Sunday, November 2, 2014

Reviews Do Help (and Hurt!) Authors

When you hear the word review or feedback, often you might think of a product you purchased online at eBay or other auction sites. Perhaps you've even left feedback for DVDs or games you've purchased. But reviews are important to authors, too, as well as to potential readers. I encourage everyone who purchases books to leave reviews for them.

But reviews can hurt authors too. As I was browsing the Masquerade Crew's blog looking for tweets I could use as part of the tweet exchange program (I think I talked about this in my Promotions post), I came across one that deeply disturbed me.

This tweet was about an Amazon review. The reviewer claimed, "I bought it by mistake so I thought it deserved 1*". Not only that, but this same reviewer had 3 OTHER reviews that read almost the same thing! I checked out all of them.This person had 22 total reviews; they were either 5* claiming "excellent, loved it, etc.", or they were 1* saying "terrible, waste of money, hope Amazon pulls this, etc."

Not only is this kind of review completely insensitive to the author, but unneccessary. Amazon has a seven day return policy on books, even Kindle books. I know, because I had one refunded myself (I hoped it was because someone bought the Kindle version when they wanted the print). If you'd bought the wrong size jeans, you wouldn't leave such a review with the jeans company would you? No, you'd return to the storefor a refund or exchange, wouldn't you? Even if the reviewer decided to read the book she accidentally bought (or if the 7 day period had expired by the time she realized it), she shouldn't have left a review like that.

Writing reviews are more difficult than you might think. Even if you didn't like the book, try to pull something good from it. In other words, say something like "people who enjoy fantasy stories might truly enjoy this book". If the book is full of glaring grammar and typographical or formatting errors, you might gently suggest having someone edit it. In other words, remember that authors have feelings. Often, we're just as sensitive as painters, photographers, or other artists.
 I'll leave you with one last thought. Keep in mind that reviews can and do help authors, especially independent authors without the might and backing of big publishers (who can afford to pay for reviews). But if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!

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