Review Ramblings (Part 1) – What Reviews Should Mean to Authors

Five Star Rating
Five Star Rating

All authors hanker for reviews. Truth be told, to a lot of us, reviews mean much more than book sales. As an author who has received more than 200 reviews for my debut book Maya’s New Husband on major portals such as Amazon, Goodreads, and on several personal blogs, I can vouch for that. I am happier if a day ends with a helpful review on my book, even if the sales chart isn’t exactly rocking.

Here are a few of my personal observations vis-à-vis reviews, just a few things that I think authors might want to note.

  1. Every review is important, but no single review can be a reflection of your book’s overall performance. Do not be much affected by reviews individually, whether they are good or bad. It is best to take reviews in bulk. Authors get a much better indication of their work if they see how they are performing on average instead of looking at one particular review that praises their book sky-high or molests it. That’s the reason both Amazon and Goodreads have average star rating mentioned at the top. Most readers base their buying decisions on this rating. Books from some of the greatest authors we know often settle somewhere between a 3.5 and 4.5 star rating. If your book lands within this spectrum, you should be proud of it.
  1. If there is a 1 star rating and there is absolutely no explanation for it, then don’t fret about it. There could be zillions of reasons, including something as simple as the person simply did not identify with the genre. Even the best of classics have several 1 star ratings.
  1. If there is a 5 star rating and there is absolutely no explanation for it, then don’t go over the moon about it either. This is probably a “well-wisher” who is simply proud of their author friend. These reviews mean nothing. They don’t even look good on the page because they look rigged. In most probability, these people haven’t even read your book.
  1. If there is a pretty short review from an unknown person, just a few sentences, then that has probably come from someone who has been strongly influenced by your book but isn’t quite articulate with words. This could be a positive or negative influence, but your book did something to that person such that they were compelled to review. Such reviews should make you feel rewarded, unless they are bad reviews speaking about the quality of your writing.
  1. Reviews that speak about the story and theme rather than the craft of writing are always the best ones. We authors are storytellers, so we feel really happy when a story affects someone. If you write about a social theme and it makes the reader think, there’s nothing better than that, irrespective of the fact whether they agree or disagree.
  1. The longest reviews are usually from professional bloggers. These are to be cherished. You could frame them and post them on your walls, even if they are just 1 star! The very fact that a professional blogger, who typically reads two books a week, picked your book to read and review means something, doesn’t it? And since they are so well-read, they will be able to tell a lot of things about your book that general readers won’t. Then again, you might agree and disagree with the review because it is, after all, one blogger’s personal opinion.
  1. From a marketing point of view, the professional blogger reviews have the greatest impact. They will be put up on their blogs too, and they will share it on their own social network timelines, which adds to your book’s viral presence. And that’s why it pays to be polite to professional reviewers!
  1. Most books will have a high rating when they are newly released. This is because the initial reviews come from the author’s known circle. As the book spreads out though, the reviews will become less flattering and more practical. Some might even be brusque or downright rude. That happens with all authors; it’s part of the process.
  1. Never, never ever, respond to a review on a public platform, even if it is the friend you shared a beer with last night, and especially not if it is a negative review. There is only one way these things can get — ugly. And since it will happen publicly and be there for posterity, you don’t want that. There’s no quicker way for an author to commit professional hara-kiri in my opinion. Here’s a definite example of how not to handle bad reviews.
  1. One more related point — Make it very clear to potential buyers what your book is about. Be specific about genre and theme. This is to ensure that your book is only bought and read by people who would appreciate that particular genre. If you are not specific, you are baiting for bad reviews. Even if a classic is given to someone who only reads and understands pop literature, they might review it badly.

Coming soon:

Part 2 of the Review Ramblings series: What Reviewers Must Keep in Mind when Reviewing