Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Importance of Being Recommended

Recently, I've spent some time contemplating the importance of book reviews.  In the traditional sense, new authors know they need reviews in the online storefronts to give their works a reference point of credibility to readers.  I have read articles about how having a few "bad apples" in the bunch (i.e., negative reviews from readers who didn't click with your book) lend credibility to the reviews themselves.

However, these aren't the reasons I have been thinking about reviews.  What I have been thinking about is the reason why reviews count for so much.  The truth is that books don't just need storefront star ratings and composed reviews; they need your spoken reviews, too.  The spoken reviews--your recommendations to your friends and family--are what existed before ebooks and online reviews.  I believe that the personal nature of reading for pleasure means that the people who know you best, and who you know best, carry more weight where a book recommendation is concerned.

This may not always be true.  Sometimes, you like reading a certain type of book, and for reasons of personal privacy, maybe you don't talk about it a lot.  I have a very close friend who is a fan of romance novels, and some bordering on erotica.  (Due to the awkward factor, you can bet she doesn't go around talking about her latest read with just anyone, even though many people enjoy these types of novels.)  I happen to enjoy reading some O'Reilly technology books, but I don't generally talk about this with my reader friends because the subject rarely comes up; by the same token, many of my techie programmer friends may not be interested in my latest find in paranormal romance.  I can talk science fiction with my dad, and young adult with my grandmother, and popular fiction with my mom, but crossover doesn't always happen.

...And this reason, the protection of your personal privacy, is where online reviews can shine.  You may not have someone you can tell about that great book you just read, but certainly anyone else shopping this genre would love to hear your thoughts.  You can go on and on about how hot the male lead is from the privacy of your own home, and there's nothing embarrassing about it--there are probably many other readers out there who feel the same way, and no one you know ever has to know it was you.  

This brings me to an interesting point about reviews, though, and that's the fact that people hardly ever review books they read (book bloggers and review bloggers excepted, of course!).  I have friends who have read my books, loved them, and never posted even an anonymous review online.  Why?  Most of them just don't make a habit of doing it for any book.  They feel they need to set aside some time to do it right, and never get around to it.  (And I have to do what right?  To say, "I give this book 3 stars; the plot was awesome and I will be getting the next book, but it didn't live up to the hype and I was distracted by weird word choices"?  It's a review--not a novel, lol!)  

Of the books they had reviewed, most of them they had either loved, hated, or been disappointed by.  It took a strong emotional response--five stars or one--to get the "sit down and share" reaction, and the "good", "okay", and "okay, but not my thing" were left to oblivion.

For all of these reasons, I would like to ask anyone who has read my book to please review it.  If you are bold, or have friends who share common taste, tell them what you thought.  If you are especially outgoing or confident, post it to the social network of your choice!  If you are shy, or don't know anyone directly who reads the same kind of stuff, go online and post what you thought at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or wherever you got my book from.  

If not for my book (which I heartily recommend that you read and review!), do it for another book that you haven't reviewed yet.  I promise you, somewhere, you're making the author very happy by doing so.


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