Tuesday, August 21, 2012

To review or not to review...


The other day, I read a comment made by an author in regard to marketing and promoting of one's work. The author (who may be fairly successful and fairly popular, though I really don't know as I've never checked, and frankly, wouldn't know how to even if I were interested) provided suggestions for promoting a book, one of those suggestions being that a writer should not be shy about asking readers who have sent good feedback to write a review on Amazon. 

This topic has bothered me greatly, and so I feel the need to talk about it.


I have no problem with how anyone chooses to market and/or promote their work. At least I don't think I do. I'm sure there are myriad ways a writer (any writer) could choose to do so, and I'm certainly not familiar with all of them. On a personal level, however, having received extremely positive feedback from readers, either who are known to me or are complete strangers, it has never once occurred to me to ask them to write a review on Amazon. Somehow, ethically, to me at least, that just doesn't seem proper.


I understand the purpose of these "average person" reviews on Amazon (and on Goodreads). I do. People like to know what the everyday individual thinks of books they, themselves, might be interested in, or how that person's perception of a book they've read compares to their own. I get it, I do. But not everyone considers writing a review of the book they've read and enjoyed (preferring, perhaps, to keep that enjoyment to themselves), and not everyone is comfortable writing a review, thinking that such things are better left to those whose job it is (even those who may have grandiose ideas of being reviewers). I don't even feel comfortable writing a review of a book I've enjoyed (or even one I haven't), though I will share publicly on my Facebook a brief slurry of synopsis and thoughts.


Currently, I have exactly one review of my book on Amazon. It was posted there at the same time I was made aware of it on my publisher's website. That review was written by a bona fide reviewer, and I was very pleased and surprised to see it posted so soon after my books release. My publisher is in charge of sending copies of my novel to known reviewers. I sent one copy myself to another known reviewer, and that review was posted (not on Amazon) just under a month later, again surprising and pleasing me.


I'm new to this writing life. This world of writers, publishers, marketing, promotion. I'm learning as I go along, and for the most part, it's been a pleasant learning experience. I haven't been shy about talking about my work, or about sharing my work. I hand out business cards, talk my book up with complete strangers (in my usual reserved fashion), and point people to my website. I share the positive, and I share the negative; I'm fully aware that not everyone will enjoy (read: like) my book, and I think that even a bad review has its merits (okay, no, I'm not sure I think that at all, especially after the one - and only -  negative review received thus far. What a silly piece of work that was). 


It would be lovely to see reviews piling up on Amazon, or wherever. But I'm not going to ask my readers, who take the time to contact me privately to let me know how much they've enjoyed my work, to then post a review on Amazon. I can't even imagine doing this, let alone how I would phrase it. It somehow seems so very self-gratifying, and self-serving. Which, you may argue, is exactly the point. And I suppose it is. But I personally just can't imagine doing it. If someone chooses to post a review, of their own volition, hey, I'm all for that. Of course I am, why wouldn't I be? But I am not going to ask my readers to do so. And not because I'm shy. I most certainly am not. 


There is one other topic I'd like to discuss, briefly, while on the subject of posting reviews on Amazon. A while back, I was privy to a discussion, the gist of which I gathered centred around a review posted by the spouse of an author, and how the objectivity of said review could not be guaranteed, because, well, I guess all spouses opinions of their partners work is biased, and whose spouse wouldn't say good things about, or give 5 stars to, said work? Some participants in this discussion went so far as to suggest that it would be prudent of the spouse of any author to state said relationship clearly, upon which (I'm guessing) the posted review could then be discounted as unreliable and wholly biased, as is only right and proper, in their eyes.


Now, I suppose this discussion may have come about for some very good reason, but for the life of me, I simply cannot think of one. Okay, wait, before you lambaste me for being naive, I do know there are people out there who would do and say anything in favour of their spouse. And yes, you’ve got to wonder about those people. But really, if you’re serious about your craft, if you know your stuff, if your work is good, you know it’s good. Simple as that. It’s nice, very nice, to have other people say so. Of course it is. Validation is a lovely thing. But if anyone, ANYONE, ever suggests that my sweetheart, who is the very epitome of intelligence, discretion, and discerning taste, would ever support a piece of work of mine that was not the quality both she and I (and everyone else who knows me well) expected, I will thrash that person. Whatever the shortcomings of some spouses of some writers, those shortcomings do not apply to my sweetheart. Nor do they apply to my friends. I am far, far too particular to associate with anyone who would mislead in this manner, simply in an effort to stroke my ego.

One more thing: Before anyone decides to comment, I’m aware of the apparent contradiction here, that by virtue of my even bringing up this topic, I am thereby asking (0r suggesting) readers (now) post reviews. Such a thought process on anyones part implies that my readers are a) easily manipulated and/or guilt-tripped, b) unable to think for themselves, or c) stupid.
FYI, my readers are d) none of the above.



(Update 08/24/12 - After some understanding and encouraging discussions, I've come to see that there is nothing strange at all in asking readers to post reviews. As I said, I am new to this writing world, and new to this kind of self-promotion. But I'm learning!)

3 comments:

  1. Just thinking - I agree that there may be folks that do not wish/or are not comfortable writing reviews - however - moving to your court for a moment -

    - Your book is your product.
    - I think you have the right to ask for a review (pending your comfort on that level) - based on the following:

    I stay at a hotel - I provide my email (relationship no matter what "kind" - still a relationship) - I get a survey - I can fill it out...or not. I'm not offended by the request as it's a standard market trending toward "bettering" my next experience or addressing my last one.

    same concept as above - rental cars, carpet cleaning, online shopping,

    Idea - create a Facebook page for your book, (market this how you wish, your web-site, vendors etc) - as people "Like" - your page marketing goes to their feed (Technically - since they liked , it's by a form of "request" - post your survey requests there) - general/global/request only.

    - just thinking out-loud :)
    -DC

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    Replies
    1. Danielle, you make valid points. I do get what you're saying, and if it were in my nature to think of my book(s) as something akin to rental cars, hotel service, etc, whereby customers opinions are solicited, to improve service (or merely to inform), then yes, your thoughts make sense. But the enjoyment of a book, of a good story, is far more intangible than a hotel stay, and market trending, in my opinion, does not apply here (or at least I do not think it does).

      With regard to a Facebook page, this has been suggested to me before. I am choosing not to go this route, because it just seems like overkill. I have a website, and I have my own personal FB page, and that's all I'm willing to have.

      Thank you, however, for your thoughts. They are never discounted, and are greatly appreciated :)

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    2. of course! I respect your perspective. I'm a big fan of marketing and very software oriented ...it's hard for me not to "go there" - :)

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