Imagine the situation. You’ve got authors desperate for reviews on one hand, and review bloggers desperate for new books on the other. You’d think they’d talk to each other, right?
Wrong. Only this week I saw a bunch of m/m bloggers talking on Facebook about how nervous they got approaching authors to request review copies of their work. Most, it seems, have had a bad experience with at least one author who called them freeloaders and told them to go away. Then again, a week doesn’t go by I don’t see authors afraid to approach bloggers for fear of being rejected. It seems a silly situation for all parties to be in.
And how about this situation: a reader contacts an author to tell them how much they loved their work. The author is elated, of course, but what they really want to say is LEAVE A REVIEW. They don’t, and the reader doesn’t think to do it. Probably they liked the book so much they thought it would be a nicer thing to tell the author directly, rather than leaving a review they might or might not see.
Readers, believe me, we see them all. We might not comment for fear of being labelled an Author Behaving Badly, but we see them, and our little hearts skip a beat whenever a new positive review comes in, be it our first or our thousandth.
The fact is, reviews matter. Yes, they’ve had a lot of bad press, as have certain authors: for buying or swapping reviews (ick) or handing out free copies on condition the recipients leave glowing reviews all over (double-ick), but we need them. We need them if we want to advertise our books pretty much anywhere, and that puts a strong financial impetuous on getting more. Yet we hold ourselves back for fear of being called an ABB, for crossing some unwritten line which says we can’t ask for reviews, only be grateful for the ones we get.
Did I mention how grateful we are? Because seriously, so much.
So what’s an ethical author to do? We don’t want to buy or swap or demand reviews from our readers, who already do so much for us simply by buying our books and telling their friends about them. I know a ton more people leave reviews on Goodreads, and other similar sites, than ever do on Amazon or B&N or ARe, but the fact is it’s not there that sites like Bookbub look when they’re contemplating listing a title (and authors pay through the nose for Bookbub listings, btw…) but Amazon and all the rest.
Most people have no idea how hard-won each and every review is. Speaking from personal experience, The Rest of Forever was price-matched to free on Amazon in May 2013. In the last eight months of last year I distributed, on Amazon.com alone, some 7,250 copies of that book, and received in the same time 13 reviews. That means, on average, I’m handing away 555 copies in order to get one review on Amazon (my total for that book on Goodreads, by comparison, is 519 ratings and 93 reviews). I don’t know how many copies total I’ve given away through various platforms, but it amounts to tens of thousands, given it was in an anthology produced and distributed for free by the Goodreads M/M Romance Group.
I know personally, I’ve hung back from asking for reviews from readers who’ve contacted me about my books, or from approaching review bloggers. There are people out there ready and willing to jump on any author who mentions the dreaded R-word at all. Yet if I want to continue to make a living with my writing, I need to be able to access every advertising channel I can think of, to reach new people and be given the chance of speculating in order to accumulate. The same is true of all of us who write for a living, or want to.
So perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet, to say Just do it and ask that blogger or reader if they wouldn’t mind awfully reviewing the book, or copying an existing review from Goodreads to wherever they bought it from. If a reader wants to know the single simplest thing they can do to help an author whose writing they enjoy, tell them it’s leaving a review. Especially on Amazon. As writers, we like to think we’re master of our own destinies, but we’re not. We’re at the mercy of our readers, who not only buy and recommend our books, but review them as well.
So this is me asking. If you’ve read and enjoyed any of my books, think about leaving me a review. Please. You have no idea how much it helps. And that goes for every author whose work you’ve enjoyed. It only takes two minutes, but it’s the single most powerful way you can help support your favourite writers and ensure they have the means to keep on writing.