Monday, August 15, 2011

The Necessity of Reviews

If you didn't already notice, we are in the midst of what I like to call The Book Revolution.  Like the Industrial Revolution, only with books.  We're transitioning from draft-animal driven paper books into steam-powered ebooks.  Or something.

One of the new issues of emerging importance is that of the online review.  Authors are building platforms of readers by using social networking.  These networks, in turn, allow the consumer to provide near-instant feedback.  By and by, authors are becoming increasingly dependent on succeeding with individual readers, one pair of eyes at a time.

Where before your only vote was your dollar, now you have a voice as reader.  Before, a lot of the success of an author depending on how many marketing dollars were thrown behind their beloved projects.  Now, I'm of the belief that if the writing is good enough, the readers will find it.  With search engines these days, it's amazing how people wander their way to your book.  It's an exciting time for reader and writer alike.

Now, not all readers are the same.  Some like to look for the next big thing.  Others stick with the authors they've grown to love over the years.  Still others consult genre listings, or bestseller lists.  One of the things all these types of readers have in common is the reliance on word of mouth.  If someone tells them "hey, check out his new author," they might do it.  If someone says "check out the new book from so-and-so, your favorite," they'll probably do it.  If someone says, "did you hear about that new yadda yadda book?" they have now. 

Word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool, one Indie authors are especially reliant on.  It's not something particular to books, either.  It seems to be common whenever things are purchased online.

A look at my own buying habits seems to confirm this.  I may be buying the latest best-selling thriller, or just a new electric Impact Wrench.  In both cases, as I'm searching the web, I check out what other people have to say about the different choices.  Is one brand better than the other?  What do the reviews say?  Are there any gotchas?

Not all reviews are created equal.  You're inevitably going to come across the good and the bad, but taken in the collective, they paint what I've found to be a pretty accurate picture of what you can expect.  This is why reviews are so important to aspiring authors. 

People are a lot more willing to take a chance on someone if it has generally gotten good reviews.  Conversely, they'll steer clear of the slush.  Remember this the next time you read a good book (or a bad one).  Your voice matters!  As more and more books are sold online, it will become increasingly important to gather reviews.  Not by critics, but by real consumers, the actual audience.

Word of mouth has always been a big seller of books.  When people hear a buzz about something in particular, they're far more likely to search that item out.  The Internet has only made this easier, more accessible for everyone.  If you want to fine a niche, urban fantasy about shapeshifters and samurai with a little vampire thrown in, it is only a search box away.

With great technology comes great responsibility.  Write a review.  An honest one.  Click on one star or five.  Help a reader out.  A single reader has a lot more power today than they ever have before.

This reader happens to find that pretty darned cool.


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