I love reading. I think I love it almost as much as writing! The digital revolution has released millions of books to the public which otherwise would have been stuck in a drawer somewhere. It’s given us such gems as The Martian, and broken down barriers with mainstream erotica, as in Fifty Shades of Grey (which I still couldn’t finish). It’s also made it hard to find all the little fishes in this massive ocean of little fish. Without a miracle – or some brilliant marketing and a whole butt-load of good luck – even the best books are still lost to the readers.
Some of this has to do with the barrier between reader and author, I think. We find books on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and other social media sites. We can “talk to” the author. We read their comments, get a feel for their personality, and start to humanize them. Then we read the piece of crap they are so very proud of…. and can’t bring ourselves to leave a bad review.
I’ve done it. I’ve lamented for days over whether I should leave the 1 star review I thought the book deserved, a 3 star with kindly phrased suggestions to give the author hope, or a standard “I don’t have the guts to be honest” 5 star review. No longer are we just reviewing the product, but also the person who made it – and all of us know that.
But it doesn’t matter. If we pander to overly sensitive feelings and ill prepared authors, the new wave of books will just decrease in quality. The gate-keepers are gone. It’s up to us, the readers, to control quality. The best tool we have for this are the reviews. I say this as both a reader and an author.
I keep waiting for my first 1 star review. Somewhere, someone will hate my work.
I get 5 star reviews that point out glaring mistakes I’ve made. Yes, I’m embarrassed, but only because I let that make it to “print” and not because the mistake makes me a bad person.
I squeal in delight over the 4 star reviews. The more critique is mixed with the praise, the happier I am. This is how the readers teach me. This is how I learn. THIS, the honest review, is how I become a better author. I want to become the best.
See, I realize that the best promotions I can get are those little reviews. The number beside my book’s listing that says (9 reviews) or (17 reviews) or (342 reviews) … Those are what subconsciously drive readers to check out my blurb. It gives them justification to learn more and hopefully be drawn in. Book blogs are no longer the ultimate marketing tool. There’s so many that, like books, each of them is lost in the sea of fish. The internet, and most social media sites are flooded with promotions pages that toss your book out to wallow in its death throws with others who have already succumbed. Only authors visit those sites. Readers tend to find their books other ways.
When I stop and think about it, I realize I’m no different. When I want a book, I shop on my twitter feed. I prefer listings from the authors, not a book spam service. I find books in the Amazon store, by clicking on little thumbnails or searching for phrases. I find books because a friend said it was awesome, and I should read it. I don’t get newsletters, I don’t spend hours trying to wade through some cheaply made book listing site (why, when Amazon does the same thing!). I find books the same way I always have, just online instead of in the library. I shop. I’m pulled in by a good cover. I stay for a good blurb. I give up fast due to bad writing.
And now, as of today, I will no longer be leaving sympathetic reviews. I don’t have to be mean to be honest, but I will continue to read, and I will say what I think. Ask me to review your book at your own risk. I do not promise to give it a wonderful rating. I promise to help the readers wade through the deep waters of literature in our amazing digital rennaissance of reading.