6 Great Reasons To Keep Posting Online Book Reviews

Engraving of a Reader

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To my mind, one of the greatest strengths of websites such as Amazon and GoodReads is that they allow readers (and writers) to post book reviews for all to see. Much as  I love bricks-and-mortar bookshops, I’ve never seen one yet which can do this on the same scale. (Though I DO love Waterstones‘ idea of displaying their staff’s views on books they’ve read.)

I therefore find the current “sockpuppet” controversy irritating. Haven’t we all known all along that some reviewers are unscrupulous, biased and driven by their own agenda? They are pretty easy to spot and the intelligent person ignores them and moves on.

Whatever you do, don’t let it put you off posting your reviews of books you’ve read, because, counter-intuitive as it may seem, reviewing other writers’ books is a great way of promoting your own books. It also helps you hone your own writing abilities.

Here are six sound reasons why you, as a writer, should post online book reviews:

1) Composing a formal book review is a great way of harnessing your thoughts about what works and doesn’t work in books that you have read. Building your critical faculties in this way makes you a more effective writer and editor of your own books.

2) Reviewing books in the genre in which you write, ending with a signature linking back to your own author website, raises your profile before previously unknown readers who will by definition be interested in your kind of book.

3) Reading other authors’ review pages gives you insight into how they manage their public image. Examining how they present themselves on Amazon will give you new ideas for how you manage your own publicity. They’re missing a trick if they haven’t set up their own author page on Amazon Central  and linked it back to their own author website – as are you.

4) It  helps you build a thicker skin for when you are on the receiving end of book reviews. Reading one-star reviews for books that you love will make you realise that even the best authors get slated by some readers, through no fault of their own. It’s common for someone to condemn a book because they hadn’t read the blurb properly when they ordered it, and so it turned out not to be what they were expecting or wanting to read. And of course some of reviewers are clearly just plain bonkers – or have other issues that make them enjoy complaining. (If you check out other one-star reviewers’ reviews,  you’ll often find they are negative about everything they read.)

5) It’s a great way of  encouraging other indie writers in your social network, and doubtless they will want to do the same for you. I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should post dishonest reviews full of false praise –  but you might want to keep your criticism constructive and diplomatic. And if you have something really negative to say, always consider whether online is the right place to say it. For example, if you’ve just read an e-book peppered with typos, it would be far kinder to send the author a private email, giving them the opportunity to correct their mistakes without public embarrassment. Call me old-fashioned, but “do as you would be done by” is one of my mantras.

6) Reading and writing reviews is not only entertaining. It’s also a great stimulus to your imagination. As a writer, you find yourself fleshing out the character of the people who have written the reviews, following interactions and conversations, and before you know it, you have the starting point for a novel or short story – or even a murder mystery! (If you write one, do let me know – I’d love to read it!)

So keep calm and carry on reviewing. It’s good for you as an author, it’s good for promoting your book, and it’s good for the industry as a whole. As far as I’m concerned, those grumpy people out to devalue this fabulous arena can jolly well put a sock(puppet) in it.

Further Reading

An  interesting and balanced piece from The Daily Telegraph (that’s something I don’t say very often!)

Great overview from Nick Harkaway via The Bookseller

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6 thoughts on “6 Great Reasons To Keep Posting Online Book Reviews

  1. Debbie, thanks for a well thought out post. I particularly agree with your first point about how book reviewing improves an author’s critical faculties and thus helps us to see the faults in our own work.
    I found this blog post http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/how-to-read-amazon-review-graphs_b56703 from GalleyCat interesting. It illustrates how to read the Amazon review graphs and spot when something ‘dodgy’ might be going on.
    If anyone wants to practise their book reviewing skills, Waterstones run regular free prize draws for books (usually 25 copies of each title up for grabs) via their website. Only Waterstones loyalty cardholders are eligible to enter and in return for a book you must post a review on the Waterstones site – but the review can be good, bad or indifferent. I’ve done this several times and it’s introduced to new authors and genres – as well as making me think about what I’m reading.

    • Hi Sally, thank you so much for this detailed response and for sharing that intriguing blog post about Amazon reviews. I’ll never look at Amazon reviews in quite the same way again! The Waterstones scheme sounds great – I haven’t got a Waterstones loyalty card yet but this sounds like a great reason to get one!

  2. Yay! The voice of reason 😉 Yes, you are so right, and your tips for why it’s good for authors to post reviews got me thinking. At the moment on Amazon my review identity is ‘hidden’ – that is, it’s not linked to my author identity. And I wonder why I’ve done this? I suppose it’s so if I didn’t like a fellow author’s book they wouldn’t hate me! Silly, really, as I’d never post a bad review anyway – I know how subjective it is and how much it hurts. Thanks Debbie, great post x

    • Thanks, Joanne! I share your anxiety about posting bad reviews – so I don’t do it either. If I’ve got any criticism of a book I’ve enjoyed, I do try to make it as constructive as possible – while also trying to make sure that I don’t just give everyone five stars, which would only devalue the currency. I really enjoy writing reviews, on lots of levels, even if it does make me feel a bit like I’m back at school! But I do genuinely believe that when reviews are thoughtfully done, everyone benefits – author, reviewer and future readers too.

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