I meant this to be a Facebook post, but it got away from me and turned into a bit of a rant, so I am sharing here instead.
I keep seeing posts about this topic, from both sides of the fence, authors publicly asking for reviews (me among them) and reviewers annoyed that authors feel entitled to reviews from readers. It got me thinking. I think both sides are wrong. But then both are right at the same time. What follows are my two cents on the topic.
They are right…
It seems to me that reviews have become a business. Sad, but true. There are companies out there who charge money for posting reviews, authors getting their friends and family to post 5-star reviews to boost sales. It’s gotten to the point where it’s difficult to tell which reviews are sincere and which are not. In that sense, the practice propagates itself, because more reviews means more reviews are needed to make an impact. Authors are forced reach out to their contacts, and/or to give their books away in hopes that one of the three dozen blogs/sites they submit to will choose to post a review. It is never guaranteed.
It’s the dirty little secret of the writing/publishing industry. The grassroots approach of building a fan base–artificially. Like social media, it is word of mouth that does, indeed, sell books, sometimes ones that don’t necessarily deserve it. And the worst part is, it can so easily be turned into a weapon, to literally vote an author off the shelves with bad reviews because of a grudge. I’ve seen it happen, bullies and fan(atic)s–in the truest sense of the word–going on a crusade against an author, or multiple to support their favorite. It is cruel, barbaric, and it destroys dreams.
But they are wrong…
True, honest reviews are not meant for the authors (even though I think we can all agree it always feels really nice to read a good one). They are meant for other readers. To share opinions and recommendations based on what we like, what we dislike, what has potential and what does not. Ideally, when left alone, true reviews define current trends, shifts the “hot” genre of the day. That’s the way it should be. Readers should be the ones deciding what is worth reading. But in that sense, it’s like voting. If you want a difference, you have to voice your opinion.
No, it is not a reader’s responsibility. If you want to read good books, your only responsibility is to be fair and purchase them instead of downloading illegally (I think most of us would agree pirating is very WRONG). No, it is not an author’s right or entitlement. If we want reviews, we need to write books worth reviewing.
But I believe there is a sort of social contract between authors and readers. Authors work for months, sometimes years, and put pieces of their hearts and souls onto paper for the reader’s enjoyment. We do it in order to share our dreams, to give people something to think about, and talk about. It is not a glamorous undertaking, but one, I believe, which should command at least a certain level of respect. And that respect ought to be predicated not on an author’s sale’s rank or personal popularity, but on the quality of their stories. On their ability to reach across time and space and touch readers in some deeper, personal way. We are a social species by nature. We want to talk, and to be talked about (mostly…).
You don’t have to tell the world what you thought about a book. But maybe, sometimes, if it’s worth it, you might tell a friend. Or, hey, tell the author. =)
Of course, it’s just a suggestion. In any case, every time someone picks up a book is a good day for any author. So I wish you all happy reading!