Hug an Author — Write a Review!
The great thing about independent publishing is that there’s an opportunity for anyone to publish a book. But with so many new books getting published all the time, it’s hard for indie authors to get our books to stand out. The first step is to make sure that our books are as good as we can possibly make them, spending months or even years polishing every sentence. But once that wonderful book is out in the world, how do we get anyone to notice it?
The best way is old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Someone reads our book and they enjoy it, so they tell a friend, who gets interested and decides to read the book, too. With the Internet, this can happen even faster, because you can recommend a book and have a lot of people all around the world see that recommendation. Book distributors like Amazon and social sites like Goodreads have made this process even easier by offering simple tools for anyone to rate and review books. Now, it’s not just critics who have a platform for voicing their opinions about the latest novels. You can read reviews written by readers just like you to help find books that you could enjoy. But it’s been estimated that only 1-5% of all readers write any reviews.
When you write a review, you help the author by drawing attention to their book. You also help other readers find the book and figure out if it’s for them. If you say, for example, “I loved how the cat helped solved the mystery!”, then cat-lovers will know to pick the the book up–and people who don’t like cats may realize that it’s not for them. Reviews are subjective, but they still help describe the book and inform potential readers.
There are guides out there about how to write a good review, but you don’t need to be an expert on anything to write a good review. Just describe what you liked or didn’t like in the story that you read. Often the most helpful reviews are a mix of both positive and negative comments. Remember to add details. Don’t just say “I loved it!” or “I hated it!”, describe why you had that reaction.
Sometimes, you may not love the book you just read. It’s okay to say so. (It’s not okay to attack the author personally, but you’re allowed to be honest about the book itself.) Some people don’t feel comfortable posting negative reviews, and that’s okay, too. But as authors, it’s our job to accept some criticism, and if we listen to all our feedback (good or bad), that can help us to grow in our storytelling abilities. And don’t be scared off by horror stories of authors who lashed out at a negative review–it has happened, but it’s rare (and you should report any author who harasses you).
In the end, our books succeed because of the readers who love them. Writing a review is a nice way to thank the author for the hard work they did so you would enjoy the story. Reviews have been compared to giving a hug to an author, and that’s how I feel about them, too. I love to write for myself, but I publish my stories because I know people are entertained by them. And every review I get reminds me that somewhere out there, I made someone smile.