Before I ever wrote for a living it would never have occurred to me to write a review for anyone’s books. In fact, I wouldn’t have known where to go to do it should I have even wanted to. It is now easier for us all to do reviews with somewhere like Amazon , but even so, it is still not something most readers would think about doing without being asked to do so. As writers ourselves, we are far more aware about reviews and how they can possibly increase sales – or do they? I know I am very pleased when someone I don’t know has bought one of my books and does a review, but it is very rare. It doesn’t worry me as my books sell well without them, but just how important are they and how important is the price. You might be interested to hear about a conversation I heard – and it isn’t the only time it’s happened either.
I was at a dinner one evening with quite a few people none of whom were writers – none of them knew I was either at that point. They were discussing their Kindles and asking about books each other had bought and how they decided what to buy. It was amazing how many of them thought themselves to be experts on all about publishing and books just because they were avid readers and so there were very strong opinions expressed and I sat listening with great interest. During the conversation, I was astounded to hear that most of them had worked out if some books had an awful lot of reviews, it usually meant they were often written by other authors or friends who were all doing it for each other. They also knew which ones seemed genuine reviews and which weren’t. How? I have no idea apart from what they were saying, but it proved to me that fake reviews aren’t worth doing or having as they all said they steered well clear of books like that. When I asked why, they said if someone needs to get friends to write reviews for them then their books can’t be doing that well so it isn’t worth them spending money on them. The only time they would consider having one is when they’re free or only $0.99.
I asked how many of them had written reviews on any of the books they had read and most hadn’t as they thought it unnecessary. One man said he had done it on only two occasions as the books had been outstanding and well written, but as a rule he wouldn’t normally do it either. If they like a book’s blurb they buy it and they say the reviews make no difference to their decisions. The other very interesting point they all made without exception, was that they only download the free or $0.99 ones to fill their Kindles and often never bother reading them anyway. The ones they take seriously are the books with a decent price on them. Apparently, their thinking is, if the author undervalues his or herself enough to either give their book away or price it so low to make sure people buy it, it must be rubbish. After all, we don’t see recognised names pricing their books so low do we? (Their words not mine). The books they said they all look at with a view to buying are the ones priced normally as they believe those are usually the well written ones and by writers who take their work seriously. Most at the dinner said the books they download to read are between £2.99 and £5.99. One or two even bought some at the same price as a paperback, which stunned me – I wouldn’t! I can’t see the point of downloading a book you don’t intend to read just because it’s free, but they all did for some reason without ever bothering to read them.
It makes one think doesn’t it? How many people reading this article are happy to write a review for an author friend without ever reading a word of what they’ve written just because they ask us to ? I can guarantee there are quite a few who have done just that – I have. On the other foot, how many reviews have you read and thought they sound very obviously to have been written based on the blurb only? If we can spot it, you can bet your bottom dollar genuine readers can too as I discovered from the dinner I attended. Also, how many of you are undervaluing your work because maybe you’ve seen others pricing theirs so low and feel you should too? What the people were saying set me to thinking hard about it and I think they’re right. I wouldn’t buy a cheaper book for the reasons they’ve stated and it wouldn’t occur to me to go to that section unless I knew the author. I honestly hadn’t thought about that before i heard them say it, but realised it was quite true. I also find I can spot fake reviews a mile off. I have no idea what makes a glowing fake review stand out from a glowing genuine one, but they are different somehow and it seems readers see that.
The thing is, the general public aren’t daft and they can spot things they aren’t always given credit for. Once a review is written on Amazon, you can click on the name of the reviewer and see all the reviews they’ve written. You can also see when they too are authors.Take a look at the long, long list of reviews they’ve done, cross reference just a few and it is easy to see they are all doing them for each other. I know quite a few people who aren’t writers who have sussed out that ploy and so they tend to disregard books with too many reviews for that very reason as they feel it doesn’t give a true indication of what the book is like. The people I heard discussing all of this have actually done that from time to time when the amount of reviews for an unknown author seemed very long and as they discussed it they were laughing at how daft the authors were to think anyone would believe them to be genuine readers. I was astounded by all I was hearing and eventually told them I was a writer. None of them was embarrassed by their comments, they just asked if I did what they were talking about and how much my books were.
In future, it might be something to bear in mind when pricing your books or when asking for reviews on FaceBook or Twitter. We’ve all asked for them, but maybe it isn’t the good idea we all think it to be after all. Maybe it’s just as well most people never gave me reviews when I asked for them and I should be grateful I only have a few. I’d be interested to hear what the rest of you think about the pricing and reviews debate. Don’t ask other writers what they think about it, start a duiscussion with people who don’t know you or that you write and I think you too might be astounded by what you hear.