By Emily Cyr
I’d been thinking about writing this blog for just about ever, so how about now?
There’s always this question of why reviews matter and why authors are always so desperate to get them? The answer isn’t black and white; there are about thirty-seven reasons. But, don’t worry, I won’t bore you with all of them.
One – Live and Learn:
As authors, we are always learning and improving our skills. We are constantly trying new things and growing within our craft. I know for a fact that I read every review I get, outside of Goodreads, as that place is a cesspool where cruelty can be a sport. If someone sees editorial errors and mentions them in a review, I go and look (they happen, we’re human). Sometimes it takes someone else to point out an issue to really see it. Especially at the end of the hundredth edit and my eyes are bleeding. These reviews can be hard to take but the reality is they can also be super helpful for future issues. Now, that doesn’t give the reviewer carte blanche to be a jerk. When reviews are kind and still point out issues in a helpful way, they are more valuable than gold. Also, when I’m feeling extra petty I’ll even put an Easter egg in the next book directly addressing a jerk review… I mean, pfft, no I don’t. *Insert shifty eyes here*
Two – The Magic is in the Algorithm:
Algorithm seems like not only a scary word, but a complex concept. The reality is, it’s kind of simple if it’s broken down.
First, let’s talk shoppers and how they shop. 84% of shoppers take reviews into consideration before buying an item. Lord knows I do. I’m just wrapping up birthday number three for the year and being that I live in a small town, Amazon is super important. My eyes go to how many stars and how many reviews. Books are no different. If a book has seventy-seven reviews and still has over 4 stars I’m more likely to buy it. On the flipside if a book has 1 review and it’s a 3 star, I’ll pass. Reviews help drive sales. Of those 84%, 70% read reviews to help guide them, and 68% of people form an opinion of the product based on it never having used, or read it in this case. So, if the reviews are crap you will lose 68% of buyers. That’s substantial.
Amazon and sites like it base visibility on a mathematical process that is based largely on numbers of reviews. The more reviews, the more the book or product gets seen. So, even negative reviews can help; well, to a point anyway. Seems simple right? I mean what could possibly go wrong? Well, like most things when humans are involved they will find a way to exploit it.
Amazon states that 99% of reviews are legitimate reviews. However, studies state that the number is more like 68%. What’s the point of fake reviews? Why is it even a thing? Well, it all boils down to the mathematical algorithm. The more reviews, the more Amazon will show your book/product. Thus all reviews matter, the good, the bad, and yes the ones that leave you saying WTF?
Three – Not the Be All End All.
Reviews, though needed for a higher level of success as an author, are by no means the be all end all. Sometimes as authors we read reviews and derive our worth from them. This isn’t just a pitfall, it’s the biggest mistake you can make. Remember the words I’m about to say, put them on a damn bumper sticker if you have to. THE REVIEWS THAT YOU RECEIVE DO NOT REFLECT YOUR TALENT AND SHOULD NOT DETERMINE YOUR SELF-WORTH.
Having someone look at your still-beating heart on a table and tell you everything wrong with it can be hard to take. And that’s just what happens with critical reviews. Trust me, there have been times when I’ve read 1 and 2 star reviews that have left me in tears, and even ones that caused me to want to quit writing. But, ask yourself, who should have that power? Someone you’ve never met who read other reviews and decided they wouldn’t like the way the books in the rest of the series ended so they gave you two stars without reading it? Or the fans who email you telling you how your book saved them? Listen, I get it, we all get it, but trust me, keep going.
Reviews help, they hurt, and often times they leave us scratching our heads. They are an evil we hate, but one we need. Now, don’t you have a bumper sticker to print?