Reviews: Why Do We Crave Them?
Updated: Feb 17
Let’s talk Reviews.
Reviews may be an immediate endorsement for book readers. A person searching on Amazon for a new book to read may lean towards the book with more reviews, maybe. I would say this is a good bet. Although I don't always get books that have only 5 star reviews. I tend to gravitate towards books that have a mix of reviews.
A few things I am unsure of due to conflicting information:
1. They have no bearing on placement of the book on Amazon. I have seen books with 3 reviews next to books with 500 reviews. I can't figure it out. I have heard that there is a magic number of reviews you need and Amazon will help promote your book. But what is that number? I've heard 50, 80, 85...I don't know. I tend to think, what is actually happening is the book is selling well, being downloaded more, and that is actually driving Amazon to help promote the book. That and the author may be running ads.
2. Reviews do not help with your Amazon author ranking. Again, from what I can gather, sales and downloads are what move your author ranking. This I believe. Here's why. My reviews on Amazon haven't increased very much, they have been at the same numbers for sometime. But I ran a sale on the 18th of February. Had over 65 purchases over the course of the day. My author ranking got better and better throughout the day. As did the book rankings. Over the course of the next day, as my sales slowed, my author ranking slowly plummeted, as did the ranking of the book.
3. They do not influence the Amazon algorithms in any way. To be honest, I don't know what the fuck influences Amazon's algorithms. If you know, please share.
4. They have no bearing on your sales. I just stated that my reviews on Amazon have not changed very much over of the last several months. Yet, my sales have steadily increased. And when I run ads, they double each month the ad runs. I'm not getting more reviews....just saying.
In the end, I cannot say exactly what reviews do for my books.
Ok, so why am I even telling you all this? Especially if I can't give you substantial evidence that reviews do anything for me. I only mention this because sometimes I think, as authors, me included, we live and die by reviews. I place way more importance on them than they deserve.
I can be uplifted by a good review and equally pulverized by a bad review. So why do I want reviews so bad? I mean, if I can't 100% guarantee that they benefit me in some tangible way, why do I want them so much? To stroke my ego. If you can’t say it out loud and admit it, that’s okay. But at the end of the day, that’s what a good review does for me.
A bad review has sent me into a despair unlike any other. My first bad review sent me into a tailspin and I ended up on the floor in the fetal position with an empty bottle of whiskey babbling incoherently.
When I published my first book, I waited…and waited…and waited….then I drank several glasses of whiskey….thank goodness I didn’t continue the drinking until the first review came in, I’d be in rehab or dead.
Once they started rolling in, I was pleasantly surprised. I had mostly 4s and 5s with a 3 here or there. Within the last few months, I have received three 2s—one said my book was a sex manual…LMAO, it’s a crime fiction…one said the sex was the best written part, but shouldn’t be in a thriller, and one said it was predictable and the characters were cliché. Ouchy wow wow!
Had I gotten those reviews when the book first came out and not after I had received over 100 great reviews on Google play, I may have quit writing. But what you learn with time is that reviews are just opinions.
Whether you agree or whether you don’t, it's still the reader's opinion and reaction to your book. You can’t take reviews to heart. (Except the glowing super fan reviews…only because those sustain me when I doubt myself.)
Readers read a book and move on. They leave their opinion. That’s it. Maybe they have a valid point within their review, perhaps not. But they don’t leave a bad review to HURT you.
Again, why I am even discussing this? This job is already so hard. Taking something you have worked on for several months and putting out for everyone to read, only to have George from Idaho, say your book was the worst book he ever read and thinks you're a dumb-ass. (I don't have any reviews by a George in Idaho, just saying.)
I don't want any author to give up over a bad review. Or even a few bad reviews. This is where believing in yourself, trusting yourself, and having a thick skin can come in handy. If you were brave enough to write the story, get it edited (Please tell me you didn’t skip that step), then publish it, DO NOT LET OPINIONS STOP YOU!
So what are some ways to help you learn to deal with bad reviews, without going to jail? Here are a few things that can help you grow as an author that I think will in-turn help you deal with bad reviews.
Get into a critique group. A good critique group will give you good feedback and encourage you, while being honest about your writing. They won't always agree with what you wrote, and you will learn when to change something and when not, but more than anything, you will get used to criticism. Not only will you learn to hone your skills, you will learn the difference between criticism that can help and criticism that you just need to let go in one ear and out the other. Hopefully, you will develop thicker skin as well, so when you get a scathing review, it won't sting as much and you'll be able to let it go.
Get involved in the writing community. Surrounding yourself with other writers who will give you a sense of not being alone. You will hear other people talk about the same issues you may be dealing with and understanding that others are experiencing the same things will help you see it isn’t just you. (And that everyone gets bad reviews, even the best of the best.)
Something else you can try, before you publish, get your final draft in front of beta readers. These should not be your family members. Hopefully not even people you know very well. You need honest feedback from readers. Not editors or critique groups. The beta readers will tell you what they thought of your book, where it slowed, where it became boring, if the characters were likable. Doing this will be the last step before you publish. Or at any part during your editing phase. They will help you to put out your best work possible. Then hopefully, bad reviews won't make you doubt yourself.
One word of caution. If you have tons of bad reviews and they say the same thing, i.e., too many grammar mistakes, characters were boring, not enough action…if several say the same thing or complain about the same thing, you may need to pull the book and fix the mistakes. This is where critical reviews can benefit us. We have to listen when it is warranted. Sometimes they are just trolls. As you get more comfortable with your writing, you will recognize the difference.
I haven’t had that happen yet, tons of complaints about one thing. Most have been nit-picky stuff. However, in the first days of publication, I had a twitter follower point out some mistakes. Like 12 in a 96K word book. Yes, it was professionally edited and proofed. You never find everything. But this person told me the location of all of them. I went back and corrected them. It was the best review I ever got. And it was a 3 star.
So even in a critical review, you can glean some good.
This is a hard business. Putting yourself out there is scary and overwhelming. 8 books later, I still freak out when I hit that publish button. But if you trust in yourself and your abilities, you can do this.