Reviews carry huge significance to authors. A plethora of positive reviews--plus sales--helps catapult a book to bestseller lists on Amazon, where--to be perfectly honest--most book sales occur. Sure, experts advise authors to list their books across multiple platforms: Smashwords, Barns & Noble (Nook), Kobo, Apple iBooks, etc. I listened to those experts a while back and published five books through a service that listed them across multiple platforms. The only platform from which I received a dime in royalties was Amazon.
Say what you want about Amazon, that's where book sales happen. Therefore, I play their games and agree to subject myself to their demands for exclusivity.
But I digress. Today's topic on "worth bragging about" began with reviews. The Falcon of Imenotash received a second review this week. Because it's a solid 4-star review, I posted it on Facebook. Hey, it's something for this hen to squawk about.
Because we--women, especially--are taught not to brag, posting praise of our work oftentimes comes across as self-aggrandizing and boastful. We have an inherent distaste for someone who toots her own horn, even though we want to hang out with the popular crowd, to be included in the next big thing, to be known as au courant and hip. We're reluctant to spend our hard-earned money on something likely to disappoint us. We depend upon (reader) reviews to help us make our purchasing decisions. We don't know the people who leave reviews, but, strangely enough, we trust in their candor.
Marketing and advertising capitalize on that desire to align with what's popular, so authors and every other industry out there selling some product or service make an art of tooting our own horns.
It's nice, though, when positive reviews pop up. We can boast without being braggarts because--and this is important, folks--the glowing praise comes from someone else. We aren't telling the world, "Hey, this is the cat's pajamas!" Someone else kindly did that for us and we're just spreading the good news. We all get that warm, fuzzy feeling when we receive praise and recommendations.
For instance, consider these four titles: The Cowboys Heart by Helen Evans, Finding Love Again by Jessica Matthews, The Loving Cowboy by Erica Ratliff, and Falling for the Cowgirl by Holly Watkins. Only one of them has a cumulative rating of better than three stars. In reading the negative reviews, one sees common themes of poor writing, poor editing, and cliffhanger warnings. Despite covers that look professionally designed and book descriptions that hint to good stories (note the suspiciously similar wording in those cover blurbs), reviews warn readers away with comments like this: "So poorly written I stopped reading before half way through because I just couldn't take it any more. Not jjust [sic] the spelling and poor sentence structure but also the absurd details in and needed details left out. Get a new editor. Yikes!!!!"
(By the way, I have not read the above books.)
It's so easy to sink a book's future with poor reviews that every positive one deserves mention. I've received a fair share of negative reviews, which have a purpose beyond warning away potential customers. Negative reviews sprinkled among myriad 5-star reviews add authenticity and veracity. Do you trust a book with an extensive list of only 5-star reviews? Or do you suspect that the author paid or cajoled friends and family to post positive reviews?
When I see an author posting a book promotion wherein the author states that the book is just fabulous, thrilling, amazing, and any other superlative, it immediately draws a snort of disbelief. Toot your own horn and I'll immediately assume you do so because no one else is candid enough to blow it for you. In other words, the book is inferior despite the author's desperation to convince us otherwise.
Authors want reviews. We crave positive reviews, so we can proclaim to the world that someone--someone--liked our stories. We bask in that validation. We preen and congratulate ourselves even while sighing with relief and gratitude. Even a writer assured in his or her craft cannot exempt herself from that roller coaster of neediness, that yearning for approval. Soaking in that temporary warmth of praise, we know the next review might not be so kind.
Authors who haven't achieved best selling status react to positive reviews like Sally Field once famously exclaimed at an awards ceremony: "You like me! You really like me!" Our careers thrive only upon the sufferance of good public opinion. We learn not to toot our own horns, but to let others validate our creativity and mastery of the craft.
We know that pretty is as pretty does.
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