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.

 

Nice to be understood

I don’t usually blog about my reviews, and with good reason. When you ask someone to take hours out of their own life to read something you’ve written, it’s best to let them have their opinion and leave it be.

I know I’ve loved books others don’t like, and missed the charm many found in popular books. Reading is an interaction between the author and the writer, and the two don’t always match up well, even when an intelligent reader comes across a well done story.  We’re all different, right?

Kit 'N KabookleNone-the-less, it made me smile this morning when two reviewers of Shape of Secrets happened to get my style and like what I am trying to do. Mary DeSantis has a blog called Kit ‘N Kabookle, spotlighting books and authors of fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller/suspense, romance, and ya. She liked my “thought-provoking and expertly woven tale of the human condition.”

The Reading AddictThe Reading Addict, featuring “some of the books that I have read” loved “the way seemingly unconnected elements are introduced and elaborated on until things start to weave together into a fun and complex set of mysteries”

It wasn’t so much that the reviews were basically positive (though they were and I’m glad they were), it’s that these two reviewers happened to like what I’m trying to do. It’s no given in life, but it sure is nice when it happens.

 

Still caring about those reviews

Hope 1y1 has been out for a while now, and it has several dozen reviews under its belt, here and there. None-the-less it makes my day when I find a new one, especially when the reader enjoyed the book. Let’s face it. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this story, and yes I do crave feedback. Sales only provide me with a cold, dry number.

A writer wants to know what total strangers, ones who like the kinds of books she writes, think about her book. So yes, reviews matter to a writer, whether they should or not.  I imagine they must mean as much to an actor, or a musician or anyone who puts themselves out there to entertain and amuse the world, and there is no way around that. Once a books has hundreds of reviews, I suppose that individual ones matter less. I hope some day to find out.

Imagine my joy the other day when I was doing a search for something else and found the wonderful blog The Printed Word which features reviews by Melissa. There it was, a review of y1 posted January 10,  2014. Her review begins with “I give this book a 5 out of 5. Once again, Sherrie Cronin shows off her amazing research skills! Like the first novel in the series, x0, she weaves real facts and controversial, sensitive topics in with the fictional Zeitman family. This time we follow Lola’s son, Zane, as he learns at a young age that he can adjust his appearance to better blend in, much like a chameleon.”

What a wonderful surprise. I’m going to kick up my heels and dance for joy.

(Thanks to Zen2Zany on Facebook for the image that appears above.)

and the energy inside you goes round and round ….

swirlAccording to the kids’ song, it’s the wheels on the bus ….  but some days it’s the thoughts in the head, the feelings in the heart, and excitement in your soul that you can hardly contain as it all twirls and spins with the very force that powers the universe itself.

Joy. I wrote y1 to celebrate the joy I feel deep in my own soul and to encourage others to experience joy in their life as well. It was a surprise for me when I discovered that the writing itself would bring me so much happiness too. Today I got a series of reviews for y1 on Goodreads and I got a compliment that made me want to sing.

“I have never read a book like this and probably never will. It had the innocence of Harry Potter that crossed paths with Star Trek. Absolutely fantastic read.”

fireworkDon’t get me wrong, I’m delighted with the Harry Potter and Star Trek references (both of which I love) and I will never be anything but ecstatic when someone calls something I wrote “a fantastic read”. But it’s the first eight words that has me dancing for joy. y1 is a book about being ones own unique self and … well … at least one person out there thinks it is a really unique book. How cool is that?

For more thoughts on the forces of life twirling and spinning, check out my z2 blog here as I speculate on seeing the future and check out my x0 blog here for thoughts on particle physics and world peace.