For some it happened quickly and for others it was a slow moving awakening. The only thing that was clear was that when the publishing revolution began, there was no turning back. The traditional business model had to evolve. Much like the music industry that had to be rebuilt from the outside in, publishing was and is being forced to change, too. There is now an open market where all writers have access to publish and sale directly to readers without the help or consent of traditional publishing houses. These independent or indie authors, made possible by new technologies, give readers more choices – upwards of 5000 more choices every day. The numbers are overwhelming to say the least, but in the midst of so much change one thing in the business world has remained constant. Consumers still rely heavily on word of mouth marketing and in publishing that means reviews. So the more the publishing market is flooded with books, the more difficult it becomes for individual books to stand out and the more important reviewers become to all parties involved. The power of publishing success is now shifting away from the complete control of publishing houses into the hands of individual readers willing to share their opinions in a book review.
However, with much power comes responsibility – not just for those writing the reviews, but also for those potential buyers reading them. Discerning readers who want to celebrate good books understand that all reviews are not created equal. There are good reasons why readers should not be scared away from a potentially enjoyable book after reading a few troubling reviews. Here are some examples:
Rant, Rave and Revenge – Although at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, a rant or a rave review is all about passion. If words on a page can push buttons to such conflicting heights, then it comes down to a matter of personal taste. New readers shouldn’t automatically be put off by the negative comments. Instead, if available, download a sample or use Amazon’s “Look inside” feature and take a moment to get a personal “feel” of the book. However, if the rants deteriorate into insults of the author or other readers who enjoyed the book, then it may be best to ignore these toxic reviews. Unfortunately many bad or revenge reviews are written because of things that have nothing to do with the book, such as the author not accepting the reader’s friend request on Facebook.
Detailed Scrutiny – Many critical reviews are detailed in insightful and useful ways. It seems that the more serious the reader, the more detailed their analysis. But helpful? Not if the end result after intense scrutiny is that the reviewer just doesn’t like the genre or writing style of the author. Literary books (especially critically acclaimed titles) take a particularly bad beating for this reason. Sometimes a good book is about how it makes a person feel, even with (or because of) its perceived imperfections. An example of this is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Needs Editing – Take heed if a large number of reviews mention editing distractions. However, also be aware that the changes in the publishing industry have created new pirating problems for authors and publishers. Advanced reading copies (ARC), galleys and copies for beta readers are given out freely and usually unedited. These unedited copies, many times in electronic form, find their way to lending or book sharing platforms. Sometimes they are even sold outright. Unfortunately, even though editing disclaimers usually appear throughout the front matter of titles, this information is often overlooked as new readers eagerly skip past them to get to chapter one. Reviews criticizing the editing of unedited books never meant for the general public are made more often than we realize. Telltale signs that a book is a not for sale copy are the actual disclaimers inside the book, the pre-release book cover or if it’s a .PDF (which are often pirated in general) made available before the Ebook release date .
To all readers who are willing to invest time and money in order to find happiness, romance, adventure and emotion through the written word, I salute you. And remember to read, review and repeat!