If you are following me on Twitter, you will be familiar with this:
Read it? Loved it? REVIEW it!
I tweet it quite regularly to encourage readers to think about putting their thoughts (hopefully positive) onto a review site. There has been quite a furore recently about writers commissioning ''sock puppet'' reviews to boost their popularity, and conversely, people taking 'revenge' on a writer by posting one star reviews.
So what are reviews for? I think they fulfill various functions. Firstly, they help other readers decide whether a book is for them. A slew of interesting and varied reviews (by this I mean at least 3 cogent paragraphs of analysis, not just: 'Ooh, I sooo love this book'/'I didn't get further than page 5') help one to decide whether to download/buy. Or conversely, whether not to waste your time. We are all time-poor. Reviews are therefore an aid to connecting the reader to the right book.
As a writer, I find reviews of my own books useful as a gauge to measure whether or not I am hitting the reader satisfaction button. Are they enjoying the story? Do they get it? Can they follow the plot? If not, how can I improve the reading experience for them in the next book.Reviews are also a personal encouragement - the writers' lot is an isolated lot most of the time. It is good to receive a little praise for one's efforts, especially when the serendipitous happens: a reader finds a whole new layer of meaning that had never occurred to me. Reviews can be a writer's best learning tool, if you let them.
Reviews are also very important in boosting sales.That is why I welcome the way sites like Amazon and Goodreads allow ''ordinary'' people to post reviews, and I get annoyed when some writers are sniffy about ''non-professional'' people expressing their thoughts and ideas,because believe me, the chances of most of us small/self published authors getting our work reviewed in mainstream papers or magazines, which is what we'd all like, are pretty remote.
It seems there is a Catch 22 situation here: you cannot get taken seriously by a ''big'' journal or paper unless you have unbelievably good sales...yes, you are ahead of me. I recently contacted a book reviewer on The Observer with what I thought was a great angle for a story: Book deemed unpublishable by top London Agency ends up on 3 prestigious award lists. Her response: how many copies had I sold and did I get a socking great advance from my publisher?
The other problem is that only a minority of journals will accept a digital review copy. It's a shame, because it offers the most efficient way of accessing the book, not to mention the least problematic way of disposing of it once reviewed. We live in a digital world, but publications prefer print, it appears.
Let's end by going from the ridiculous to the ridiculously sublime: For me, a special and unexpected reviewing source has also come from all those followers on Twitter who tweet a few lines saying how much they have enjoyed one of my books. Or, as someone did recently, treat me (and all my and their followers) to an excellently succinct chunk by chunk commentary on Diamonds & Dust as they read it on a long train journey. Interactive reviewing 2014 style. I never experienced this when I wrote teenage fiction and it has been a revelation.
Reviews. They come in all shapes and sizes. Welcome or unwelcome. What's your experience?