Consumer Power, Author Responsibility & Why Book Reviews MATTER

Too many choices!

Too many choices!

We’ve had an eventful week or so with my last couple of unplanned posts. In all fairness, I did expect to get some knickers in a twist (which I did) with my post Pay the Writer. As a quick recap, I love used bookstores. They get a lot more of my money than I like to admit *looks up number to 12 Step Sponsor*

You don’t understand. Half Price Books has books ZEN DOODLES. No frigging idea what those are…just that I need some.

I’m not against “discovering” an author there.

But writers? If we promote used bookstores, make sure to remind readers you don’t get paid that way. Discovery must serve a purpose. Exposure must have the follow-up to be effective.

Because if you don’t ever make any money, you have to go work retail. If you work retail, one day you will be asked one too many stupid questions. When you’re asked one too many stupid questions you snap. When you snap, you lose your job. When you lose your job, you can’t face your spouse. When you can’t face your spouse, you sell drugs for the cartel. When you sell drugs for the cartel, you get involved in a gunfight.

Don’t get involved in a gunfight for the cartel. Encourage readers to buy new if they LIKED it.

Readers, if you find a book you LOVE at that church thrift sale for 50 cents? ROCK ON! If you want MORE books like it? Try to buy new. That’s how capitalism works.

When no one buys new? Well go peruse pictures of Cuba.

By the way, if we buy NEW, the used bookstores make MONEY when we sell those suckers to fund our addiction. So anyone who is foolish enough to think that me encouraging people to buy new books is going to undermine the used book franchise doesn’t remember what used bookstores sell.

The Truth About Samples



Yes, I get that the used book is a sample. Just like at Costco they give out samples of pizza bites. But if no one ever BUYS pizza bites and instead use Pizza Bite Lady as a free buffet?

Pizza bites go away and tofurkey bites take their place and then the terrorists win.

*runs away from vegan friends*

That was the only point to the post that seemed to cause so much offense. Yes Mr. Konrath, I get NO ONE OWES the Pizza Bite Company writer anything, but still nothing wrong with the Pizza Bite Company writer asking for the sale.

When the Pizza Bite Company asks for a sale after we’ve laid waste to the sample table like an Old Testament plague? They’re selling not whining.

Nothing dirty about it when pizza bites sell stuff. Nothing dirty when writers sell stuff either 😉 .

Today we’re going to talk about reviews, because I do think that was the big shocker from my last post. I believe most folks have come to mistakenly assume that reviews are kind of this “extra” nicety that isn’t directly relevant to the author beyond ego and that’s patently false especially in the digital age where we writers live and die by algorithms.

Yes, in the digital age, our biggest challenge is discoverability. The defenders of the used bookstore have an excellent point. Obscurity=DEATH. That IS true. But I still say, discoverability means nothing to writers (or any business) without an eventual sale…somewhere.

And for those of you who are on that limited budget who inhale books by the dozen? You have no idea how much power you wield to truly help the writers you love but hopefully you are about to find out.

***Note I said the writers you love. Not ALL writerKIND. Just because I write a book does not entitle me to any review beyond what I EARN.

Why Reviews Are So Essential

Sheer Visibility

We’re all spoiled by Web 2.0 which is a user-generated web that is the offspring of the implosion of the doc.coms in the early 2000s. If you recall the 90s, web content was static. Content was mostly generated by sweaty geeks living in their grandmother’s basement (Okay, I was in a guest room). Anything Internet-related might as well have been Sanskrit for the average person.

Now? Everyone contributes to the web including  my sidekick Odin the Ridiculously Handsome Cat.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 7.45.13 PM

This is part of what makes the Internet so damn addictive and fun. Everyone contributes. But, with all this content, the web is a BIG place and it’s very dynamic.

Search engines use algorithms to keep everything organized. Algorithms in turn rely on certain favorable behaviors.

I teach this in my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. You want a website that gets more traffic? Blog off it! Want a blog that gets more traffic? Do the stuff search engines love. One thing search engines LOVE?

Fresh content.

Would you want a Coke that had been sitting out for days? It’s stagnant, flat…got floaties? Guess what? You and search engines have a lot in common. You like fresh stuff. So do search engines.

This is why regular reviews are very important. If my book hasn’t been reviewed on Amazon since 2013? Algorithms will figure my content is best ignored unless someone actively hunts for that molded cup of forgotten Coca Cola my book.

When a book is reviewed, however, Amazon (or Goodreads or wherever we review because they use the same basic programming) perks to life. Because any site that sells or recommends books wants to help guide customers to good/new content, it’s obviously going to favor the “happening” place.

Think of it this way.

You have out of town guests. Are you going to recommend they go hang out at that dive off the highway where the bartender is about to die from loneliness? Or that hot salsa club downtown with a line out the door?

Visibility & One-Click Shopping

When that review improves the algorithms, the algorithm then starts improving that book’s visibility. It shuffles that book out of the dusty back realms of Nowhereville and gets it in the sightline of a possible buyer. Why this is perhaps more valuable on-line is that Amazon (in particular) understands sales.

Why I’m not a fan of the “exposure” alone is that I come from a background in sales.

There’s this thing called inertia and it’s a bugger to overcome. When I worked in jewelry, if I let a person out of the store without making the sale? Odds we’re 99% that sale was as good as lost. It was better to sell something and make the person have to RETURN it because then inertia worked in MY favor.

Same with used books. Great, customer gets a good book, but most of the time? That’s just not going to translate into a new sale unless an outside factor intervenes.

Outside Factor #1—OMG! TAKE MY MONEY!

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea


All of us (writers) think we have written this book. Probably not. We keep at it though until we do.

Outside Factor #2—Consumers Voting With Purchases

We vote with consumer dollars all the time and often this is sparked when we are educated that we need to buy differently. Don’t believe me?

I’m highly allergic to gluten and have been all my life. Three years ago most people thought Gluten was a moon orbiting Pluto. Then writers started educating consumers about the food industry. Our food had gotten to where you needed a degree in organic chemistry to know what the hell was in it.

Consumers fought back.

They ignored cheap foods loaded in artificial ingredients and bought non-GMO, organic and gluten-free. As a consequence, prices dropped, selection improved and now General Mills has announced that this year it will be removing artificial ingredients from many of its most popular products.

I can…OMG…eat Cheerios again! *SOBS* Spawn can eat them!

Image vie Cheerios. WE LOVE YOU!!! Even though you are stuck to every piece of furniture I OWN!

Image vie Cheerios. WE LOVE YOU!!! Even though you are stuck to every piece of furniture I OWN!

THAT is the power of educating consumers. Readers have the exact same power. Now that people know how writers they love make money, buying habits may be altered due to this factor and inertia overcome.

Hooked on a series from a used book? Perhaps buy the next one new.

Outside Factor #3—Our Nemesis, THE IMPULSE BUY

Most of the time price and seeing a new copy while shopping will spark a sale.

The main reason Amazon IS the new SkyNet is they’ve mastered the one-click impulse buy.

So when that algorithm shuffles your favorite author’s book into the sightline of other potential readers? Odds greatly improve that someone will impulse buy. More sales means that author’s odds of continuing to write more books like the one YOU liked have greatly improved.

How Else Do We Authors Improve?

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Believe it or not? Writers are omniscient…only in our fictional worlds. We just can’t know unless you tell us.

For the fiction writers, if ten people say our characters need more depth, then we won’t be wasting time doing more world-building. Feedback makes us better and saves us time.

And *draws a breath* I’m again about to possibly be unpopular.

We writers hear that you (readers) want excellent and professional covers, seamless interior design, professional editing, proofing and formatting…but that costs money. Please don’t rant that no one owes us a living and that you refuse to buy new books but then gripe about crappy covers.

We’re going to have to meet halfway.

Writers. We have a responsibility to put out the very BEST product possible. Refer to my post Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Writers.

Reviewers don’t owe us any review beyond what we earn and they shouldn’t pay for an inferior product.

The Deadly Silence

I think what’s killing many authors is that readers have come to believe that reviews are not important to us in any way beyond our ego or guiding other consumers (like reviewing a toaster).

Either readers will enjoy a book and never say anything, OR often they will say it in the “wrong” place.

I can’t count how many e-mails I get where a reader just gushes how my book changed their life. How awesome my book was. They loved it!

…then never write a review.


Reviewing Tips

Original image via Flickr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

Original image via Flickr Commons courtesy of Mark Coggins

It’s OKAY Not To Be a Pro

We’ve all made the book review WAY more complicated than necessary. Readers, you are not professional book reviewers and do NOT NEED TO BE. If a book kept you up until four in the morning and made you hate life as you slogged through your day job? Give it 4 or 5 stars and just write:

“Book kept me up until 4: 00 a.m. Writer is evil stealing sleep from innocent victims.”

If the book kept you interested and was fun and did its JOB? Reward it. Simple.

I know writers freak you out and you think we’re silently judging your prose. We’re actually too busy wetting ourselves that you liked our book and picking out artisan frames to put your review in….typos and all. They just make you extra adorable.

It’s all good.

Review According to the Book’s FUNCTION

Did the author do his/her job? If yes, great! Why was it great? If not? Why not?

If it’s brain candy then say, “Hey, great brain candy. Fun Saturday afternoon read.” Not all books are supposed to be contenders for the Pulitzer.

Recently I gave a good review to a NF but also left a criticism. The author had mission drift. He never delivered what the book promised (the THESIS). Now, I gave him four stars because I still got a lot out of it, learned a lot and enjoyed the writing…but he didn’t do his job. At least not all the way and he can’t do better unless I give feedback.

And I have the attention span of a meth-addicted ferret so if I finish a book? You get 4 stars just for that alone.

Kristen's Brain as acted by Spiffy the Hamster Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Kristen’s Brain as acted by Spiffy the Hamster
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

NEVER Put Your Name on What You Don’t Believe In

This is to offer relief to reviewers. Don’t let writers guilt you and if they insist on guilting you, tell them you’re going to tell me *stern Mama face*.

You beloved reader, don’t owe us anything we don’t earn.

Yes, I want you to support writers with good reviews only because I do think a lot of you have enjoyed books and have never taken time to write a review because you simply didn’t understand how much they mattered. Beyond that?

You’re in the clear.

If you don’t want to write a review? Don’t. You don’t owe us anything.

If you’re a reader and choose to leave a bad review? All I ask is you remember a real breathing human is on the other side of that. A human who sacrificed many hours of free time for the sole purpose of wanting to bring YOU joy. 

If we failed, we failed. That’s fair. But, there’s a difference between giving us something we can work with to improve versus prompting us to contemplate suicide.

Writers, don’t guilt others into giving good reviews.

This is a big reason that it’s tough to get reviews. I hate to say it, but I’ve lost many “friendships” because I refused to write a stellar review on a piece that had not earned it. Pouting isn’t professional.

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

If you want to be paid, then you’re a pro but that comes with some hard knocks and sometimes that hard knock is the book sucked. I’m your colleague and will tell you in private.

Readers don’t owe you (or me) that courtesy.

Tips for Shopping

This is mainly for the readers.

Take One Star Reviews With a Grain of Salt

One of the reasons I am not a huge fan of Goodreads is that trolls tend to hang out there and GR has not done a lot protect authors from being abused. So, if you spot a book that suddenly has a weird cluster of one and two-star reviews and there is NO explanation? Could be troll-sign. Trolls also like to hide behind cutesy monikers and avatars (btw sock puppets do too).

Do NOT Be Spooked By All Good Reviews

I also heard a lot of people say they were suspicious if a book got all good reviews, but be careful.

If you see a gathering of all 4 & 5 stars and NO commentary, THEN be wary. That’s a good sign you have a cluster of sock puppets (fake reviews).

But if you’re looking at a book that’s getting mostly 4 and 5 stars and readers are detailing WHY, the book might just be THAT good and the writer earned those high marks. Don’t punish excellence.

For the writers.


Anyone who has a financial interest in reviewing our book already has a conflict of interest as far as I am concerned. Save your money.

One thing that has really burned my @$$ is authors banding together and reviewing each other’s books and that is all well and good if the reviews are genuine reviews. Sadly this has not always been the case. Being a sock puppet doesn’t help anyone.

It will wreck your friend’s brand and your brand because readers will lose confidence and colleagues will lose respect. I refuse to put my name on anything I don’t believe in. If I give a book a five star glowing review? It earned it.

Being a real friend is not easy. But I’d rather someone no longer hang out with me than I serve them up to the wolves on a platter with dipping sauce. In the digital age, we writers live and die by the value of our name.

Don’t let friends guilt you into reviews they haven’t earned. If they’re a real friend and a pro, they’ll  get over the hurt and thank you later.

I hope this has helped all of you better understand how reviews work in the digital age and maybe even taken some of the pressure to write The Great American Literary Review off your shoulders. Don’t let other writers give you a guilt trip. As I said, you can tattle on them to me 😛 . I’ll set them straight.

Does this help? Writers, don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed to ask for a sale. Now if you ask and they say no? Don’t be a pest.

Readers. Feel free to buy books any way and anywhere you want to, but please remember that we do vote with our dollars. That holds true for cars, pizza rolls, gluten-free bread and it holds true for good books.

For the savvy reviewers out there, are there any tips you’d like to add to help us out? Writers, I hope this is something you can reblog and share so your readers know how to help and support you if they so choose.

What are your thoughts? Feelings? Are your eyes wide open? Would you like to add anything?

I love hearing from you!

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
    her original post brought lots of comments and controversy and was also picked up on the passive voice. Here Kristen Lamb continues on in the same vein, explaining more of WHAT YOU NEED TO HEAR! 😉

  2. Irst of all its now January, secondly – happy new year to you.
    Im looking forward to another year of your posts ?

  3. I sent this to my facebook page too. Much better than reblogging because I only have a couple hits on my blog each day. (I probably need to take your advice and blog on my website, which I’ll start with my next post which will be tomorrow.

  4. My thoughts are I want you to pick me out of a hat enough times so you have to review my whole next book for free 😉 Plus you write awesome posts which I have to spread throughout the netsphere but you knew that.

  5. Reblogged this on Alice White Author and commented:
    Yes, dear, dear reader, reviews REALLY DO MATTER. So if you liked a book, or even have some constructive comments to make that may well help a potential reader of said book to decided whether or not it’s for them, please do review, review, review! Thank you, Kristen, for another powerful post 🙂

  6. PS I am the same about reviews which is why I no longer accept reviewing friends books. I have to be honest. I was appalled when in one facebook group they told me they never give less than three stars to any book ( I was scared to give a one star to an author whose book got promo but whose book was so so awful that I absolutely had to give it a one star.) They felt like it was a disservice to be honest but I’m not talking mean or hateful ( those are awful too) I’m just talking honest reviews.

    Heres my questions: my reviews make no sense because there are so many genres that a decent book in one genre would rate crap in another, so how do we as reviewers even it all out? I have 4 star reviews on books that wouldn’t stack up against other books that I gave 3 stars just because for what it was, the book was good. But for “all time” writing it is something else. Does anyone else have this issue? How do you handle it? All stars are not created equal.

    1. I think I know what you mean. I recently rated a regency romance 5 stars. That genre is one I only read occasionally. I don’t love regency romance above all, but the book came highly recommended and I agreed: it was extremely well done and a book I would consider an immediate recommendation if someone said they were looking for a historical romance to read. In my review, I noted that I only read a handful of historical romances a year, and listed why I thought this one was one of the best. i think if you explain your rating and where you are coming from, that is the most helpful for other readers.

      Sometimes I see a comment on a romance book that it wasn’t “hot” or sexy enough, and for me, I like the more “closed door” approach and less graphic sex. So for me that is a plus. Having someone state that is more helpful than a star rating which can be interpreted different ways.

      I’ve seen Goodreads reviewers give a book a 1 star rating while they are waiting for the book to come out. That makes zero sense and hurts the author, but they don’t see the issue!! To them,it’s just they way they sort their shelves.

      1. I totally agree. The description in the review says it all (or not).

  7. Another outstanding post, Kristen. Thank you for being a great advocate for your fellow writers. For one of the books I reviewed, a person commented that she didn’t “trust” my reviews because I always gave four or five stars. It’s not a good idea to start up an argument with reviewers because that’s considered bad form and you always look whiny, so I didn’t engage with her.

    But… she’s right… and she’s wrong. I do ALWAYS give four or five stars to the books for which I post reviews. Always. But, as Paul Harvey might say–here’s the other part of the story. I only post reviews for books that I consider four- or five-star worthy. I read an average of four to five novels each and every week. I don’t post reviews for all of them. If I don’t feel it was honestly a four-five star book, I simply don’t post a review. As a writer, I know how difficult it is just to write and finish a book. That alone probably deserves a three-star review, but I won’t post reviews I feel only worth three stars. It’s kind of like kissing your sister. I know that I don’t know everything that went into the writing of that book–the sacrifice, the work, the energy, etc. To dismiss it out of hand with a mediocre score seems to me to be unfair. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m not the world’s last authority on what’s good and what’s bad. My tastes aren’t universal and I don’t think it’s fair to put my name and stamp of faint praise on something that’s just not my cup of tea, whether it’s just poorly-written or hits one of my negative buttons, i.e., a political world-view I don’t share, for example. I just don’t write a review for it. So, the person who observed that I only gave four or five star reviews is correct… but she’s only aware of the piece of the elephant she’s looking at. If I read 175-200 books this year I’ll most likely only post reviews of perhaps 40-50 of them. And, that doesn’t mean all the rest of the ones I didn’t post a review were bad in my eyes–it’s also a matter of time. If I wrote reviews for everything I read and even everything I liked, I’d for sure read a lot less. And, it’s important to me to read as much as I can. I do feel bad if I don’t post a review for what I consider a good book and my excuse isn’t a good one–I should and I know I should, but rather than take an hour or so to write a review, I have to admit I’d rather spend that time reading. Or doing my own writing. And, I’m going to make an effort to write more reviews now that you’ve “guilted” me into doing so. And, rightly so…

    I’m also a book buyer. I’ve always felt the best way you support your fellow author is to buy his/her book. I get sent a lot of ARCs for blurbs and reviews and I always tell the publisher I’ll just buy the book and then do just that.

    Anyway, just wanted to thank you for another outstanding post, Kristen.

    1. I think that’s a tough call on when to post a review or not; book bloggers I know will only post reviews on books they enjoyed and do not spend any effort highlighting books they did not like.Since you’re a book buyer you probably have to consider how negative reviews impact your work (I’m assuming; much the way an author might need to consider low star ratings for colleagues’ work). It’s an odd conundrum.

    2. That’s an interesting strategy. It’s just, I know how much books need reviews. Even less than 4 or 5 stars. I am not sure I could implement your strategy. Agree too, there is only so much time. Sounds like you have it all worked out for your lifestyle and moral compass. Way to go! 🙂

    3. I am the same way, but writers (I feel) are different. It’s professional courtesy. Will blog about that another day. Suffice to say I read 2-3 books a week. But I rarely review because I am that picky. But I know there is a man behind the curtain. So my eyes don’t see things the way a regular reader does and I appreciate that. I also think writers have a tough enough time in the trenches. We shouldn’t be bayoneting each other.

    4. I usually give 4 or 5 star reviews because I only review a book once I finish reading it… in general, it needs to be a 4 for me to get to ‘the end’… once gave a book a 3 because the author nagged me, so I forced myself to read to the end…

  8. I still like Goodreads and always peruse a selection of reviews. Any starred review needs to have content for it to matter to me. It’s easy (and fun for some) to lay on the snark, but I far more appreciate a low star review that explains why the book did not work for them rather than a gif-loaded snarkfest intended to make the reviewer look cool and win “likes.” Those are easy to separate after about five minutes of looking through reviews.

    What I’m hesitent on is cross posting to Amazon which I used to do. I heard that they will remove reviews sometimes if it is not a verified purchase on Amazon–wondering if that’s still true. I buy B&N for my Nook and often from my indie. Most Amazon books I buy are for gifts, so I may not be the one reading.

  9. Love this post, Kristen! Your last three have been so good! I agree with you and you inspired me to make a YouTube video on 3 ways to support your author friends. A lot of my friends and other people who they pass my books on to, don’t know the importance of reviews. I always encourage a review if they enjoyed the book. I’ve lost interest in Good Reads, as both an author and a reader, because I’ve seen books get 1-star because someone didn’t like the cover. How is that helpful? Or as someone else mentioned in these comments, giving a book a bad rate before it even came out. I also noticed books I didn’t run giveaways on had no rates. Sometimes it’s hard to remember some people just like to feel high and mighty by making others feel less than. Definitely working on developing a thick skin. Also, your original post about why we should be buying new vs used was very insightful. I hadn’t thought about it, and I made it my number tip one too. Support your writer (or other creative) friends by buying their book! Thank you for rocking and being a writer mentor! 🙂

    1. I agree. I know it sounds weird but I actually find the amazon reviews more helpful than Goodreads. And that is a real shame.

    • Loretta Greco on January 4, 2016 at 2:10 pm
    • Reply

    Just started reading your blog and I love it! You are informative and funny and you ALWAYS make me laugh out loud! I confess I have not read any of your books, but I will be checking them out on Amazon (not the used bookstore) soon. Thanks for making my day!

    1. HEY! I am branded for LIFE! Kristen Lamb hates used books! LOL. I don’t mind you getting it used, but if you love it and want me to write MORE…buy new.

      Or I have to sell drugs for the cartel 😛

        • Shawn on January 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm
        • Reply

        The cartels need a better social media presence.

  10. happy new year to all! have a great year ahead

  11. Posted on my facebook page. Does that qualify for an extra entry? 🙂

  12. Excellent post! Alas, handsome as Odin is, this post doesn’t contain information about pet care, so doesn’t fit with my blog.

  13. Happy New Year! Thoughtful and humorous post. 🙂

  14. Reblogged this on adaratrosclair and commented:
    Thank you for this great post, Kristen. 🙂

  15. Kristin, thanks for an honest (refreshing) and insightful post for both writers and readers. I do try to review the books I read and my reviews are readily available on Amazon and my blog. I review because of the blood, sweat and tears most authors shed while writing the book and would want others to return the courtesy when my book is on the shelves (fingers crossed). In each review, I try to be as honest and respectful as possible. The number of stars I give to a book depends on a number of things. Did it do what it was meant to do, keep my interest, or bored me to death? I consider the way the story moves forward, the credibility of both the characters and the plot, and overall grammar and structure. Anything that pulls me out of the story, repeated misspelled words or awkward sentences will go into how I rate a book. I respect every authors’ effort, however, giving a good review “just because” is doing as much a disservice as giving no review.

    Thanks so much for an excellent post!

  16. Reblogged this on AM Justice Journeys Through Time.

  17. And again with the great information! Thank you so much. I have seen several authors try to guilt people into giving them good reviews. I hate that. It puts me on the spot and I don’t like to be on the spot. If a book is one that I would not give a 3 or 4 or 5 star review to… I just don’t review it. That has not always been my policy, but it is now.

    I have emailed some authors and told them why I just couldn’t give the book a higher review. All in all, I don’t like to review books since I’m writing them.

    You are always giving us great information. And information we cannot or do not find other places. There is no way to tell you how much we/I appreciate that.

    • lilapinord on January 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm
    • Reply

    I try and review all books I read – and that’s a lot! I think I’ve only given one BAD review and hated doing it, but it was a horrible book. I’ll never do that again – will simply stop reading it. Do you think that’s the right thing to do? As for my own books, seems only one person found many things not to his liking in one of them. Water off my back!
    Love reading and reviewing and if it helps an author – good!
    Good post on Reviews!

  18. I’m with Les–I read a LOT (I’m an editor), but I only post reviews if they are 4 or 5 stars. If the author needs help or the book didn’t work for me, I email them or FB message them *personally*. That means SO much to them!! No need to bash them in the eyes of the entire world–they’re probably doing their best! One very, very prolific and successful author had formatting errors on literally every page or every other page of her utterly incredible book. (Double of everything–quotes, hyphens, nearly all punctuation. Obviously not her fault–something went wrong in the formatting process. And this was a hard copy of the book!) She was extremely grateful I let her know, got it fixed right away, and sent me two brand spanking new copies! Then I gave her a 5-star review, because the book deserved it, but I wanted to wait until there were clean versions available.)

    If someone sweetly asks me to review their book (recently I won a book that I wasnt interested in … not sure how), I will. The genre was not something I relate to, there were many things that made me literally cringe in the dystopian plot, but the writer was a GOOD writer. So I gave her a good review, focusing on what I liked. I also made simple revealing comments on the things that didn’t personally appeal to me–in a funny way (e.g. “I was pretty scared of those flying gigantic spiders with radiation pocket knives!) Someone else will probably love those creatures (fake example), so I just want to let potential readers know a few unusual things about the book as they make their decision.

    But there is no reason to shred someone in a review. Some of my authors were deeply wounded–and I was, too, for the ugly & ridiculous & unfounded slashing someone gave them. If you don’t like a book, please move on! It’s better to NOT write anything at all. If you must, write the author personally–that usually always works very effectively. We all don’t like the same foods or movies or clothes, but we understand that others love things we hate. I have a friend who (I still can’t understand this) loves to watch the absolutely worst horror movies he can find–he searches all over the web to find them. Okaaaayyyyy, those truly awful movies (like the ones people made in their back yard or are completely full of the worst gore imaginable) actually have a dedicated audience. Who am I to judge or give my opinion? We NEED variety in the world.

    Let’s be respectful of others’ tastes, both authors who have creative visions and those who enjoy their unique books. 🙂

    1. I can’t help it, I just feel like then, reviews- and stars- mean absolutely nothing. God knows regular readership does not worry about this kind of thing, which means the very ones authors need honest reviews from (again- not hateful, not mean, and if its great its great-just not falsely hyped) are the ones holding back. I can’t seem to come to a conclusion in this dilemma. I respect the way that everyone seems to have worked out the problem with themselves, but I just don’t see it. I do agree ( especially from an editor or publisher or well known writer) that a personal communication might do wonders, but most writers don’t do that; they just inflate. And as just a regular writer, I don’t want to send personal communications to other authors telling them anything- who am I to judge what they should and shouldn’t have done- which is why I leave a review- because that is my place- the place where I as a reader state my own, obviously personal, views on the book. Sigh

      1. Just remember that writers are not the only ones doing reviews and focusing on what you love is not ignoring what you hate. It’s just is adjusting the focus. Don’t fret. There will be plenty of readers to tell us we are talentless hacks with the brain of a brain damaged fruit bat. Just because we writers aren’t actively bayoneting one another doesn’t mean out opinions aren’t valid. I pay attention to what Les likes because he is INSANELY hard to please. People pretty much know I hate everything. Occupational hazard. So if I give 4 or 5 stars? That is a big deal.

        Hon, you have to remember that we writers have to be careful we don’t ruin the magic. Unlike the regular spectator, we know the tricks. We see the smoke and mirrors and trap doors. We look with a FAR more CRITICAL eye. An often UNFAIRLY critical eye that NO READER would EVERY use.

        1. “Hon, you have to remember that we writers have to be careful we don’t ruin the magic. Unlike the regular spectator, we know the tricks. We see the smoke and mirrors and trap doors. We look with a FAR more CRITICAL eye. An often UNFAIRLY critical eye that NO READER would EVERY use.”

          You are very right here. Lots more thinking for me to do.

          Thank you Sensei. 😉

  19. Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    Frank talk about why reviews matter.

  20. Reblogged this on COW PASTURE CHRONICLES and commented:
    I had planned a post on writing reviews this week; however, Kristin Lamb had a post out today that was superb. So, no sense in reinventing the wheel. Not only does she provide valuable insights into reviews and their importance to authors, but give us some cautionary truths, as well. Take it away, Kristin.

  21. I’m one of those who writes reviews only for books I like. Writing is hard work. I have no interest in tearing down a colleague, no matter how much I might dislike his/her book. As a reader, though, I always read the negative reviews first because sometimes something one person really dislikes is something I might really like.

    On Goodreads, I don’t understand why the powers that be can’t (won’t) do something about the trolls. Today I noticed a reviewer who has left more than 18,000 ratings, and 99.8 % were 1-star reviews. The remaining handful were 2-star reviews. None had any actual reviews, just the ratings. The user name was a single initial, no profile, no friends. How can Goodreads NOT see that that’s fake?

  22. Reblogged this on Room With Books and commented:
    Have YOU ever thought about leaving a review on a book you’ve read. Outlined by Kristen Lamb (I’m finding her to by my latest stalkable!) is all the reason to leave a review and how simple it really is!

  23. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  24. Reblogged this on Teresa Schulz and commented:
    Reviews … if you like our books, please, let us know. We will love you for it.

  25. Reblogged this on Stephanie Beavers and commented:
    Happy New Year!

    Check out this awesome blog. Kristen usually blogs for writers, but this one is highly relevant to all readers too! Check it out.

  26. Thank you for this!

  27. Reblogged this on Mandy White.

  28. Loved this. I’ve been talking to my friends and occasional reader about why a review is so necessary (for me!). I never pressure them for a good review, just a review. You lay it all out so neatly. I’m sharing!

  29. I love your humor on tough subjects. This is great. Thank you.

  30. As an author, what I feel the WORST about is when I agree to trade a review with one of my writer friends and then I don’t love their book. This would be GREAT if they also didn’t love my book. But when someone hands me a five-star review and I’m stretching it to give them three stars? Feels like death of a kitten.
    I always ask them if they want me to post less than a four-star review. Because I know the QUANTITY of reviews is important in Amazon algorithms. However, I don’t want to make their overall rating plunge to the basement either.
    I am hyper-critical of what I read and have high expectations, but I don’t slaughter anything I’ve read in my review. Sometimes I admit it wasn’t my genre, or my style of writing or I didn’t connect with the characters. All those things are going to bring a book in at three stars or less. So, I’m honest about what I liked and didn’t like, and I try to keep the two in balance (which can be difficult if I really dislike a book). I usually stop reading in that case and the book finds its way to my “abandoned” book shelf on Goodreads.
    I would rather have an honest low review than no review at all. But not everyone feels the same about that.

  31. Late in reading this and happy I got to it today. Awesome post, and reminder. I once got myself in trouble by reading and agreeing to post a review of a friend’s first book. Scrunching down in guilt. It was not a good book and don’t understand how it got published in the first place. But because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, I left her a 5 star review and found some things to talk about. Since then I never agree to review a friend’s book. But I do leave a review for each book I read, because I know how important it is for my books to receive reviews. Thanks for the advice!

  32. Good reminder about how to gently “remind” my readers to keep passing the word on. Thanks, WM.

  33. I copied & pasted all my 2015 reviews on to Amazon. Thanks for educating us!

  34. I copied & pasted all my 2015 reviews from Goodreads to Amazon. Thanks for educating us!

  35. Reblogged this on Jeannie Hall Suspense and commented:
    Sharing Kristen Lamb’s phenomenal blog!

  36. Reblogged this on Let the Ink Run Free and commented:
    This is truth, and it’s put there in layman’s terms and you gotta love the quirkiness. Reviews, guidebooks, grabbing the readers attention. This is what the writing world is in any and every form you can think of.

    Author Angel Lawson has also given her take on this post in regards to her books and you can find that post here:

    Let the Ink Run Free

  37. Argument: Without Bookstores, no one would buy books, hence the writer would fail. Writers owe bookstores.
    Counterargument: Books were around long before book stores. Without writers, there would be no bookstores.
    That’s my two cents anyway. LOVED the post. Very eye-opening. After your string of recent posts I went back to a few books I’d read in the past and gave them reviews. After this post, I’ll consider also leaving reviews for books I disliked. I don’t feel good about leaving low-starred reviews though and prefer to not leave anything if I don’t have something good to say. It’s a difficult balance leaving a review that won’t turn off potential readers but that will also give helpful criticism to the author.

    1. I guess that was my central point. We go on and on and wax rhapsodic—Support the BOOKSTORE!!! But if you support writers it WILL support bookstores. No writers and bookstores kind of a moot point.

  38. Great post, Kristen! So many of you have made excellent points. Well said, Sarah Caroline!

    I admit to not writing bad reviews for the reasons Dora outlined. I never have. I tend to vote with my feet (or wallet). I usually will try an author twice, and if it’s not my thing, that’s it. But twice I’ve read books I literally HATED. Bestsellers both, but I found absolutely nil enjoyment. Did I say so? No. Because I don’t believe my personal opinion on their characters, which others loved, would help.

    I’ve (oops, my books – I used to write as Melissa James for Harlequin) been shredded in reviews. Hurt, hated it, and then got over it. But some reviewers take absolute pleasure, not in just dissing the book, but the author too. I usually check out those people, and they’re almost always writers that haven’t sold to the Big 5. I guess that hurt them. Some would say I’ve been lucky that way, selling to 3 lines of Harlequin and then William Morrow/HarperCollins. I would say I worked like a dog to get it, doing courses, revising, cutting, changing the whole book more than once to reach my goal. I believe other writers have done the same. So I don’t diss other writers. I figure it’s a case of not my taste, and move on. Bad reviews won’t make me a better writer. Or make my books sell. Professional courtesy, to my mind.

    But I *do* need to write more reviews. Note to self…I read 5-6 books a week and rarely write a review while on deadline. Need. To. Do. More. Thanks, Kristen!

    Right. Last day of deadline. GET. BACK. TO. WORK.

  39. PS: I apologize unreservedly to non-Big 5 writers for my last post! I did NOT mean all other writers diss Big 5 authors. I am so sorry. I meant only that a small reserve of people will allow bitterness to creep into their souls, and those ones take pleasure in nasty reviews that attack the author, not just the book.

    I beg everyone’s pardon!

    1. LOL. We should be big girls and boys. I took it as you meant it I am sure 🙂 .

  40. Fun post, Kristen, and good timing for me. I’ve spent this week feeling bone idle while actually embroiled in cajoling readers into submitting the reviews they’ve promised. As you said, they send glowing emails but actual reviews are either not forthcoming, too brief —”Awesome Book!”—or strange. One was so obscure a friend had to decipher it for me; turned out to be Grateful Dead lyrics. Okay…thanks! Actually, real thanks because it was, at least, a review.
    I’m heartened to know I’m not the only vain ego-maniac stalking readers for feedback. I’ve just read over and over how important reviews are, plus I know from experience (2nd book) that they don’t drop from the sky like birds for your cat. You have to GET them. Somehow. And I agree that the energy around paid-for reviews isn’t kosher at all, plus you probably get on a black list at the Zon.
    So my method-du-jour is 1) Mention the review right up front when someone (you know of) buys your book, 2) wait for them to a) start the book, then b) finish it, 3) ask how they liked it and casually mention the r-word again, 4) wait patiently, although nothing will happen, then 5) go for broke and ask again [directly, don’t be cagey], and then seriously discern if it’s hopeless or if they kinda want to but can’t seem to swing it, and also 6) notice if they’ve asked what exactly they should write or how to do it or if you’ll ‘help them’….they may really need help or a gentle assist. So, building on #6 (I did this TODAY, and once before with my first book), I texted the person, “I’ll help you get it done in ten minutes” — I picked the day and time I knew was the calmest part of her week. She agreed to it and phoned me, ready to go!
    Then I simply asked her what she honestly thought of the book (she’d previously told me she loved it), what she might say to another prospective reader. As she elaborated an answer, I jotted down her remarks. She was taking notes, too, as she spoke. Once we had a short paragraph, I said, “You’re done, it’s perfect.” I suggested she change it around a bit if she cared to, or delete this or that, but that basically she’d done a great job. I then steered her to my Amazon page to submit it while I was still on the phone.
    It does make you feel like a vain ego-maniac spending your time this way!!! But maybe these readers will grasp how tough the whole process is for us guys… The good news is that every hard-won review will sit right there beside your book for years to come.

  41. Book reviews help a writer all the time.

  1. […] Source: Consumer Power, Author Responsibility & Why Book Reviews MATTER […]

  2. […] Source: Consumer Power, Author Responsibility & Why Book Reviews MATTER […]

  3. […] A number of blog posts this week covered reviews and their value to the authors. The post from Kristin Lamb, reblogged here yesterday, is a good example. However, the question I’ve heard the most often […]

  4. […] the way, if you don’t think reviews are important, then you might want to check out Kristen Lamb’s blog. Her last three posts have been about this topic, and I couldn’t have said it better myself […]

  5. […] Source: Consumer Power, Author Responsibility & Why Book Reviews MATTER […]

  6. […] Writers understand the importance of reviews, but Kristen Lamb lays out the way things work so that readers can understand the power that consumers wield and why their reviews matter. […]

  7. […] Salon pick any of my other follow up posts to highlight? The hard truth about publishing, how to support writers with reviews (for the used buyers on a limited income), or the post about Fair Trade Fiction? All of these posts meant better pay and business for […]

  8. […] Source: Consumer Power, Author Responsibility & Why Book Reviews MATTER […]

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