Writer Wednesday: Readers, Authors, & Reviews
Hello Writers and welcome to the middle of the week! So, there have been some recent rumblings in the writing community about reviews, the relationship between author and reviewer, and the blogger/ reviewing community. I've touched on reviews before and their importance to an author but today I want to focus on the relationship between author and reviewer and why it's an important one to foster.
This is not about industry reviews which are a different beast entirely. I am talking about your average book blogger, bookstagrammer, or just every day reader who takes five minutes to leave a rating or review of your book.
Reviews: "Bad" is Not Bad
I've asked the question before: What's in a review? Reviews have become the backbone the industry. Good trade reviews from sources like Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus may or may not lend a certain weight, but really, finding your readership niche is your greatest chance of success. And it's a niche. As authors, of course we want all the three to five star reviews. But, your book isn't for everyone. Not everyone who picks up your book will love it, and that's okay. Having 1 to 2 star reviews is okay. In fact, most popular novels have quite a few 1 to 2 star reviews, because the larger the sampling of readers, the wider the range of tastes and preferences.
Those 1 and 2 star reviews rarely swing a purchase decision. Readers often make their purchase decision on the cover, blurb, and maybe a sample chapter or reading a few pages if they are holding the book in their hands. To take my own buying habits into perspective, if I do read a critical review, I am much more concerned with the editing quality than I am if a book contains certain tropes. I might even be swayed more towards buying a book if I find the book contains a trope I enjoy even if it was a turn off for someone else. That's is where a book's niche comes into play. It might take a bit of trial and error to find the right audience for your book, but readers and reviewers, even if they personally didn't enjoy the story, will often do the leg work of recommending your book to someone they know would enjoy the tropes or storyline they didn't.
Authors & Reviewers
Let's talk about that leg work. Book bloggers, bookstagrammers, and reviews do a lot of legwork for free. If they love your book, they are all in, and word of mouth can do wonders for a book's success. And as I said, even if it wasn't their favorite, often they will recommend a book to someone they know will enjoy it. The readers who put in the effort to run a blog, sign up for review tours, reveals, etc, are an invaluable resource to the writing community and most of these readers do this on top of full time jobs or school work. They love books, they love reading, and it's a relationship worth nurturing.
But, at the end of the day, these reviews are not really for the authors. They are for the reading community and the readership at large. That is not to say, as authors, we completely ignore reviews. The advice often goes 'don't read your own reviews' but often...we do. Whether it's curiosity or seeking the validation people are actually reading our book, or whatever excuse we tell ourselves, it happens. But as authors, there is a line we don't cross. We don't go after a reader for a bad review. We don't take them to task because they did not like the work. It's not their job to like your book. The reader still poured time into your story, just as you poured time into writing it. Bullying or insulting your readership only damages your own career. So a reader didn't like this particular book. They could go on to enjoy the next one. An author's career is not defined by one book alone, though it can be through their actions.
As an author you pour yourself into your work, committing hours and hours of unpaid labor to the production of your book baby, and your want to see it succeed, but remember the readers that support you also commit hours and hours to reading your work. As an author you want to foster relationships with the readers who enjoy your work, but if lash out at the readers who didn't enjoy it, you hurt that relationship as well.