How Important Are They, Really?
M: I was thinking about reviews
You know, how important are they versus how important we think they are.
J: Obviously, we like to know what people think
and if we don’t have a lot of reviews, we feel that either people aren’t buying or don’t care enough to review
M: But reviews have gone the way of so many things, it seems. All about the numbers
how many 5 star
and I think they’re losing their effectiveness or purpose
the whole pay for reviews thing, or ask all your friends and relatives to give you five stars
promise something in return for reviews – money, prizes, whatever
that kind of defeats the purpose
so how do you get more reviews without diluting or invalidating them?
J: well, if you’re not promising cool stuff in return for the reviews, you gotta hope you’ve got something great that people want to talk about
J: It’s really just a matter of abuse
taking a good system and exploiting it, twisting it to fit your needs
it’s kind of amazing that people go so far as to promise cool stuff in exchange for reviews. I don’t know if I could make myself do it. I mean, part of me doesn’t begrudge them the reviews. It’s hard enough as it is
but then I look at my small number of reviews and think “what could I do?”
and the answer is: write something better or promise cash and prizes
M: Some people probably really did feel the book deserved a high star rating and review, but how many felt pressured or thought it was expected, they either didn’t read the book at all or just wanted the reward or left an inflated review?
versus how many just needed the simple reminder or encouragement
J: well, you know my stance on offering prizes as opposed to flat out paying for reviews
offering a prize doesn’t guarantee a good review or even a review at all
while paying someone to write a bunch of different five-star reviews to post on amazon or goodreads is completely false
so I don’t exactly consider them the same level
even if, yes, people are more likely to review falsely or in an exaggerated manner to get a chance at the prize
it’s still not the same as having a bunch pre-prepared by a ghostwriter
M: I agree they’re not the same level, but anytime you offer something in exchange for a review, that’s where things start getting skeevy for me.
I know offering an incentive doesn’t guarantee a good review, but I think it influences one. Consciously or not
but my feeling is, to get thousands of reviews, people have to love your book. LOVE IT. talk about it all the time to everyone. And offering a contest or asking your friends for reviews isn’t going to get you to that level. Writing a book that appeals to a large number of people will.
J: as an author, the numbers would be great, but I’d just KNOW that they weren’t the real deal. How could I believe anything anyone said about my book?
it’s such a fluffy ego boost.
M: All these shenanigans have really undermined readers’ confidence and belief in reviews
J: the general consensus about anything anymore is “whatever it takes” and “laugh all the way to the bank”
M: there is that
I think there’s a lot of concentration on “how do I get more reviews for my book” and not “how do I get more readers.”
and while there is certainly a relationship, there is a difference
J: I think a lot of people look for shortcuts, whatever they may be
J: I wonder sometimes if I’m just not cut out for the business side of it
and think if I’m going to keep writing, I need to just write, edit, publish
leave the rest out so I don’t get discouraged or angry
M: it’s a balancing act, for sure. Do what you can, what keeps you going, but know if you put something aside, you might have to change your goals
J: I’m starting to wonder if it’s possible to meet your goals without breaking some rules
M: It depends on your goals, doesn’t it?
J: It really does
What do you think about responding to reviews, even if it’s just to say thank you?
I’m kind of against it, even though I know the Internet changes rules all over the place
I think if people want a response, they should send a private message
do you think that’s ungrateful?
M: I don’t think it’s ungrateful.
The internet has changed so much. Some people want a separation between the author and the work, some don’t.
I’ve heard arguments on both sides, and I still don’t know
J: I’ve seen some people say in the same breath that it’s creepy the author can see their review but they don’t know why the author didn’t acknowledge it.
M: I like to be able to comment or review or whatever without that perceived pressure
but I also love hearing from people, whether they’re readers or writers, so…
I don’t know
J: well, I do make a point of answering personal messages
we put our contact info out there
I think if people want a response, they should contact me privately
M: oh, yes, absolutely. I always answer messages or notes
Even the “like” thing I’m kind of debating – I mean, what are the rules for that? Should we like every review, good and bad, because the person did take the time to read and comment, even if, as the author, we might not “like” the content
which brings up the subject of bad reviews. Not everyone is going to like what you write, and you have to accept that
J: and if you haven’t paid them to say they like it, you can better trust them, too
M: not everyone who leaves a bad review is an idiot, jealous ex-lover/writer/reader/birdwatcher who doesn’t know anything about anything ever and should just keep their opinions to themselves and not say anything if they can’t say anything nice.
Some, maybe, but really. Not all.
J: Word. I’m going to go do some birdwatching, I think.