By Bowen Gillings
The job of an author contains a load of responsibilities beyond putting words on the page. Every author must revise, get edited, network, promote, and run a business—and seek out cover artists, contests, conferences, and conventions. We must read to understand where our stories fit in our genres. Authors have to track the market, so we know who’s publishing what, and which publishers and agents are looking for what we write. There’s a lot to do as an author (duh).
One thing authors must also do, but so many authors overlook, is post reviews of what we’ve read. “Hang on,” you might say. “I’m already juggling one hundred and eighty-seven things. Why would I add writing reviews to the mix?”
Because it’s your job.
It’s kind of like writing the occasional blog post for a writers’ group you support.
Let’s break down a review and its place in the business of writing. A review is proof someone read your work. True, a review can serve as a marketing tool to attract or deter others from reading your book. It can also boost or shatter a writer’s fragile ego (Yay, they loved it! or Obviously they don’t recognize genius.), but those are side effects. Reviews are proof of life for a book, period.
Reviews also fuel the algorithm. This means that reviews change how platforms (i.e. Amazon.com) rank, categorize, and market your book. There are thresholds that, once crossed, make the preprogrammed and ever-evolving A.I. overlords running online marketplaces sit up and take notice. And this improves author readership and sales, which are nice things to improve.
“What about ratings?” you may ask. “Aren’t they enough?”
No, they’re not. While showing fifty-three ratings is nice, it doesn’t populate the algorithm the way reviews do. A review forces Amazon (the number one sales site in the USA) to verify the reviewer. The more orange “Verified Purchase” tags on the reviews, the higher the book’s value is to Amazon and the better your book is ranked and pushed. Even if the book was purchased somewhere else, a review on Amazon means the reviewer (customer) values Amazon. Amazon likes that.
Knowing all this, let me ask you a question. You read the book, why didn’t you review it?
A review on Amazon.com or GoodReads.com (another powerful site for author promotion) takes maybe ten minutes. Reviews don’t have to be wordy, but they must contain words—a few sentences about the why behind your rating.
“See, I really didn’t like the book. I don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings.” You know what hurts more? No reviews! Any review, positive or negative, is a boon to the author. Again, reviews prove the book is getting read. That is exponentially more important to an author than getting a bad review. We all know not everyone will love our stories. We all know there are people out there who get their kicks crapping on others online. That comes with the job, kid. Authors, like all creatives, must have a thick skin. We must grasp that our books do not define who we are and that reviews don’t affect our value as people. However, we authors must have reviews.
So read copiously my author friends. When you’ve finished the last page, drop a review. Give your fellow authors the peace of mind that they’re not writing into a vacuum, that someone read their words. Power that algorithm. Reviews are part of an author’s job. Period.
Bowen Gillings is an award-winning author writing to bring the world more fun. His debut novella, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, reached #9 on Amazon’s Top 100 for its subgenre. His work is featured in FRESH STARTS and JOURNEYS INTO POSSIBILITY anthologies and Allegory e-zine. He is an active member and former president of Pikes Peak Writers, a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and The League of Utah Writers. An Army veteran, Bowen loves traveling, cooking, martial arts, and a fine adult beverage. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Learn more at storiesbybowen.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.