Writers, Review a Book!
It’s not a zero-sum game
Writing reviews is not about self-glorification. It serves creative people who depend upon drum beats and smoke signals to spread interest about their work. Here is my view about how writers can best support one another by actively writing reviews.
Critics have existed throughout recorded history. Often, this role has attracted the striving, self-proclaimed experts whose insecurity has had the better of them, making them feel inferior. When someone feels bad about themselves, they badly need to transfer that feeling by lashing out.
The best support for creativity is encouragement.
We all hear the advice: keep writing; get up when you fall down, etc. This is hard to do when we don’t have the support of our fellow writers. It is as if each of us believes that if someone else rises, it somehow prevents our own success. But that’s not the way it works.
When artists and creatives work to support one another and exchange ideas, you get a “golden age” of productivity that brings water to everyone’s mill.
A few months ago, I published a book called, “Bestseller,” a satire on the indie publishing phenomenon. In it, there is a writers’ cooperative called The Self Pub, a physical place akin to a bookstore where writers gather and support one another. One of the requirements for membership is writing one review per month for any of the other authors. That means reading an indie book per month–along with everything else you’re reading.
Reach out directly to authors.
I’ve recently read an indie trilogy that I really enjoyed. The author included the usual request for reviews at the end of each book of the series. But more importantly, she asked readers to email her with any comments or to signal any nits they found, like typos or other inaccuracy.
This is the sign of someone with a future in writing: she wants to grow and doesn’t expect it to be completely painless. She sees community. Her approach suggested something to me that we can all practice. That is, using two channels to communicate our impressions of a colleague’s work: private and public.
I mark pages and pencil edits in paperbacks, or highlight errors in digital editions, either of which can be shared with the authors privately.
One of the great things about self-publishing is that authors can correct their work in the time it takes to edit, upload, and go through the platform’s quality review. Usually, a day or two. This suggests that all creative work is dynamic. Yes, it’s annoying, but FIX IT! Even traditionally published books contain errors.
I am grateful for emails and messages I receive about my books, even if they include complaints about a character’s destiny. (BTW, I can’t help what happens to my characters when they take the wheel.)
Find the diamonds.
As I’ve mentioned above, negative reviews often come from a place of insecurity and a sense of inferiority. If a reviewer finds a book lacking, they have the choice to compile a slew of negative comments they can throw up on Amazon. Or–and this requires more critical ability and writing skill–they can find the diamonds in the writing.
Understand the purpose.
Reviews are not about the reviewer. It’s not an opportunity to show off your own talent by cutting someone down. The purpose of a review is to guide a potential reader’s decision. If you read the whole book, it must have had some redeeming qualities, otherwise why did you waste your time? It is a gift–one that can be cultivated– to see the beauty in all things. Share this, and help a fellow writer to advance. You’ll find it costs you very little.
Keep it simple.
Reviews don’t need to be theses. A simple paragraph is enough. I rarely read a review to the end. As in all writing, let readers know what you have to say right away.
Don’t throw stars.
Five star ratings are often unconvincing, just like their one-star counterparts. Okay, sometimes we are so enthusiastic about a book, that we vomit stars, and that’s okay. Just remember, there is nothing wrong with four stars. Credibilty is key. If my sisters are reading this, please keep up with the fivers. Just to even things out, LOL.
If you don’t like it, don’t do it.
You might want to see my story, The One-Star Turd. Don’t be negative; abstain if you must. Try to focus on helping the writer by pointing to the outcome that you saw in the book and which you felt wasn’t achieved, and why. Remind us that it is in your opinion. Leave something for others to judge should they decide to have a look themselves. You’re not trying to get them to buy a Ferrari, after all. It might be a $4.99 purchase. If you really don’t like it, send a note to the author privately.
We’re all buskers.
Self-published indie authors should support one another. It’s the only way for us to improve and advance. We’re all trying to share our view of the world through our writing, and who’s to say that all eyes don’t see something valuable?
Lastly, give it away.
Yes, you should gift copies to your potential reviewers, no strings or stars attached. Keep some paperbacks in your car. You’re a missionary, so be generous. Make it part of your advertising budget.
If you want to be in a review circle, reach out to me and I’ll share the email list with you all.