Monday, September 30, 2013

Reviews - Read 'em and Weep? Or Ignore Them Completely?

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Oh, Lordy, reviews. Online reviews are the modern-day equivalent of saying to the universe, “Read my book and tell me what you think.” Reviews are now vital because, as we all know, word-of-mouth sells more books than anything else, and hopefully, online reviews are word-of-mouth turned up to the power of ten. Hopefully it goes to eleven.

And speaking of numbers, there is an urban legend that if you get fifty reviews on Amazon, and if you stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom and say “Joe Konrath” three times, your book will become a bestseller. Okay, you may have to light a candle or something, or maybe you have to say “Barry Eisler” seven times. Either way, the more reviews the better. And they better be real. Amazon has hired a hit man to kill anyone who gives their friend a glowing five-star review. It has to come from your heart, dammit.

Agents, editors, readers, writers, everyone is looking at reviews, and this is why your friend who has the book published is pleading with you to write a review and post it on Goodreads, or Amazon, or anywhere else reviews are collected.  Then people might stumble across your book, buy it, and tell two friends who tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on.

I miss 1970’s commercials.
But what are the real value of reviews?

I have some friends who don’t read their reviews, who have yanked their Goodreads account, who write, publish, write some more, and move on. Which is probably smart. However, since I am not smart, nor wise, I read my reviews and relish them.

Word of caution. It’s kind of awkward to email an acquaintance who reviewed your book, and didn’t like something, for more information. I did that, and the person was nice about it, but yeah, awkward. No one likes to be specific about telling you how much you suck.

The problem with reviews is kind of like the problem with critiques. People like\hate\love\adore \loathe different things.

I had some reviewers of The Never Prayer who hated Jozey’s voice and they said he didn’t sound like any three-year-old boy they had ever met. And Johnny Beels, his southern accent? Please, could I have some grammar? I wrote him in dialect. Nobody liked it.

Until a reviewer did. I met a young reader at RT this year who promised to read my book and give it a low ranking. I wanted a one-star scathing review. I’ve gotten a two-star iffy review, but I wanted more. I wanted scorch. The reader promised me she’d roast me over the coals.

In the end, she couldn’t. She loved the book and wrote me a long message about all the things she liked and didn’t like. She liked Jozey, yeah, and Johnny Beels’ southern accent? She thought I nailed it. Boom.

So read your reviews, don’t read your reviews; in the end, it doesn’t much matter. However, do you know why I relish my reviews? It’s proof someone read my book.

I wrote for years, not letting anyone see what I wrote. I was too afraid of what they would say. I overcame the fear, got published, and I love it when someone reviews me. Even the guy from Germany who hated Johnny Beels’ southern accent. No, especially him.

A guy in Germany read my book. Girls in the Philippines have read my book. Real people all over the world are reading my words.

In this crazy business, we don’t get paid much money, but some of the experiences we get are priceless.

I’d like to thank all of the people who reviewed my book. Even those who hated the name of my character Chael.

Hard “K” sound. Chael. Like the vegetable. I liked the way it looked on the page.

About the Author: YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer. When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs. His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012. Most recently, his work appears in the steampunk anthology The Penny Dread Tales Volume III and in the latest issue of Electric Spec.


  1. I love knowing people are reading and reviewing my books! But I don't read the reviews. And I definitely don't interact with the people who leave reviews. As a matter of fact, I've left reviews...and I pretty much hate it when the author comments on my review. Yes, there is the chance I'm not going to give a glowing 5 star review. And when I don't, I don't want to be apologized to that the book wasn't my cup of tea.

    The problem with authors interacting at that level is the presumption that the review is being written for them at all. I don't think it is... a glowing review, maybe. But I think even more, reviews are written for other readers. Not for the author. The author just gets the benefit of those reviews by how they generate excitement--good or bad--over the book.

    So, in all these too many words, I agree... read or don't read. Reviews are awesome because they are proof people read your book.

  2. Amen. Once a reviewer drops their thoughts, you can't really ask for clarification because you come off, well, as a tool. Even a thank you doesn't really work. I like Bethane's comment. Yeah, it's good people are reading the books, but what they think is what they think, and it's not any of my business.

  3. Your posts always make me think, Aaron. And what do YOU MEAN, the Joe Konrath/Barry Eisler is an Urban Legend :) Guess I can stop spinning. I'm getting dizzy :)

  4. Hi Aaron -- I read reviews but don't interact with reviewers. When I was first published, I did send a few thank-you notes, but that's unmanageable now with Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews are part of the learning process for me, so I can't just ignore them.

  5. Don't know if the 50 review thing on Amazon is an Urban Legend or not. I'm only at 30 reviews. But 20 more, than I'm pretty sure someone will mail me a cookie. Thanks for commenting!


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