Are reviews really that important?

As a newly published indie author, I’m seeing first hand exactly how important reviews are. Now, that was something I’d always kind of known, since pretty much every indie book ends with a plea for reviews. But nothing really brought it home to me like clicking on my own author page and seeing the utter darkness of the review abyss. The empty space that screamed to all who viewed it that my book wasn’t worth taking the time to review, and by extension, wasn’t worth reading at all.

So what did I do?

Well, first and foremost, I told that empty space to shut its filthy pie hole. Honestly, I think a significant portion of being a writer is just telling the doubting voice inside your head to piss off so you can get back to writing. That, and I quit clicking on my author page every ten minutes. Then I went review hunting.

Review hunting goes a lot like this:

Google: find book reviewers.

It turns out there’s a bunch of sites that collect the websites of people who review books. I went through a metric crap ton of them and made list of all the people who said they reviewed books similar to mine. Then I pulled up their websites and picked the top ten or so people who were:

A) Open to accepting reviews.

B) Actually reviewed books similar to mine.

Then I emailed them all individually. Something along the lines of: Hi Stranger, I came across your website on (insert review site), and I thought you might be interested in a book I just published. It’s a bit like (insert book they’ve reviewed that’s closest to mine). Here’s a short synopsis: (Insert blurb of my book.) I’d like to send you a free electronic copy of my novel in exchange for an honest review. Hope to hear from you soon.

Unfortunately, most book reviewers are swamped with review requests. I say this because a lot of them post on their websites: “I’m swamped with review requests,” or “My ‘To Read’ stack is so large, I may not be able to review your book until sometime next year,” or “I may review your book, I may not, if I do, I’ll get to it when I get to it.”

Of the requests I sent out, nobody responded. I still hold out hope that some of them will get to me eventually. But while I was sitting around hoping (and not clicking on my author page) I went with plan B.

No, not the pill.

Plan B was to Google books similar to mine and go through their reviews, clicking on the reviewers one by one, and seeing who publicly posted their website as part of their profile.

It took a long time.

But eventually I found about ten of so people whose websites said they were open to being contacted. I emailed them all individually and . . .

One person responded. Thus was born my first review. (Thanks Jim.)

After after going through this process, I reflected for a moment and decided it sucked. But the worst part was knowing that I personally look at how many reviews a book has if it’s from an author I don’t know before I check out its description. So I know reviews matter.

To that end, I’ve decided to start reviewing indie books here on my site. I’ll also put them on Amazon and Goodreads, where I feel they’ll do the most good. I’m not sure how often I’ll post reviews, maybe as part of my monthly blog post, maybe more frequently since I tend to read a lot. Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t read a lot. I read like an alcoholic drinks, only more so.

All of this brought me to another question though: What makes a great review? I mean, ideally, a great review would make the reader want to go buy the book. But also, what, as a writer, would I want to see in a review of a book I wrote?

Another concern is how much information about the book should be included in the review? Some reviews just rehash the plot, which either include spoilers, or stuff the prospective reader already knows from reading the book description. Is that what people want when they read reviews?

I don’t think so. I think a great review isn’t about the book’s plot, it’s about how the book resonated with you. Things like, “I couldn’t put it down,” or “I laughed out loud,” or “This book made me renounce the devil and become a better person.”

Basically, I’m going for something like this: (The hands down, best review I found)

The most important part of this review? It works.