An interesting discussion broke out on one of my Facebook author groups the other day. For a wonder, it wasn’t all just authors promoting their latest work, their upcoming release, or the review they just got. Being an author without the name Stephan King or George “RailRoad” Martin means that you have to make as much noise about yourself as possible, even to other authors.
But this discussion was based on a poll a group member did into the importance of reviews: did they actually affect the outcome of a purchase, or was the synopsis more important?
Personally, I consider the synopsis another piece of marketing. Its job isn’t just to tell what the story is about, but to tell you in such a way that you’re swayed into buying it. Most genre literature doesn’t need to do too much to sell me, so even a mediocre brief about the story will probably sell me.
Next, I look at the reviews. I don’t actually read the reviews, I just glance through the numbers. Anything with fewer than 20 reviews I tend to shy away from. I’m sure I’ve got 15 to 20 friends and acquaintances that if I ask (and bribe) will provide a review for me. That doesn’t say anything about my abilities as a writer, it just says that I can function (sometimes) in society. The only time I actually read a review is if it’s incongruent. Twenty-three five-star reviews and a lonely one-star. What’s up with that? Gotta me some good gravy over there!
I can forgive an outlying review when I’m looking at a book, but they tend to be fun to read. It’s usually someone who took issue with a character or plot choice. Not something actually wrong with the storytelling, but a reader armchair writing. I’m fascinated by these, in the same way rubberneckers are by a terrible accident. I want to see what all the fuss is about!
Check out some of the awesome fuss over here at Leasthelpful. There are truly some gems.
But if there is some legitimate gripping about a book, I want to know about it before I make the purchase. Twenty-eight or two-hundred five star reviews paint a pretty picture, but an equal number of one star reviews frame the whole thing. I’m sure there are a number of folk (one is a number) who have similar tastes to my own, and find some of the tired, clichéd tropes over-used. I want to know that when I’m testing out a new author.
In fact, reviews are actually big business. Both positive and negative reviews can have such an impact that authors and publishers are willing to pay, and pay well, for a certain numbers of reviews.
So if you want to help me, write a review when my book comes out this fall!