Book Reviews: Who Needs Them? Authors Do!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriters start out as book lovers, long before we pick up a pencil or write a sentence. Readers find value in books. Writers find value in sharing our thoughts and ideas. Reading and writing complete each other. We can’t do one without the other. Writers have no profitable value without readers. Readers have no fun value without writers (okay maybe that’s just me!)

It’s personal to open a book and give it our quality time, interest, and attention. Plus, the money spent on the book increases its worth. Readers understand this evaluation of a book.

Book Reviewers

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Book reviewers have an increased value when they add that extra step. Serious reviewers will take notes on the book, follow the POV, pay attention to details, and then write a thorough review about their experience.

Books are worth a lot to a reader, especially book reviewers.

Positive Reviews

It’s no wonder readers are zealous about their books. For the stories that inspire passion, the book reviewers are a writer’s best customer. Many reviews written are over-the-moon, enthusiastic, engaging, flashy, and emotional pieces of praise every author dreams of receiving.

A potential buyer who sees these reviews will want that same experience and will purchase the book. If they feel the same way about the book, they’ll add their own positive reviews and spread the word. This is an important way to make a book successful, and one enthusiastic review by a popular reviewer can spur a book to higher heights.

Negative Reviews

What writers may not realize is that those same reviewers, so loved for their positive reviews are also known for their undesirable reviews. If they believe a book has wasted their precious quality time, money, and effort they will write as much passion into their negative pieces as they do their positive ones. They don’t spare anyone’s feelings, but write from their heart.

Authors fear these reviews more than any other step in the process. Some writers won’t even release their books if they anticipate negative feedback. If any book struggles to launch big, and then receives a 1-star, did not finish, hate-this-book review from a popular reviewer, it may hurt book sales, but not always.

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There is hope though. Many reviewers won’t write-off an author just because of one negative experience with a book. They know that even the authors they adore will write one or two books they won’t like. They may not like one, but it’s possible to love another. It’s not career ending.

Authors Respond

Unfortunately, this is where some authors make the mistake of challenging the book reviewers. The book enthusiasts take their reviews as seriously as authors take their books. It’s personal to be corrected, lectured, and disrespected by an author for a review. The reviewer is the customer of a product and they don’t get paid for their efforts. They write reviews because of their love for books and they don’t expect confrontation from an author.

Most reviews give helpful critiques, good or bad, that readers can use as a tool to decide to buy a book. It’s also clear when a review focuses on personal attacks and unfair assessments. Readers ignore overly cruel reviews, or at least disregarded them as irrelevant. The author intervention is unnecessary. Trust your customers.

Authors are like small business owners, many of which go out of business if they offer a product no one wants and they refuse to adapt and produce a product people do want. It isn’t the customer’s fault for not liking the product. It’s the nature of business. An entrepreneur puts themselves out there and the customer decides their business fate, the owner needs to adjust. Blaming the customer only ensures any future attempt is tainted by the customer’s bad experience with the owner.

Things to remember about book reviewers:

  • Books are more valuable than the money spent
  • Their reviews come from their heart and passion
  • It takes a lot of effort to write a review
  • Writing a review is serious
  • They won’t always give up on an author for a negative experience
  • Every reader is a customer
  • Customer experience is important for future purchases
  • Expectations for liking a book are high
  • They love books and want to voice their opinions

Authors who don’t respect reviewers will have a hard time selling their books. Every positive and negative response is an opportunity to grow and develop as writers.

What do you think about book reviewers who write harsh and negative criticism? Should they be stopped or given opportunity to voice their opinions?

I would love to discuss with you about this and I love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog.
A.G. Zalens

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Goodreads’ Policy and the New Path for Authors

Untitled-1Times are different for writers. An author gives everything to their writing and sets aside many things to make sure it’s presentable. Only to realize the gut-wrenching writing was the easy part of the process.

The hard part comes next: marketing.

Moving away from past authorship

In the past authors relied on editors, agents, and publisher to promote their books. However, with more books published and less money for each author, the industry pushed the marketing on the authors.

This transition has caused problems for authors.

Before the digital age authors’ access to reviews was limited. Reviews were written by the media or spread by word of mouth in local book clubs. Readers spent time in book stores reading back covers and asking employees for suggestions. Since authors couldn’t influence the reviews their time was devoted to their craft. They wrote and that’s it.

Moving into modern authorship

Now, every blogger, reviewer, and socially active person has the ability to write a public review of books. Couple that with authors promoting their own books and it spells disaster.

Here’s the issue, writers need good reviews to sell more books. No longer do people need to join a local book club or wait for Oprah to announce the next best read to find a book they’ll love. They just open their favorite site and see what’s good.

So if those reviews are negative then book ratings go down, people pass over the book, and sales tank. This concerns the author/marketer who needs those reviews to sell books, a dilemma.

We need reviewers but we don’t want the negative reviews. Yet, reviews are subjective based on many factors in a reader’s life. Maybe when she went to the library that young adult paranormal romance sounded perfect, but by the time she finish she wished it had been a horror fantasy and felt disappointed. Or maybe he bought the book because his buddy recommended it but he couldn’t connect to the first person present tense and abandoned the book.

Not everyone will love our books. In fact, only a small niche is going to enjoy it at all. Negative reviews should always be expected. How an author reacts to it is important.

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Our behavior affects our product, especially when that behavior is public on sites such as: Goodreads and Amazon. Readers are the customer and how we treat our customers will impact our sales.

Authors and the entrepreneurship phase

I understand both aspects of this problem since I’m writing a book and I’ve worked in the marketing industry. We are artists of words, not of convincing strangers to love our words. However, with this new environment many authors seem to forget the other aspect of the writer’s life: entrepreneurship.

Owning a product for sale means authors take on the roll of manager: professional, helpful, understanding, complimentary, and willing to make the customer happy. A bad manager is someone who stirs up conflict with their customers and says or does negative things toward them.

A public figure needs to accept the negative personal comments and focus on the positive. Then learn from it and make the product better the next time.

Goodreads to the rescue

Untitled-1I’ve seen Goodreads struggle in the past few months with authors and reviewers clashing about reviews. The site now warns authors how to respond to reviews. ←

Goodreads announced a new policy that essentially tells reviewers to be nice to authors. Though, this is intended to keep the peace, the management should treat the site like any other product review site.

When an employee of a company acts irresponsibly the customer calls that bad customer service. The book reviewer is the customer and the author is the owner. The person who needs to make the experience pleasurable is the author. The reader reviews and gives feedback.

Reviewers are intelligent and can spot a review that reads hate instead of reasonable and they will ignore those reviews. Goodreads should let the market sort out the problem instead of intervening. Though I’m sure it’s hard to have people complaining on both sides.

Customers need encouragement and assurance that their experience will be pleasing even if they say something that might hurt someone’s feelings. It wouldn’t be wise for Bill Gates or Jack Welch to go on a review site and complain about the bad reviews. In the same way, it isn’t a good idea for authors to respond to negative book reviews. This is an issue customers can handle and the authors need to adjust to.

Limiting reviewers ability to be honest also leads to posters making a point in this fashion:

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I hope in the future this policy goes away or at least isn’t enforced. It’s bad for business.

P.S. I intended to do a character post, but I read Goodreads’ new policy about reviews and the responses from many book bloggers. I wanted to add my opinion. I’ll post this other topic soon.

Did you know about the Goodreads policy and what is your response?

I love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog

A.G. Zalens

The 5 Page Turning Must Haves

When writing my novel I tried to impart my reader-self into my words and ideas. I read somewhere that when asked what we want to read the answer isn’t always congruent with reality. However, we can look back at the stories we’ve loved and those we couldn’t finish, remembering what clenched us verses what bored us. So I thought I would write a list of things I love and explain why the opposite has me abandoning books.

Character Interactions

As long as the characters laugh, conspire, debate, gossip, flirt, tease, or complain together I’ll enjoy them and their friend/villain relationships. Though, if they are constantly whining, being selfish, placating, faking, or always quiet I’ll find a more intriguing book to read. If someone asked me: what is your worst noise?  My answer would be whining, so I don’t want to read 300 pages of it.

Inside Information

A redeeming quality for the above negative character interactions is usually insider information. For example: she whines intentionally as a ploy to secretly swipe his stuff while he’s fixing her problems; he’s being selfish to keep her at a distance because he’s not good enough for her; she’s placating while looking for weak points in his guard’s schedule to break free; he’s faking his enthusiasm to spy without being caught; she’s quiet in public but extremely vocal and fun in her head.

Interesting Life Events

When a character is experiencing something new, different, or unexpected, I am excited for them and enjoy the interaction. However, a book slows considerably for me when the characters are only repeating normal everyday events. For instance, walking in the garden – for the tenth time − where the most exciting incident is a new route back to the house; escaping the tutor to spend the day at a local zoo; or spending the majority of the time in the same room or house; I can live that life – I’m not intrigued enough to read about it too.

Action/Mystery/Intrigue

Something has to happen and often. I’ll read maybe 50 pages before I start skipping − looking for the unusual to enter the book. It can be something huge like natural disasters, murder, theft, or a disappearance; yet, it can also be anything abnormal: a door keeps opening, a character’s emotions spiking from fear or paranoia, the villain shows up somewhere he/she isn’t supposed to be, or as small as being late to work. Even if I don’t agree with the decision to enter the dark abandoned house, as long as the character is doing something interesting I will keep reading.

Cheering For a Character

Not caring what happens to any of the characters will have me putting down a book − fast. The worst for me: the character intentionally gets in the situation and then complains about it nonstop. It’s like, hey you stowed away on an all-male ship so quit complaining that the dirty men are aggressively flirting; or you chose to walk through the portal you were warned against so I don’t really care that the green aliens don’t like you.

Let me know what you must have in a novel!

A.G. Zalens