Read, Reflect, Review…

You know how sometimes a topic seems to crop up in lots of different places at the same time? Well for the past few days, everywhere I turn, I bump into conversations about book reviews.

No-one really knows the true value of a review. We all think we understand their importance on Amazon, (although every time we think we’ve sussed out how this hugely important part of our industry thinks, it seems to change the algorithm), but are we right?
Is it true that once a book gets over 50 reviews there is a positive impact on visibility?
Why are some reviews being blocked because they are perceived to be by close friends or associates? Is it really impossible for a close friend to give a genuine review?
Is it better to have a sprinkling of poor reviews among a larger number of good ones? 
And, truthfully, do reviews matter at all? Do readers take any notice of them? I know of some people who read them avidly, and others who ignore them completely. Personally, if I am considering buying a book by an untried (by me) author, I will scan the breakdown for the balance of 5 stars versus 1 stars, but am more likely to be influenced by the free sample which I download and read before making a decision.
But whatever the true value, like most authors, especially indies, I spend a lot of time wondering why I don’t get more reviews. My Amazon score for Gorgito’s Ice Rink is 4.6 out of 5, which is very gratifying, but the number of reviews, after an initial burst post-publication, has slowed significantly. For my Business of Writing books, I have a tiny handful of reviews so far. Every time someone tells me they have enjoyed one of my books, I always ask them to consider writing a review, although initially, I found that very difficult to do. I also ask them to recommend the book to their friends – and that’s what the review system does on a larger scale.
In two different Facebook groups over the past week, I’ve come across discussions about reviews. I’ve been asked the question: do you always write reviews yourself? And I’ve had to respond that honestly, I don’t. If I’ve enjoyed the book, I always mean to, but there’s so much else to do that it tend to get pushed to the bottom of the To-Do list and then it’s too late – so I don’t.
So if I can’t make an effort to review books I’ve enjoyed, and I’m a writer,why should I expect my readers to be any different? A review doesn’t have to be long; a couple of crisp sentences can often be better than a rehash of the synopsis – especially if other reviewers have already gone into great detail. 
Incidentally, I prefer to ignore, rather than review, a book I’ve not enjoyed, but that’s a discussion for another day.  
So, I’m making a promise: from now on, every book I read and enjoy will be reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads before I move on to the next one. Kind reader, will you join me?

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

Comments (10)

  1. Terry Tyler 7th September 2015 at 7:53 am

    I always write a review when I've read a book, partly because I know how important they are! But I just like doing it, especially since I started my review blog and reviewing for Rosie Amber's blog. However, if I pick a book from her list to review and don't like it much, I am still obliged to review, which is hard – if it's my own choice and I'm not so keen, of course, I just abandon – thus, no review! The reason they're hard to come by? It's said that only 1% of the reading public actually bother. So once all the book bloggers, friends who read you and faithful reader/reviewers that you know about have done their bit, it's just a matter of waiting for that 1%! Some of my older books haven't had a review for months – yet they've been bought and (I can tell by my KU units on the sales report) read. Some won't have liked, and abandoned – I think that's often the reason for the non-review. That someone simply didn't read it all, or read it and thought it was okay but haven't much to say. So you're waiting for that 1% of the people who either loved or hated it … !!

  2. Elizabeth Ducie 7th September 2015 at 8:46 am

    I agree that it's hard to give a bad review – and I rarely do it; I've done a couple for big authors who have loads of reviews already, where I think the PR is over-done and the readers are being conned, but normally, I just put the book away and move on. I used to make myself finish every book I started, but these days, I've learned to make a judgement and will stop if I'm not enjoying it.

    I hadn't heard the 1% statistic, but I'm not surprised. But I guess that gives us 99% to work on – and if we could even raise it to 2%, we would be doubling the number of reviews out there. Ex

  3. Madalyn Morgan 7th September 2015 at 10:18 am

    Interesting post, as always, Elizabeth. I've had several emails on my website saying how much China Blue has been enjoyed, but none left reviews. The other thing is, Amazon have taken off two reviews of mine recently. Why? I can only think the reader bought paperbacks, and didn't download to Kindle. Good reviews (I think) are very helpful. 'When I'm looking for books for research, I always read the reviews – and the first half dozen pages. I love to give a good review, 5 or 4 star. If I don't like a book, I stop reading it, but I don't give a bad review. I just don't review it. (There are so many good books out there.) If it's badly written, I despair, but I still won't give a bad review, because someone has put their heart and soul into writing it. Someone said, the best thing about self publishing is, anyone can do it. The worst thing about self publishing is, anyone can do it!

  4. Elizabeth Ducie 7th September 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I quite agree, Maddie; I think I said exactly the same at the Publishing Panel at Swanwick last month. It's great that people have the option of the DIY route, but that doesn't reduce the need for quality control, it merely moves it from the publisher's shoulders to the author's. Ex

  5. Terry Tyler 9th September 2015 at 9:13 am

    Indeed, yes! Which is why, in the past, if someone has tweeted to me that they've liked one of my books, I've asked them if they wouldn't mind reviewing – but I don't anymore, it feels too pushy. It's something that authors more successful and sales orientated than me do advise, though!

  6. Terry Tyler 9th September 2015 at 9:18 am

    Maddie, I so agree re the last point you made!

    Aside from those books I'm committed to review for Rosie's team (where I WILL post a less than positive review – I'm as constructive as possible, but Rosie wants honest reviews on her blog; she will allow as low as a 3*, though if we can't give 3* we decline to review), I will sometimes half read a book that I can see is perfectly competent but just not for me, for no other reason than we all have different tastes. In this case, I won't review because I don't see the point of leaving a 3* saying 'yeah, it's good if you like this sort of thing but it didn't work for me, particularly', as I don't think it's of benefit to either the writer, or the reader – the latter of whom being the people reviews are for, I think!

  7. Terry Tyler 9th September 2015 at 9:20 am

    ….ps, sorry, E, I can see that the 'of whom' in the last sentence is superfluous, I was all low-blood-sugar-shaky when I wrote this!!! Please forgive me – I've just been doing your zodiac post and can see that this might make you very edgy indeed!!!

  8. Elizabeth Ducie 9th September 2015 at 2:56 pm

    There's never a smiley emoticon around when you need one, is there, Terry? Ex

  9. Anonymous 9th September 2015 at 10:12 pm

    Hi Elizabeth and Terry. Madalyn Morgan here. I have tried to leave a comment for Terry, three times with my normal Google password, but although I have changed it several times, blogspot will not accept me. I agree with Terry and do not ask for reviews anymore. Some people aren't confident writing them. I respect that. I am happy with the reviews I have and with the sales those reviews bring in, if indeed they do. Nice reading the comments and talking to you, Terry and Elizabeth.

  10. Elizabeth Ducie 10th September 2015 at 6:56 am

    Hello Madalyn. Sorry to hear you had trouble getting in – but good to see it worked in the end – even if you are under cover! I always ask people to review the book if they tell me they've read it, but only once – I don't hassle them if they don't do it. Ex

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