I wanted to discuss book reviews for a moment. Readers don’t know how important they actually are (I sure didn't before I became an author!) or where to put them, and authors are having a difficult time getting them for the hard work they've done. I see worthy authors begging for reviews nearly every day on social media, and I haven't been above begging for reviews from time to time myself!
Statistics say that between 600,000 and 1 million books are published each year in the United States alone. It is estimated that Amazon, the largest self-publishing company nationwide, adds a new book to their website every five minutes!
With that much new material flooding the market each day, it can be very hard for new and less established authors to gain much, if any, visibility with potential customers. At the very least, it takes a lot of time, effort, advertising dollars, and prayers and maybe even a little Irish luck to get noticed in today's market. Reviews on sites like Amazon affect the sites' algorithms so that the works that are searched for, clicked on, or reviewed more often show up higher in search results and on "bestseller" lists in different book categories. There is nothing as frustrating as being a bestseller in your genre one month (which equates to an author rank of about 20-30k) to ranking in at over 1 million the next (which essentially means you're a nobody again haha)!
If you’ve recently read a work that you think others will like, too, there are a few things you can do as a reader to help that author gain some visibility in the ocean of books.
The website from which you ordered or downloaded the book or the website for the store where you bought the book will usually accept reader reviews. This is probably the #1 way people decide if they do or don’t want to spend their hard-earned cash on a book. They look to the advice of other readers to help make their decision.
Sign up with Goodreads. It’s free and as easy as linking your Facebook account to it in just a few seconds. It’s the ultimate book review site not tied to any particular retail outlet. It is comprised of readers who love books and want to recommend what they are reading and find new books to read in their favorite genres. Many readers rely on reviews on the site to help them find new material to read.
Search the author on your favorite social media sites. Likely, that person has an author Facebook page, or you can give them a shout out on Instagram or Twitter. For instance, I was reading through r. h. Sin’s poetry collection I hope this reaches her in time and loved this poem so much that I made a quick little meme for it and posted it to my own Instagram account and tagged the author. I don’t know if he ever saw it, but my followers did, which gives his work more exposure. In a sea of endless works, any exposure to potential customers is a big help, and we authors appreciate it.
If you blog, review the books you read. It can be as short or as in depth as you want it to be. Any info about how you liked a book will be helpful to potential readers and thus helpful to the author. It might even get you some new blog readers. It’s a win-win!
Likewise, if you are a YouTuber, review the book on your channel. There are whole accounts devoted to reviewing books for their subscribers. This is like free advertising for your favorite authors.
Many libraries offer the ability to review books on their websites. Contrary to what you may believe, authors love for libraries to carry their books (libraries pay for these books, and having them in libraries across the country offers a wider distribution, author notoriety, and more potential reviews).
Tell your friends and family about it. Recommendations go a long way. Better yet, lend the book to someone you think will like it. We want to write books because we want them to be read! Even better, buy an extra copy as a gift for someone. Speaking of buying books, trying out another book by that same author also helps!
One last thing about reviews. If you don’t like a book, should you review it?
That comes down to personal preference. Some believe that you should leave well enough alone. Others feel like it is their duty to give other people their honest opinions about the works they read.
As an author, I obviously don’t WANT to see bad reviews, but if you feel so strongly that my work lacked something, then by all means, it is your right to voice your opinions.
Remember a few things before leaving a bad review, though. If this book isn’t the genre that you normally read and you want to write a review about the GENRE, that is subject matter better suited for your blog than for an individual’s business page (yes, we view our book’s Amazon listing, B&N listing, and so on as our business pages because writing and marketing these books is our business and for some authors, it is their only livelihood!). Also, a printing error or a packing or shipping issue isn't the author's fault and really shouldn't be reflected in the review. Such issues should be addressed to the retailer where you bought the book.
Never resort to personal attacks. Ask yourself, would I say this to the person if he or she were standing in front of me? Oftentimes, we distance ourselves from people over the Internet and forget that they have feelings and troubles and families to feed. That writer probably poured everything they had into that work for a while, and it’s like an extension of themselves, so however you criticize that work will probably also be taken as a criticism of the person who wrote it. Be kind, even in your criticisms.
I hope that helps you decide how you can help support your favorite authors. If I've left out a point, make sure to leave me a comment!