How book reviews aren’t as bad as you think


It's quite a disconnect. Authors, and books today, live and die by book reviews. But as critically important as book reviews have become to the success of books and authors who write them, publishing industry insiders report that the average book review rate languishes at around 1-3% of units sold. That means, depending on how well a book sells, only one to three people out of every ten leave a book review.

Why do so few readers spend the few minutes it takes to write and leave a book review? Do readers not understand how critically important book reviews are to the authors who write the books they enjoy? Or do readers simply not care?

Reasons readers don't write and post book reviews

I believe that most readers do understand the importance of book reviews. I believe that because just about every book you pick up these days has a note at the end of it where the author explains how important book reviews are to him or her. Typically the author then goes on to ask readers for a review.

I also don't think the low review rate necessarily is indicative of an uncaring mass of readers. I think that people who do not write and post book review after reading a book have what they believe to be valid reasons for not doing so. Here are a few reasons I thought of:

Some people don't enjoy writing, anything. Some people simply don't like to write. Just like me, I'm sure you have friends and acquaintances who NEVER reply your emails. That's one reason I think text messages are so popular. It keeps writing to a bare minimum for those who just don't like writing. Writing a book review would be the last thing this kind of person would ever feel any inclination to do.

Some people don't think they know how to write a book review. Perhaps the only experience they have ever had in writing a book review was back in junior high school. It doesn't hold fond memories for them. They hated every minute of it. They literally waited until the very last minute to write it. Predictably they didn't get a good grade on it. Why on earth would they want to voluntarily put themselves through that nightmare again?

Some people procrastinate. They read a book and enjoy it. Maybe it made them laugh or made them cry. Or in the case of a non-fiction book, it solved a problem for them. They couldn't wait to tell all their friends to read it too. They had every intention of writing and posting a glowing review on Amazon. But, then life got in the way. Time slipped away. They never got around to it. Eventually, they forgot all about it.

Some people hate leaving negative book reviews. They read the book, and it just didn't resonate with them. Maybe they didn't like the story, or the characters seemed wooden and one-dimensional. Perhaps they had to slog through the book to finish it if they finished it at all. They hated the book, but they are decent, caring people who understand the book was written by another human being with feelings. They just can't imagine a good reason to hurt the author's feelings by writing a review that reveals just how bad they felt the book was.

Some people are too busy to spend time writing and posting book reviews. There is no denying that life moves at a frantic pace these days. Who among us doesn't often feel there aren't enough hours in a day to accomplish everything we need to get done. Some people just can't fit one more thing into their packed schedule with a shoehorn.

So, those are reasons I came up with. If you don't generally leave book reviews for books you've read, maybe you shook your head up and down in agreement while reading one or more of the reasons I listed. Or maybe your particular reason for not reviewing books isn't even on my list.

Why most of the reasons for not leaving a book review probably aren't valid

Too little time. It seems rather obvious that a person too busy to spare a few minutes to leave a book review couldn't possibly have had the time to sit down and read a book in the first place. So, I don't have time is really an excuse, not a reason.

Sparing the author's feelings. On the surface that seems very charitable. On the other hand, if a book is really that bad, maybe we have something of a moral obligation to warn others before they buy it. Sort of like if you bought some product on Amazon and it didn't even come close to performing as the manufacturer promised. Then it broke after less than two weeks use. If that happened would you just keep quiet about it? Probably not. You shouldn't feel any differently about a terrible book. Everybody wins, even the authors responsible for writing them when bad books stop being written. Maybe I should do my part in helping make that happen. Maybe you should do your part.

Procrastination. That one is a reality, but still not a justification for failing to leave a book review. And it's an easy fix. The moment you finish a book, bite the bullet and take a few minutes then and there to leave a review. That way you won't forget about it.

Don't know how. That one isn't valid either. We aren't talking about a literary review here. You don't have to know a theme from a motif to leave the kind of reviews you will find on Amazon. We aren't even talking about the kind of book reviews you were forced to write back in junior high school. Just think of the book as a product. Did you like it? Did you hate it? It's nice to toss in the reasons why you liked it or disliked it, but that isn't absolutely necessary. Just giving the book a star rating and writing a sentence or two saying you liked the book or didn't like it is enough. You see, giving a positive review just means you liked a book. Giving a negative review just means you didn't. It isn't necessarily a recommendation to others to read it or not read it. It can be if you say something like I recommend this book or don't waste your money buying this book. But that's entirely up to you.

Don't enjoy writing and don't. You may have me on this one. If you just hate writing and don't do it under any other circumstances than I'm pretty certain nothing I can say will persuade you to leave a book review. Still, even if you hate writing, if you felt leaving a book review was important, you could probably give a star rating and manage to write a handful of words.

Why we should all feel it is important to leave book reviews

Do we owe an author a book review after reading his or her book? Of course not. We bought the book or went to the trouble of borrowing it from the library, and we spent hours of our life reading it, hours we'll never get back. No one could expect more from us. But, it isn't really about the idea of owing anyone anything. Instead, think of it this way.

If you read regularly and enjoy a particular book, chances are you want that author to write more books like it so you can read those too. One way to help make sure that happens is by leaving a review. Authors are human. If they don't get positive feedback, they might just decide to write something else, if not stop writing altogether. Because you see, authors spend months and months, sometimes years, writing a novel or non-fiction book for one reason. They want people to read it and to either be entertained, learn something, or have a problem solved. Without reviews, few people will find a book and few people will ever read it.

Book reviews are so important these days because Amazon controls the book publishing industry. Amazon is as close to being a monopoly as a company can get without provoking government intervention. An Amazon algorithm decides what books get brought to the attention of the reading public, and by default which books get purchased and read.

Amazon doesn't care about books, not whether they are good or bad books. Amazon cares about selling books that make Amazon money. Amazon will push the most horrific books ever written if people are buying them. Then because of Amazon pushing them, more people will buy them. A book could be a potential Pulitzer candidate, but if it doesn't sell enough copies when launched to satisfy the algorithm, Amazon won't get behind it. The book will sink into obscurity under the weight of the thousands of other books published on Amazon every single month. Book reviews, if not directly at least indirectly have a very significant impact on the algorithm and thus the eventual success or failure of every book.

If you like an author's work, please support him or her by leaving a review. It doesn't cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. Just think of it as one of those random acts of kindness people are always talking about. And know what? Book reviews aren't as bad as you think.

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