Why Reviews Matter

Valuable intelligence is often disguised as a throwaway bone at the tail end of a conversation. If you’re not attuned to being able to objectively assess scraps of information, the human mind has a tendency to disregard much of what it hears and sees. This is a byproduct of the media overload we experience on a daily basis – we’re immersed in so much noise, that sifting through for the good stuff often demands more energy and effort than we want to commit.

One of the things I learned recently was this past weekend during a conversation about publishing. The two people involved are industry veterans who know this stuff inside and out, so because it was so matter-of-fact, they didn’t attach too much importance to it. In other words, they didn’t turn to me and say, “Hey Jon, do you know this? Because you should definitely know it.” Instead, it was a throwaway line that I would have probably missed but for years of training and great teachers along the way (Tom…Mark….etc.) who taught me how to absorb and later examine what I’ve witnessed in order to determine the value of such things.

Reviews, in the publishing industry, are fairly standard fare. New books come out and the ARCs (advance reader/review copies) circulate among trades to garner reviews which are then used on covers to entice readers into buying copies. Sometimes, those reviews are great, sometimes they’re mediocre, and sometimes (like in my case with Publisher’s Weekly savaging my latest novel THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL) they are terrible. Reviews can also be used to drum up interest in subrights, foreign translations, etc. Typical practice when a review comes in is judicious editing to extract cool lines that make the book sound better.

For example, if the review says something like this: “Derek Twinklemeister’s latest missive shows that while he understands the mechanics of writing a sentence, the natural gift of storytelling still eludes him. While the prose is tight, the characters are wooden. There are brief glimpses of skill with regards to the pacing, but otherwise, the novel careens ahead and ends in a boring fashion.”

You can bet that it will look more like this on the cover or back of a book: “Derek Twinklemeister’s latest is natural, tight, and careens ahead with incredible pacing.”

But reviews DO matter. And they matter quite a bit on Amazon.com. Apparently, the good folks who determine which titles get featured for the Kindle routinely examine book reviews written on the site and make judgments based on those reviews as to whether they should promote them or not. And promotion in this case – unlike what many of the reviews in the trades can do – actually translates into sales. LOTS of sales.

Amazon, after all, has the email addresses of millions upon millions of people. They can reach out and turn a flagging book into a bestseller. Almost instantly. Nowhere else in the book business is this actually possible, unless you happen to buy your way on to the New York Times bestseller list.

Which brings me to my point of this post: reviews on Amazon. Currently, THE UNDEAD HORDES OF KAN-GUL has 5 reviews for the paperback and 6 for the Kindle version. That’s not much. Not much at all, given that the book has been out for over a month now. So I’m asking you to take a moment and head over, write a review (it doesn’t have to be long) and post it for both the paperback and the Kindle version, if possible. If you’re visiting this site from another country, please leave the review on your country’s Amazon site instead. My goal is to get a lot more reviews of THE UNDEAD HORDES so more people find out about it, so the good folks at Amazon take notice, and maybe throw some promotion behind it.

So many things are out of a writer’s hands when a book comes out, but this – asking you to write a review – is something I can somewhat control. I hope you’ll do so – especially if you enjoyed the book. And you haven’t bought the book yet – GASP! – feel free to pick it up!

Many thanks!

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