Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#1
I'm posting this article in its entirety from my blog on my website pennfawn.com. I hope it gets at least one reader to give more thought to the subject.

The Importance Of Leaving Reviews


If you’re not a self-published author attempting to make a name for yourself or earn an income from eBook publishing, you probably don’t know how important leaving a review wherever you purchase your books online is. Probably is the operative word. There are of course exceptions to my opening remark, but generally speaking, the average Joe has little to no reason to think too much about this, probably never did, and unless he read an article like this one, had no reason to consider how far his or her opinion about the merit of a writer’s work impacts one’s publishing endeavors.

Reviews are much more than bitter rants or denunciations; more than raving endorsements or lukewarm virtual pats on the back for one’s creative efforts; more than a measuring stick of how the public feels about a given piece of work. They are much more than that because having little to no reviews is a contributing factor to whether anyone will even hear about a writer or his work to so gloriously endorse or trash. In that sense, reviews are definitely the horse plus the cart, so to speak.

Combined with proper promotion, advertising or marketing, in other words all attempts to get the word out, they are what helps propel a writer or his first or latest endeavor from obscurity to the chance of being known. In that sense, or metaphorically speaking, they are the horse. Whatever else follows, meaning everything from additional reviews to the potential for notoriety, to bruised or stroked author egos, to inflated, nonexistent, or tanking book sales, etc. is the cart.


Having gone through all it takes to write a book, a writer’s initial and biggest concern is not how would a potential audience review it. Or, it shouldn’t be. His biggest challenge is to have people know the book exists. Or, let them know he exists if he is a newbie.

In short, moving from obscurity to recognition is what’s paramount, and this is where the most vital aspect of those opinions put into print called reviews comes into play.

That said, hopefully now you’ll give a bit more thought about whether you should or shouldn’t leave a review the next time you read a book. Notice I said a review, meaning something honest or heartfelt, as opposed to a positive one. Your honest opinion, pro or con, is valuable because it is informative on all counts.

What is primarily informative is your review lets people know a new work or new author is out there. How ones feels about this and all else that follows is secondary.

So, next time, hopefully you won’t ignore the hyperlinked text asking to leave a review having reached the end of your ebook, or refuse to write anything having downloaded that advanced reader copy from Instafreebie or Bookfunnel. Again, those reviews do go a very very long way, all because of your opinion about that book you took a moment to write or not write about.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#2
I would like to respond to this with a complimentary perspective. All relationships are two sided and there is more to the importance of reviews than just critique and publicity for the author, or guidance to potential readers.

The best way to learn, it would be valuable for anyone to know, is to teach. The best way to learn more about just books, everything about books, is to talk about them expressing your ideas reveals them to yourself as much as it does to those you express yourself to. We develop ideas by expressing them, we learn, we grow.

That said, there is much you can learn from trying to express all of the complexities of books and other multifarious thing coherently in a review. You can learn much of judging by being the judge, and the more times you consider how to rate a given work the more nuance you can achieve this with.

This is not just reviewing to get better at reviewing. Books have ideas and experiences. By reviewing them you also contemplate those ideas and experiences and by trying to express them you might understand them even further. Being able to contemplate ideas new and old can be widely useful in many circumstances not the least of which being social discussions and general awareness. By considering you become more considerate. The logic through which you explore the why of your experiences in a book might also help you think through other experiences in your life. The experience of reviewing can be much like the experience of reading twice over, and by learning to consider ideas you can learn to adapt and even create new ideas better.

The act of creative thinking, and diverse myriad ways of thinking, can be done and practiced in many mediums, not just books or entertainment. Being unable to easily process strange ideas is worse than being easily able to adapt to them, and there is few places with stranger ideas than the imaginary. The best way to learn an idea is to demonstrate it, or express it as coherently as possible. So even if there was no one to read your reviews, I would still want you to consider doing them for yourself.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#3
It would seem obvious that writing for public consumption is a bit different from writing a letter to your aunt May. Authors write to communicate with an audience. Responses are the funhouse mirrors in which an author can see (darkly) how well and how accurately he is getting his prose across the divide between me to thee. Of course it's important, as is commentary and critical comment especially, but not so much if the author remains blind to what it tells him about that audience, and whether he is coming across clearly, and can or is willing to change or modify his writing so that it does. Many writers are just scrapbookers who collect, but seem incapable of acting on this feedback, which is a pity. In the end it matters not how correct a piece of prose is (for a novel) but how well it communicates the authors intended thoughts.

"I wanna be famous an sell lotsa books" is a dream. Meeting the need to get stuff across is seminal.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#4
If someone likes a story, giving a review or saying something about the story is the least the reader can do, just so the author knows there's people out there who appreciate the hard work and effort they put into writing a story.

But there are some people who'll think they're being "helpful" to a writer by giving highly-negative reviews or critiques. Tearing someone's work apart brutally doesn't help them become a better writer or to reach the right audience for their work. A review that makes a story out to be very flawed doesn't help the writer's confidence and only serves to drive away potential readers who'd enjoy the story.

More people should give reviews, but not for all stories, and some people really shouldn't.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#5

Lilith Wrote: If someone likes a story, giving a review or saying something about the story is the least the reader can do, just so the author knows there's people out there who appreciate the hard work and effort they put into writing a story.

But there are some people who'll think they're being "helpful" to a writer by giving highly-negative reviews or critiques. Tearing someone's work apart brutally doesn't help them become a better writer or to reach the right audience for their work. A review that makes a story out to be very flawed doesn't help the writer's confidence and only serves to drive away potential readers who'd enjoy the story.

More people should give reviews, but not for all stories, and some people really shouldn't.


If you want reviews, but do not want criticism, then you don't want reviews, you want mindless praise.
People don't have to like what you do to express their opinion of it. It's exactly their right to do so.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#7

Necamijat Wrote:
Lilith Wrote: If someone likes a story, giving a review or saying something about the story is the least the reader can do, just so the author knows there's people out there who appreciate the hard work and effort they put into writing a story.

But there are some people who'll think they're being "helpful" to a writer by giving highly-negative reviews or critiques. Tearing someone's work apart brutally doesn't help them become a better writer or to reach the right audience for their work. A review that makes a story out to be very flawed doesn't help the writer's confidence and only serves to drive away potential readers who'd enjoy the story.

More people should give reviews, but not for all stories, and some people really shouldn't.


If you want reviews, but do not want criticism, then you don't want reviews, you want mindless praise.
People don't have to like what you do to express their opinion of it. It's exactly their right to do so.

There's a world of difference between criticism and tearing down someone's work.


There's a world of difference between writing a review in hopes that the writer will continue doing what you see is good about their writing and also improve on what you consider flaws, and writing a review that simply aims to discourage both the writer and potential readers.

There's a world of difference between a review that aims to help the writer tell the stories they wish to tell better and a review that's only about how the reviewer doesn't want anyone to tell stories the reviewer doesn't like.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#8
When reading, I try to keep in mind what it'd feel like for me to receive the same comment as an author.  I would love to receive feedback, both positive and negative, but know that this website is primarily based on good reviews for visibility.  I'm not saying we shouldn't give ratings or that we should only give good ones.

What I mean is that I'm not going to rate or review a story poorly just because it includes things I don't like or it's not my preferred genre.  I'm not going to give a harem story a bad review just because it's a harem story.  If I read it, like it despite having a harem or has a compelling reason for the harem, then I'm not going to deduct points because its a harem story.  The story is exactly what it claims to be.  And I'm not going giving a bad story because it includes a scene or part I don't like.  For instance, I'm following the story Masthead by D.M. Wagner.  I found it when the author only had five chapters (haven't had chance to read the rest yet) and while there's a part of an early chapter that wasn't my particular cup of tea, but I enjoyed it overall and gave it a good rating because it deserved that rating.

I also know I'm big on grammar and spelling issues, but don't give a bad rating just because it has those issues.  Instead, I'll contact the author with pros (good characters or description, etc) and mention the issue with grammar and spelling before suggesting they read it aloud.  Writing my own story has shown me exactly how hard it is to write a story without any mistakes.  If grammar and spelling is the only issue with it, then I try to remember that the author could be writing in a second language, be dyslexic, or just need more practice.

That's where I think we, as authors, need to be truly cognitive of how it feels from the other side of the curtain.  If we're going to give a bad rating to any story, then it deserves a comment or PM explaining why we gave that review.  At least be courteous as a fellow writer as we review others on this site.  Basically, use the golden rule when rating and review other authors.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#9
I agree with Lillith and the OP.

 I don't want, and try not to write, reviews that critique or try to "give feedback." I think there is a time and a place for reviews that try to help the author improve, and it's OK if the author themself is asking for it, but reviews are not supposed to be for the author in a direct way. They are supposed to be for other readers. Reviews are a guide to future onlookers as to whether or not they will try out the story in question, and that applies no matter whether your review is for a web novel, a movie, a music album, or anything. I think it's condescending to give feedback to an author who is not seeking it, because you assume they are an amateur who doesn't know what they are doing.

Typically, the highly negative blast reviews come from people who seem to genuinely think they are giving good feedback to the author. Negative reviews are OK, especially if they are helping prospective readers out, but sometimes the reviews on this site come off more like complaining to the author of what they don't like (or outright personal attacks). Sometimes positive reviews are the same way, though, so it's not a matter of positivity or negativity. Well-written negative reviews are some of the best ones on this site in particular.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#10
One of the most useful reviews i ever had on a book,came from a reader who was A,) Angry about not receiving perfect praise for a work submitted for critique (not a bad review, just one that suggested areas where some minor improvements might be assayed), who had been (B, drinking a good bit, and (C.) was in the mood to be Caustic.  Tearing away all the nonsense, left me a pile of good cues that made all the difference to the work, because the remitter felt like being brutal and clear about ever minor thing not liked. I sent a very nice note of thanks and got busy.  You have to be thick skinned about the process, because people react and reply on different levels of experience, and even civility. Its up to the author to sift gold, man up, and shrug off the rest.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#11
I find it an issue sometimes when the only way to get reviews as a new work is to go look through endless review swaps. And honestly, it can be annoying.

My story, which is relatively new, being about a month here and 160~ pages has about 10 reviews. 8 written and 2 ratings
My written reviews are almost all review swaps, and maybe one or two which were like a review lists. And the only reviews/ratings that I had that I hadn't asked for in a swap are only 2, a 5 star and a 3 star. Without a single word written. And trust me, having none really comment or review at all can be very demoralizing at times.

When a story gains enough traction it can be self-functioning. But newer stories suffer from that point massively imo.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#12
ZZZX,

Don't feel bad.  I've been writing for a few months now and haven't gotten a single review, and only nine ratings.  At first, I thought I was doing something wrong or people just didn't like the story enough to comment.  Except, I've mostly gotten good ratings and comments, so who knows the reason.  At this point, I'm just writing because I enjoy it.  

As to some the other comments,
The original post was about the importance of leaving reviews, but we've now moved on to talking about what kind of review is helpful.  As a few people have said, negative reviews can be extremely helpful for the author.  I completely agree.  Without outside critique, the only person providing me with feedback is myself.  But that's where we, as authors, can really help each other out without completely burying a smaller story.  We all know that a single bad review early on can bury a story before it has a chance to gain an audience.  What I'm trying to say is that we can give useful feedback to smaller authors and give a fair review/rating without burying a story before the author has a chance on here.  How to do that?  No idea, but I think it's worth trying to figure out in hopes that we can help each other become better writers without driving anyone away from writing at all.

At least, that's my two cents.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#13

Lazy_Contribution Wrote: ZZZX,

Don't feel bad.  I've been writing for a few months now and haven't gotten a single review, and only nine ratings.  At first, I thought I was doing something wrong or people just didn't like the story enough to comment.  Except, I've mostly gotten good ratings and comments, so who knows the reason.  At this point, I'm just writing because I enjoy it.  

As to some the other comments,
The original post was about the importance of leaving reviews, but we've now moved on to talking about what kind of review is helpful.  As a few people have said, negative reviews can be extremely helpful for the author.  I completely agree.  Without outside critique, the only person providing me with feedback is myself.  But that's where we, as authors, can really help each other out without completely burying a smaller story.  We all know that a single bad review early on can bury a story before it has a chance to gain an audience.  What I'm trying to say is that we can give useful feedback to smaller authors and give a fair review/rating without burying a story before the author has a chance on here.  How to do that?  No idea, but I think it's worth trying to figure out in hopes that we can help each other become better writers without driving anyone away from writing at all.

At least, that's my two cents.



I often message smaller stories with feedback without reviewing them. That gives them feedback and encouragement without burying a story.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#14
If an authors begs for a review, I do not give one.
I only review stories which a) deserve it or b) are absolute horse shit and people have to be warned about it.

I am a customer and it is not my job to help any author advertise a book.
It is not my job to help you in any way. Either you are good enough as an author to get people to back you (patreon or wahtever) and help you self-publish, or you get picked up by a publisher. If neither of those two work out for you, then you should consider changing your profession.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#15
I'd just like to add that leaving an honest review helps to balance out when people review bomb a story with no reason as to why they did so. Just got my first 0.5 star rating with no feedback, and it tanked my rating since my story hasn't been reviewed that much. In a way, leaving a review, even if it's a mediocre one, helps readers to have a more clear perspective when looking through the ratings.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#16

Seth Wrote: I'd just like to add that leaving an honest review helps to balance out when people review bomb a story with no reason as to why they did so. Just got my first 0.5 star rating with no feedback, and it tanked my rating since my story hasn't been reviewed that much. In a way, leaving a review, even if it's a mediocre one, helps readers to have a more clear perspective when looking through the ratings.

I often look for the reviews with less stars to get an honest opinion on a book/game/product. 
I also like to read bad reviews, because they can tell me things people did not like.

On RR it is often the case that stories on trending with 4+ starts have such atrocious grammar and writing, that I question the authenticity of the reviews that got it on trending int he first place. Not saying the stories shot get bombed with 1 star review, but with 1 star grammar/writing a story should not get any 4+ star reviews (especially those saying things like "great promise" and that is all there is to the review).

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#17

endoria Wrote: I often look for the reviews with less stars to get an honest opinion on a book/game/product. 
I also like to read bad reviews, because they can tell me things people did not like.

On RR it is often the case that stories on trending with 4+ starts have such atrocious grammar and writing, that I question the authenticity of the reviews that got it on trending int he first place. Not saying the stories shot get bombed with 1 star review, but with 1 star grammar/writing a story should not get any 4+ star reviews (especially those saying things like "great promise" and that is all there is to the review).
\

Are you referring to my story? One of my reviews says it's promising but the other high rating review has a few blurbs on the story and how it made the reader feel.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#18

Seth Wrote:
endoria Wrote: I often look for the reviews with less stars to get an honest opinion on a book/game/product. 
I also like to read bad reviews, because they can tell me things people did not like.

On RR it is often the case that stories on trending with 4+ starts have such atrocious grammar and writing, that I question the authenticity of the reviews that got it on trending int he first place. Not saying the stories shot get bombed with 1 star review, but with 1 star grammar/writing a story should not get any 4+ star reviews (especially those saying things like "great promise" and that is all there is to the review).
\

Are you referring to my story? One of my reviews says it's promising but the other high rating review has a few blurbs on the story and how it made the reader feel.

No, not talking about you and your stories.


And I agree, giving shitty reviews should require people to actually give you a reason WHY they thought your story deserves it.
Just pointing out that the star review system is deeply flawed (not that I could come up with something better on the fly). Not only for downvoting stories, but also on the high-end voting spectrum 4+ stars.

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#19
I'll note that the extreme weighting given by full reviews to works vis-a-vis ranking leaves a lot of writers wary of leaving one for other author's titles. I've seen works go from the twenty thousands to half that based largely on receiving one or two reviews. Quite the jump. It's not like the evaluations might influence other reader's consideration. Most reviews I've had came from non-authors, or at least authors with no work posted here. Authors here want to reach and remain on select lists, which seems to largely depend on rank.

Now, this is just my appreciation, but it might be a thought, if true, to offer more advantage to posters, especially authors,  who leave them. Possibly not a big enough carrot?

Re: The Importance Of Leaving Reviews

#20

FAHyatt Wrote: Now, this is just my appreciation, but it might be a thought, if true, to offer more advantage to posters, especially authors,  who leave them. Possibly not a big enough carrot?

I don't know that it'd be a good thing to offer a reward beyond what's already on the table: 'you can level up if you leave reviews, especially so if they're well-upvoted ones!'


Would an additional reward not be likely to harm the 'purpose' of reviews (being 'written for the sake of others who might be potentially interested in the presented work')? Hear me out: if I offer sufficient rewards to people for leaving as many reviews as possible, they might simply drop almost identical '5 stars! so amazing!11!12!1' on a dozen works they've barely read, merely for the sake of the 'sufficient' reward, leaving behind useless reviews that clutter up the place for writer and audience alike.

I got the one review on my work pretty early on (first few days). Haven't had one since, but the sheer weight of a few (5? 6?) *ratings* (favorites and follows and views all probably impacted it too, though I can't say how much, since all but the views mirrored the ratings I got in number: identically few) took me from something like the lower 20Ks-very high teens to the upper 4Ks in something like 2 days. 

The benefits to writing a longer/better publicly received review seem like a good enough 'carrot' to me, whereas the benefits for 'posting many reviews' just seems... more inclined towards the creation of clutter. If I see a bunch of 'clutter' reviews on most sites (amazon and the like), I can start thinking that perhaps they aren't real reviews at all. Maybe cynical of me, but I just don't see their value.

Review swaps with other authors are probably 'the right thing' to do, algorithmicly speaking, but it doesn't feel 'right' enough morally for me to engage in, because how could someone who's only interest in my story is that I'm going to read through theirs to leave them a 'hopefully positive' review possibly give me a wholly honest review? That seems likely to have us both dropping dishonest reviews through quid-pro-quo, and it's not really a behavior that appeals to me. But entirely outside of that: what if their review was to attract other people who wouldn't like my story to it, only to discover that it was 'falsely-rated'? Even if they don't leave me with a 'bad' review/rating on the way out: I don't want to have wasted their time and played with their emotions before they finally dropped it.