Thoughts on Book Reviews

I have mixed feelings about book reviews. They are considered the life blood for books by indie authors, because often they are the only way of getting the word out about one’s book. I recently received a comment on Facebook from a reader who purchased my book after reading the reviews. On the other hand, a bad review can be devastating.

As authors, we adore those 5 star ratings and dread anything below. Even so, as an author I’m looking for constructive feedback because I want to become a better writer. If the book receives 5 stars, why? If it receives less, why? Not all reviews address that. In fact, not all reviews and their ratings are good ones. Not all of them make sense. I was recently advised by someone that they never gave 5 star ratings because they mistrusted them.

The star system is, of course, subjective. If I’ve read ten books on a given subject, the number of stars will be based on comparing it to those ten books. If I already have a working knowledge of a subject, then an introductory level book is of less use to me (and hence worth less stars) than something with information and details I need. For a product, high praise after using the product for only a week or two is of little value compared to someone who has been using the product for a year or more. It’s all relative to the reviewer.

Anyone who has read a lot of reviews has probably noticed, as I have, that one or two star ratings are not necessarily helpful either. Reading the actual review will often reveal a dissatisfaction with something other than the product, such as a late delivery, no delivery, packaging problems, didn’t read the instructions, misused the product, bought the wrong thing for the intended purpose, or it didn’t meet personal expectations. And sometimes it seems as though folks just want to ding an otherwise good record. I pretty much disregard these. Sometimes the problem is with the company’s customer service. Whether or not that should be reflected in the number of stars given depends on whether the item was purchased from the manufacturer or a middle man.

In spite of all that, I still try to prod readers into writing reviews. If a review of my book is honestly written with a good rationale for the rating, I cannot complain and am extremely grateful for each one. I am extremely fortunate and encouraged that the reviews so far have been good ones. From what they say, I know that the book is achieving the goal for which I wrote it, to encourage homesteaders. I’m sure at some point the book will not meet a reader’s expectations and their review will reflect that.

Reviews for 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead (the ones I’ve been able to find, that is) can be read at the following:

If you’d be willing to add yours to the mix, I’d be ever so grateful.

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4 Responses to Thoughts on Book Reviews

  1. Garrett says:

    Well put!

    I was talking with a fellow self-published author who told me that there are some book promotion sites (like BookBub) that can have a major impact on sales/exposure, but they require a certain “minimum number of reviews” before they’ll consider posting your book.

    In fact, I’m seeing the number of Amazon reviews touted in book ads as a reason to read the book:

    “With over 60 5-star reviews on Amazon…” etc.

    And I am finding myself carving out a little time to review books that I really like (like yours!). I don’t bother with negative reviews, even though, as you pointed out, a well-written critique is something many authors (should) welcome. It’s a question of time and energy, really.

  2. Leigh says:

    Garrett, thank you for the input. I have to agree about taking time now to do more book reviews. I have come to appreciate them as never before!

    Interesting about book ads. I’ve only just begun to consider ads but haven’t been certain they’re worth the expense.

    And I hadn’t heard of BookBub; I’ll have to do some research! You mentioned GoodReads recently and I did sign up for it, but it seemed like it would take an awful lot of time to get some buzz going. I haven’t done anything with it for that reason.

    Someone recommended facebook as a promotional tool. I have a severe prejudice against fb but decided to give it a go. The idea of someone’s comment visible to all their followers finally got me. FB is still annoying, I still don’t like it, and it does take time to keep the page fresh, but the potential of reaching 600 million folks with just a couple of clicks was too good to pass up, LOL

    • Garrett says:

      Ah, FB… I’ve been stubbornly avoiding it since it came out and have been struggling with the decision. Glad to see you tried it and I’ll be interested to hear how it goes.

      The person who made the cover art for my books also sent along some cover art images that were designed specifically for FB (I believe it was the size/resolution), so really, I have more reasons to open an account than not.

      • Leigh says:

        I still have issues with FB but am wiling to give it a try for this book at least. It stubbornly keeps wanting to revert to my personal page (a requirement to have a business page), which annoys me to no end, since I have no use for a personal page. That seems to be a common complaint amongst business persons who have pages and don’t feel it’s professional to merge the two, but FB turns a deaf ear. I’m not finding it very intuitive either, but again, I’m willing to give it a go for now.

        If you do create a book or author page on FB, let me know! I’ll come like your page. 🙂

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