When I talk to readers about reviews I often hear that they would like to write a review for their favorite author, but aren’t sure how to go about it. So here is your complete guide to why, where and how to write book reviews.
Why write a review?
When asked why reviews are important, a lot of authors tell you how reviews help them. I’m going to tell you how writing reviews helps you, the reader.
1. You get more books from your favorite authors
Being an author is a long, often frustrating process. Most writers don’t earn a living from their novels. They squeeze writing time in between paying jobs, family obligations and that thing we call life. It’s not always easy.
What keeps us going? The dream of someday making a living at writing. The goal of connecting to readers through our stories. The desire to share something with the world for yet other writers.
The first dream requires a combination of talent, luck and hard work. Many of the things that lead to success are out of the writer’s control. One of them is social proof, proof that people are reading the book and enjoying it. One of the main examples of this social proof is reviews. That is how reviews lead to sales, when people see that others are reading a book, they get curious as to why and they check out the book.
But reviews also let the author know if their writing is connecting with readers in a meaningful way. They tells us if the stories we are creating are reverberating with the rest of the world.
Giving an author those things keeps them motivated. That means they will produce the next book that much faster, let you know what happens to the characters you’ve grown to love. So write a review.
2. Reviews gets you better books from Amazon.
The secret to Amazon’s success is that they aren’t focussed on making a sale, they are focussed on making the next sale. They are constantly updating their search algorithms and advertising to show you want book you want to read next. They can do this through demographics, previous searches and similar searches, but to get pinpoint accuracy they need to know what you liked or didn’t like. That’s why they are so big on consumer reviews. When you give a book a positive review on Amazon, they will show you similar books. When you give a book a bad review, they will show fewer books like that. The more you review, the better the search results will be.
3. You get to be part of the conversation.
Critics will tell you that public book culture is dying. We used to carry our favorite books as badges of honor. We saw somebody reading the latest thriller and we had a conversation starter. Now people increasingly read on electronic devices. They do their socializing there, too.
Book culture is not dying, it’s just moved online. Sites like Goodreads allow us to rate our favorite books, review them, talk about them and share them. We can see what friends are reading and how they are reacting.
And this new book culture is far more democratic. Publishers choose only a fraction of stories to publish. It used to be that a few magazine reviewers got to tell us if a book was good or bad. Certain stories were seen as having “literary merit” and others not.
Now anyone can have a say, even you. Culture is nothing more than the shared beliefs and experiences of those in that culture, and you can help influence and shape where our culture is going. Think there aren’t enough women/minority/diverse writers in a certain genre? You can use your Goodreads account to talk about women or minority writers you’ve read, or to search out more.