Why do people review books?

Damned if I know.

For most of my life, the only time I’ve reviewed anything is when I really didn’t like it. In fact, I had to not like it so much that I felt it was my duty to steer people away. This didn’t happen often.

When I thought something was great, I was never motivated to suggest others buy, use or visit whatever it was. Not unless I was asked. Then, sometimes I wrote a positive review just to be nice.

Basically, this means I don’t understand reviews. Or reviewers.

Yet, here I am, a self-published author who now depends on them.

So ….I’ve been doing some serious thinking about why someone would review one of my books.

To begin with, I’m going throw out the two categories I do understand. One is people with book blogs who I’ve asked for reviews, directly or indirectly. This makes up for a fair number of the reviews I’ve gotten. Reviewing books is what they do, and their reasons for having the blog in the first place don’t so much matter to me. Most of them seem to enjoy what they do, and they try to be positive yet honest.  I appreciate both.

The other group is people I know, directly or indirectly and usually not well. They’ve read one or more of my books and liked it, and written a review at least in part to do something nice for me. I appreciate them too. This group is more honest than you may think. I’ve yet to have an acquaintance like this shout out unreasonable praise.

Most of my reviews come unsolicited from complete strangers and these are the ones that puzzle me. They range from the embarrassingly positive to the hurtfully snide. Some are well thought out, well written, and quite lengthy. It takes a while to do something like that. Others make little sense, have multiple spelling and grammar errors, or even sound like the person writing them never read the book.

Why did you write that? It’s a question I ask, but haven’t made much of an effort to answer it. Until now.

You see, lately, I’ve started writing more book reviews myself. Why?

Well, I’m trying to stay more current with new releases in my genres. I like to read books and I’ve found that committing to write a review forces me to make more time to read.

I’m also trying to get more people to my blogs, and to get more people to recognize my name. Reviewing books seems like a good way to do all this without continually begging people in public forums to buy my books. It is something of a means to an end.

Aha!

I write book reviews to achieve my goals. I’m not doing a favor for the author, although I’m glad helping other authors is a result.

I’m not doing a favor for the reader of my review either, or for the reading world at large. I’m not even particularly trying to help people find good books or avoid bad ones, though it’s nice if that happens.

If I’m being totally honest, more than anything, I’m trying to further my own agenda.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. My time is precious. I write reviews because I hope doing so will help me get the things I want.

Why not assume others are doing the same?

I tried this idea on recently, and it put the reviews I’ve received in a whole new light. Those snide remarks are meant to impress someone else out there, not hurt me. Those paragraphs of articulate praise are helping someone get recognition for their abilities at analysis and verbal expression. And that two sentence review with the spelling errors has added to someone’s review count, and therefore upped their status as a reviewer. And on it goes.

Not only do I have no problem with any of this, it is helping me keep those reviews in perspective.

Sure, the review says something about how much a single person enjoyed what I wrote, and sure, in aggregate, a body of reviews says something about how much average readers are likely to enjoy my books.

But, the reviewer has their own agenda, too.

Why did you say such a thing? I don’t have to ask any more. I’m sure you had your reasons. They had nothing to do with me and maybe not all that much to do with my book.

 

One thought on “Why do people review books?

  1. Pingback: Why do people review books? | 46. Ascending

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