A native of Colorado, Mrs. Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant, currently resides in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, with her husband. Mrs. Bryant is a published author, freelance writer, novelist, editor, ghostwriter and a literary and entrepreneurial advocate. She is the founder and owner of YolandaMJohnson, Literary Wonders! and Bryant Consulting. She is a columnist for Examiner.com, RAW Sistaz Literary Services and other literary venues. Mrs. Johnson-Bryant is a member of The Nussbaum Entrepreneurial Center, Women of Leadership and Learning (WELL Women) and Toastmasters. She also conducts workshops and classes on writing and entrepreneurship and is also a member of several reading and writing groups.
How many of you have requested a book review for one or all of your books? I have and I value those book reviews . . . kind of. I want to know what people think of my work. I want the good with the bad-and. And I’ve received my fair share of both.
Essentially, a review is the same as advice. You get the good and the bad advice. The important thing is what you do with it. You take what you can use and apply it, and what you can’t use, file it away in the garbage can or recycle bin.
Some writers don’t seem to understand what a review is. A while back, I was solicited to write a review for a book. Because of the way the book was written and its lack of editing, I found the story hard to follow, going back and forth from first and third person, and using proper and not so proper English. I gave the book a lower rating than what the author wanted, although I did not slam or slander the author or the book. The book actually had good bones, but the errors were costly. Needless to say the author cyber stalked me, demanding that I change the review to say what he/she wanted it to say. The author didn’t value my opinion but was looking for good reviews to produce more dollars to line their pockets. I could not do that with a good conscience.
I’ve had people tell me that my reviews were too long, or too short. I’ve even had someone dig into me on Amazon after I posted a review for software that I had a hard time using.
I’ve received mixed reviews from some of my own titles and took them for just what they were—someone’s opinion. Like I said, I value those opinions whether they are good or bad. Most of the reviews were positive, so I felt pretty good about my work.
First, let me give you the technical definition of a review. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a critical evaluation (as in book or play), or a retrospect view or survey.” Dictionary.com (a Merriam-Webster company) states it is “a critical description, evaluation, or analysis of a book, especially one published in a newspaper or magazine.”
Now, I have to point out that nowhere in either of those definitions does it read, “A review must be a positive analysis or opinion that always works in favor of the author.” Nor does it say, “All reviews must be five stars,” and last, it does not say, “A review must read the way an author thinks or wants the review to read.”
You can view examples of reviews anywhere on the Internet and on just about anything. Many people buy products and books based on consumer reviews. For an example, let’s look at a book that has mixed reviews. When I say mixed, I mean that some reviewers gave the book five stars, others gave it four stars, or three, or even lower. The point being that not all the reviews on this title are five stars.
Let’s look at Stephen King’s The
Long Walk. At the creation of this
article, Amazon.com showed that this title had 371 reviews. The average
rating is 4½ stars. Let’s look at the breakdown:
If I was a consumer browsing Amazon’s vast array of titles for something interesting to read and I stop at this title, am I going to pass it by because it doesn’t have 371 (100 percent) five-star reviews? Not at all. In fact, I would pass by the book if it had a 100 percent five-star rating, because, in my opinion, someone is not being honest about his or her view on the book. What’s the saying? You can please all of the people some of the time, and you can please some of the people all of the time . . . but you can’t please all of the people all the time. Simply put, not everyone is going to love your work. Remember the popular girl in school? The majority of the school liked her, but not everyone did. The same proves true with a book review. You always want people to give their honest opinions on your work.
Now back to the example. Out of the 371 five-star reviews, 147 are less than 5 stars; however, more than half of the people who reviewed the book like the book. This is a good thing. That being said, would Mr. King be upset about the 29 one- and two-star reviews? I rather doubt it. If it were me, I’d focus on those three-, four- and five-star ratings.
When requesting a book review, or even when a consumer purchases a copy of a book and reviews it, authors must be realistic about their results. It is important to keep in mind that you are asking people to give their honest opinions about your work. You are also saying that you will respectfully accept their opinions, whether good, bad, or indifferent.
As it relates to publicity and marketing, it is also important that you include galleys, ARCs (Advance Review Copy), and give-away books in your budget. Allot a number of books for reviews. Don’t let the bad rap that reviews receive stop you from getting reviews for your books. Advanced review entities such as NetGalley provides ARC and galley services, allowing reviewers to read and review book titles before they are released to the general public. As an author, especially a self-published or indie author, you should do the same.
Once you receive those reviews, take heed to what the not-so-good reviews say about your title and take the reviews from the four- and five-star reviews and post them on your site and incorporate them into your marketing. I would even go so far as to add one or two as blurbs on the back of my title. This is possible if you send out ARCs and galleys prior to your book’s being published and printed. Ask the reviewer to post the review everywhere your book will be available on the Internet. Places such as Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Good Reads, and other sites are good places. When you receive reviews, whether good or bad, thank the reviewer. It shows professionalism and appreciation.