Monday, 4 September 2017

Reviews: what they mean to readers and authors

These days, the majority of books are purchased from online stores. E-books have taken a huge percentage of the market too, so how do readers find out if they want to buy a book if they don't visit a bookshop?

The advantage of buying books from 'bricks and mortar' stores is that you can browse through a whole range before buying one. Selecting novels from shelves, reading the blurb, seeing what the press have said about them and even reading short sections can be a very pleasurable pastime as well as a great opportunity to find out if you wish to buy them. Quite apart from that, the smell, feel and look of a real book are all part of that special pre-purchase experience.

Reader's Review of Sophie's Quest: "I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and all the carefully researched details regarding their quest. This book would be a great read for children and also an excellent read-a-loud book. I highly recommend it." 

But what about e-books or books ordered online? We can certainly read the blurb and generally, we can read a sample of the first few pages, but how else can we decide whether we want to press that 'buy' button and go ahead with the purchase? Moreover, since e-books by known authors often cost as much if not more than a paperback, we usually want to have a little more evidence that what we are paying for is going to be worth our hard-earned money.

Reader's Review of Going Astray: "This story will make you really think about your beliefs and look deeply inside yourselves.The book is well-written and had me worried about its outcome, as I hoped that Laura would manage to find the strength to rebel against the cult and escape"

This is where reviews are so useful. With a paperback in a bookstore, we can skim all the way through the book, feel how thick it is, check the font size and make a pretty good assessment about what it is we are investing in. With a book ordered online, whether electronic or otherwise, we don't have so many possibilities and so, customer and reader reviews can be very helpful.

Reader's review of Rooster Street: "I started this novel on new year's day and was so glad to have read such a great book to mark the start of a new year. The story of Althea's brave bid for freedom seemed just right for emphasizing new starts. The modern story, of Jennifer who while investigating Althea's past begins to make some important discoveries about her own life, is also very well developed. I can whole-heartedly recommend this book. "

The more reviews a book has, the wider the range of readers it has probably had as well. If the majority of those reviews are positive and enthusiastic, and confirm that the book is what we hoped it would be, then the chances are that we will like it too. However, that doesn't mean a book with few reviews is not a good buy. The point is whether we as readers learn what we need to know from what others have written.

Reader's Review of Dance of Eagles: "This book is a gem that seems to have received less attention than it deserves. It’s a wonderfully crafted story, fabulous subject matter covering the time just before Rhodesia became Zimbabwe which includes a wealth of first-hand knowledge and thorough research from the author."

From an author's perspective, the ideal situation is to have plenty of good reviews and few, if any, poor ones. However, all authors know that they cannot please everyone and that some critical feedback is inevitable. This is not necessarily a bad thing as what some readers will dislike, others will love; it may well be that one person's criticism will encourage another to buy. One example of this is explicit content, language or violence. If reviewers mention these as dominant features, it could discourage a number of readers but appeal to others. There is also the matter of quality. Use of English, editing and style can be major purchasing points for certain readers, but unimportant to others. However, negative comments regarding such issues are useful feedback for the author to consider for the future. What is key is that a variety of reviews can help both the authors and the customers, which is why readers are encouraged to be honest and fair when writing their comments.

In the end, then, a thoughtful and constructive review is invaluable to everyone concerned, so the next time you read a book (and especially a Sunpenny book!), think about what you would tell someone else about the book you've read and take the time to write a review. You can be sure that if you do, both readers and authors will thank you - and of course, their publishers will too!


Sonja Anderson said...

Great post!

Vallypee said...

We often read posts about what reviews mean to authors; sometimes we forget what they mean to readers too.