I Gotta Do That Too?

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….and other things you ponder when authors request reviews

Throughout the soft launch of my eBook, Yesterday Mourning, I’ve received some great advice from fellow indie authors. Their experience and wisdom guided me toward the right books to read, sites to join, and goals to set. One piece of advice was to join the site, GoodReads, which is a big hub for writers, reviewers, and bloggers. Shortly after activating my account, I decided to join an author R&R group. The group had roughly ten to twelve members all looking to have their novels read and reviewed by fellow writers. The rules were simple-read and review four books within a three-month window.  All 3-star and above ratings must be posted to Amazon (US and UK) and all ratings (regardless of the author’s preference) were to be posted on GoodReads.  To avoid bias, we couldn’t review the work of anyone scheduled to review our book–no quid pro quo here! Even though my schedule was all over the place, I knew having four strangers provide feedback would be invaluable during such as early stage of the launch. Plus, authors can either be quite forgiving because they understand how much a bad review hurts or they’d be brutally honest to avoid having someone disrespect the craft.

When I got down to the fourth and final book, I had a tough time writing the review. Not because the book was horrible-it’s actually easier to write a review for an ill-written novel versus one that you find thought provoking and beautifully crafted. My procrastination was largely due to feeling overwhelmed at the thought of putting fingers to keyboard and typing up sentences to represent what I’d read between the two (electronic) covers. Then it hit me-this is probably how people feel when we request reviews!

It was mentally draining for me to think through what I wanted to say and I’m a writer! What about the everyday person looking to simply read a good book? What happens when they tell us how much they enjoyed our work only to be met with a new item on their ‘To Do’ list? For us, it’s a simple request that requires a few minutes of their time. In their minds, we’ve just asked them to become writers and accept the pressure that accompanies that title.

To be clear, when receiving a review, authors aren’t expecting perfection, just perspective. We don’t expect a term paper on the book, rather we’d like to understand if you liked it, if you understood the themes/ideas within it, and if there’s anything we need to know to help us hone our skill. It’s pretty simple. Writers both need and want your feedback. We rely heavily on reviews because that’s what fuels our next adventure or makes us take a step back and work harder to get better. An April 2013  study by Dimensional Research found that 90% of customers say their buying decision was influenced by an online review. Most readers don’t want to invest in an unknown author at $0.99 or $9.99. Being an unknown, independent author AND not having online reviews is a fast way to a dead end writing career.

So whether you write two sentences or twenty, indie authors need your feedback. Word of mouth is the most effective marketing tool and we need YOUR help. We understand and applaud your sacrifice of time and effort to read what we’ve produced. Now we are asking you to take it one step further and post an online review. If you enjoyed the author’s work – make sure s/he knows it!

Renita’s 4 simple rules for reviews:

1) No spoilers! 

2) Don’t make a review personal; Keep it focused on the writing/book/story and not the author

3) Don’t write a review if you’ve not read the book

4) Write a review, not a summary 

Just in case you were wondering, the key sites for reviews are Amazon (US/UK), Goodreads, B&N, and Smashwords.com.

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