I swear it’s almost gotten to the point where you wake to an alarm, and after you quiet the alarm it shows a message asking you to write a review of it. (And if there are alarms that actually do that? Please don’t tell me about them. I think it would finally drive me smack over the edge.) Can’t do anything these days without the product’s manufacturer pestering you to write a review. And, brother, authors are some of the worst offenders. But I’m gonna break the mold here by telling you that you do NOT have to write a review of my books. Ever.
It all started with Amazon. (Doesn’t everything?)
When it started they invited consumers to leave reviews of the products they’d purchased. And in the beginning all those products were books. A lot of consumers were delighted with this because it was the first time they could truly recount their experience with a product and be heard. Amazon played it up, too, by sending emails reminding people to rate the product they’d bought. They made it appear they paid attention to reviews when what they actually pay attention to is how many times someone clicks onto their website. They’ve got a lovely layout, so when you visit Amazon, particularly if it’s for something you’ve bought already, you’ll probably find images of things that make you want to buy them, too. Those peeps at Amazon aren’t fools. They know how to market, and they know how to get people to click on their website and products. And pandering for reviews is one way to do it.
It didn’t take long for authors to jump onto the review train. Someone somewhere started a rumor that if a book had a large number of reviews Amazon would market that book in its emails to customers. I don’t know if that was ever true, then or now, but I’ve seen indie books with thousands of reviews get no attention from the ‘Zon at all, so there’s that. Again, Amazon isn’t run by fools. They market the big names and the authors who publish A) with them exclusively, like with Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Select or B) publish with Amazon itself through one of its imprints. What, you didn’t know about those? Not many people do. But Amazon runs a large publishing company of its own with fourteen or so imprints like Lake Union, Montlake, and Thomas & Mercer. Stands to reason that they’d push their own books instead of indie authors, no matter how many reviews they have. After all, Amazon is a business. They’re in it to make money.
Then the book newsletters saw a golden opportunity to increase their own standard of living, so they offered authors a chance to advertise reduced-price or free books in their newsletters for a small fee. Can’t blame them. Again, it’s a business. They aren’t working for free. Didn’t take long before they were swamped with requests, so they raised the fee, and raised the fee, and raised the fee. Still, authors were desperate to get their books in front of potential readers, and ponied up hundreds of dollars for one day’s mention in one of those newsletters. (Yes, I said hundreds of dollars, anywhere from $400 to $1,800 for one listing, depending on the book’s price. Of course, two to three million people will be sent the newsletter, and you could realistically sell 2,000 books. Of course, if the book is free, or priced at 99¢ you’ll lose money. Even if a reader bothers to look up your regularly priced books and maybe buy one.) So the newsletters decided to require a certain number of reviews before a book could be listed. Some book bloggers, who are inundated every day with hundreds of review requests and who are working for free, also started requiring certain numbers of reviews on Amazon before they’d agree to read a book. And, boom! Authors started pestering their readers.
Lord, it’s everywhere.
Facebook posts that range from embarrassed pleading: “Would you consider leaving a review? Here’s a link.” to outright guilting readers into it: “My book will never be seen by anyone else unless you all leave a review!” Memes started to crop up about the “care and feeding” of authors that included writing a book review as essential to the author’s continued existence. Then the links appeared in the back of the books. “Thanks for reading. Won’t you consider leaving a review?” And, yes, that’s right smack-dab at the end of each of my books, too. I own it.
But so many reviews have stopped being actual reviews. A reader gets pissed at the author for his or her political leanings and leaves a one-star review on a book. A reader buys the book and leaves a one-star review that reads, “Just bought it. Haven’t read it yet.” Another author gets miffed because a book blogger gave her book three stars (which is still good!) but the author is furious because it’s not five, so she rallies her street team to attack the review sections of an author the book blogger really, really likes, and the street teams run out and leave one-stars on all the innocent authors books, books they’ve never read. Or a reader emails an author and says, “I really loved this book. I’d like to read the rest of your books, but I can’t afford to buy them all, so from now on you need to make all your books free,” and when the author shares this (without naming names) as a What-The-Actual-Hell moment, the reader (who has apparently never heard of a library) starts a flame war and one-stars all the author’s books and gathers a bunch of other trolls to help her because the author won’t give away all her books for free. Every one of these things has happened, and within the past three months. We won’t even get into unscrupulous and/or desperate authors who sink so low as to pay for fake reviews.
And regular readers? Those who don’t read two or three books a day? The ones who buy a book with lots of thought beforehand and take a week or so to get through it? Those readers? They’re being pestered to work for it now by writing a freakin’ review that, frankly, doesn’t mean much today.
Son of a bitch. It ain’t worth it.
So guess what? You don’t have to write a review when you read my books. You don’t have to feel guilty for not writing a review. I do not expect you to write one, and I will not mind one teensy-tiny bit if you don’t. I promise. When you read one of my books all I want you to do is enjoy it. Then when you’ve finished, put it aside and read something else. (It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if it was another of my books, but, you know. 😉 ) This isn’t Mrs. Waldon’s 10th Grade Literature class, and you do not, nor will you ever, owe me a book report/review. You don’t owe me anything, my dear readers! Reading should never feel like it comes with strings.
Now, am I going to leave those links at the back of my books? Yep. Not because I expect a review, but just for the convenience of those so inclined. I truly appreciate every review my books have, because I know people wrote them because they wanted to. And, too, I’m afraid I’ll get thrown out of the I’m-An-Author Group if I take them out. So just ignore them. That’s the beauty of those links — you can scroll right past ’em.
And scroll away, because remember: You do NOT have to write a review!
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