Ask any early career indie author or small press publisher “You want me to review that book on Amazon?” and they will jump up and down for joy (at least on the inside). Most of us are looking for HONEST reviews. ‘Cause here’s the real deal, readers want honest reviews. And we want to give readers what they want (within our creative vision, of course).
One voracious reader told me that when he sees a book with all 5 star reviews he is immediately suspect. He is less likely to take a chance on a new author whose “friends and family” were more concerned about feelings than trying to be objective. As a small press, I actually have a problem right now with our newest release (about songwriting) because all 23 reviews are 5 stars. We need more balance.
Personally, I pick up a lot of indie books from the Top 100 Free list and then read some of the reviews before deciding whether or not to purchase the next book in a promising series. Which reviews do I read? Those listed “Most Helpful” AND the one stars. Sometimes the “issues” someone else had with the book seal the deal for me to buy it.
As a publisher, I am working hard to get Irene Kucholick’s “Survive Little Buddy” (WWII to 1953 Iron Curtain escape memoir) onto one of the most high profile and successful book discount email lists. We’ll pay for the privilege and even mark the book down to 99c for that promotion, but we have to have more reviews to qualify. I thought I was at the end of my rope, until I found ReadingDeals.com.
As a reader, I signed up for the email of discounted books. However, they also have a feature where I can get ebooks for FREE if I agree to leave a book review within the next 2 weeks. Excellent. Love it. The only caveat is that the review I leave has to state up front that “I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.” Perfect.
As a mom & pop publisher, I can get Irene’s book listed (for a reasonable fee) on ReadingDeals.com’s free-to-reviewers list and finally get the reviews we need. Honest reviews from people with no reason stretch the stars.
What if you do have a reason to stretch the stars? Then be honest about that as well. The most popular review of my first novel is the one left by my best friend–who says up front she’s my best friend, has known me for 30+ years–and then she wrote a really thoughtful review that has made hers the one voted as “Most Helpful” to people considering buying my book. Here’s how she ended her review:
I’ve given the book 5 stars because I was so pleasantly surprised, and I really did love it, devouring it from cover to cover. However, if I’m honest, if this weren’t MY KRISTIN, I’d probably have given it four stars. Only for this simple reason: her neat and tidy additional plot points. I’m still uncertain how I feel about the thread that she alludes to in this short poem:
A woman goes missing,
And then is found dead.
Another will follow,
In a town full of dread.
Honestly, I’m happy that that particular part of the book didn’t go any further than it did, but I was still fascinated at watching it unfold, and found her descriptions of the source of the dread to be spartan, but extremely powerful. (Complete review here.)
“MY KRISTIN” she says which makes me feel loved every time I read it (sigh – virtual hugs). She walks the line and finds the balance perfectly, IMO. If the genre isn’t one you usually read, say so. Know the author? Saw them speak? Only read it as a favor? We can admit those things. And if worse comes to worse, sign in anonymously to save the feelings. Just review.
Kristin King is living as an expat in Holland and blogs about travel, writing, culture and food.
© Kristin King 2015