Well over a year ago, I found myself sitting in an independent bookstore on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m., behind a stack of books and a dish of peppermints. The owner had invited me to do a two-hour signing for my novel, Leaving the Beach, but not much was going on.
Each time the door opened, I’d hope it was someone coming to meet me and perhaps buy a book, but for the first half hour or so, everyone who entered had other business. Some people glanced in my direction and smiled; others didn’t acknowledge me at all. The owner was busy on the phone, and a middle-aged woman sat on a bench along the back wall, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper.
I was starting to feel a little anxious when a couple of women came over and asked some questions about Leaving the Beach. Then a few more people came along, and for the next hour and a half, I stayed pretty busy chatting and signing.
But as noon approached, things quieted down again, and my time was up. So I thanked the bookstore owner and started packing up my stuff. Just as I was about to leave, though, the woman who’d been reading the newspaper on the bench all morning stood up and approached me. “I didn’t want to bother you,” she said, “but would you mind signing my book?” She reached into her purse and took out a copy of Leaving the Beach. “I really liked it,” she said, her eyes not meeting mine. “My sister had eating disorders, and I could relate to a lot of it.” (The protagonist in Leaving the Beach is bulimic.)
I almost cried. It’s not every day that I get direct feedback like that—and talking with the woman was the best possible way the event could’ve ended. Still, I wondered why she’d waited so long (almost two hours) to make contact with me. Had she been intimidated? Or was she perhaps worried about being honest about her feelings regarding the book? After all, she’d told me she liked it, but had said nothing about love.
But just knowing that she’d read it, related to it, and had taken the time to tell me made my whole weekend better. I still think about that woman, in fact, as evidenced by this blog post. Sure, we authors write because we have stories to tell, but if we’re publishing our work, we’re also hoping other people will read those stories. Would we love to write books that appeal to thousands of people? Of course. But getting good, honest feedback from readers gives us the energy to keep writing, and often provides us with the tools we often require to write something better the next time around.
So I’ll end this post with a plea to readers. Please consider writing honest reviews of books you’ve read, and posting them on Amazon, Goodreads, or other public review sites. Your reviews don’t need to be long—in fact, short, to-the-point ones are often read more frequently by other potential readers—but every one really does count.
Because it’s a tough world for authors right now. There’s a lot of content out there, and, in many cases, reviews are the only way a new writer can let potential readers know what their book is about. Also, the websites and newsletters that help writers promote their books often won’t accept a new book for promotion until it has a certain number of reviews.
And seriously, don’t worry if your review is negative. As a very wise person once told me, the very thing one reader hates about a book is probably the thing another reader loves. For example, some people hate lots of description, while others adore it. Some hate fast-paced, plot-driven stories, while others live for that stuff. So there you have it. Thanks for reading! And writing!
Oh, and by the way, one of my novels, Living by Ear, is on limited free promo until 9/23 on Instafreebie. Meaning that if you’d like to grab a free copy and would consider writing a review afterwards, you can go to this link https://www.instafreebie.com/free/tdHlh and get one right now. Of course there’s no obligation or pressure to read or review, but if you have a chance, I’d be most grateful.
Ah, yes. It’s so hard to ask for get those crucial reviews isn’t it? I’ve had people tell me to write the review and they’d post it for me! I agree that a book that has all five star reviews makes me suspicious but the pressure is so intense! Good luck with the promo!
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Thank you, Jan! Yeah, I’ve had people ask me to help them write a review. I think the problem is that writing reviews is still such a new thing for the general public. People–my age anyway–grew up reading reviews by professional writers, so they’re not sure what to say. The number of stars to give is tricky too. I think if someone writes lots and lots of reviews, they can be objective and say, “yeah, this is a 3-star, but this is a 4,” while some people who only write them once in a while don’t know.
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Good post, Mary! If just a few people take note…! The other day I received 2 x 2 line reviews from a new reader who’d just discovered my books. All they said was this fact, that she loved them and had downloaded more. Made my day, gave a great recommendation to readers – they don’t have to be a literary critique! Also, you’re so right about the bad ones; I think it’s more important to have a large NUMBER of them, than have them all glowing! I’d rather have 100 with a smattering of 3 & 2* than only 20 x 5* ~ more gives the impression that your book is at least worth commenting on!!!