and marketing.
Paul is happily married to his one-time, high school sweetheart, loves riding his Can-Am Spyder motorcycle, sporadically smokes a good cigar, and is an avid poker enthusiast. Paul is owned and cared for by two small Shitzus.
To learn more, visit his web site, dedicated to writing, teaching, poker, reviews, all things politically incorrect, and posts revealing genuine stupidity in the world: PaulMetheney.com or email him at