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Friday, June 1, 2018

The Importance of Reviewing Books by Melinda Viergever Inman

Melinda Viergever Inman

The Importance of Reviewing Books

If you’re like me, your “To Be Read” (TBR) book pile is teetering with the fascinating work of other authors whose books merit our attention. We want to read and review their stories, because we know the importance of reviews. Reviewing is how we can best help other authors to thrive.

Book reviews dictate whether a book sells or not. It’s not even necessarily what the review says or how elegantly it is written. It’s the mere fact of the review itself and the number of stars awarded. Simple reviews with 4 or 5 stars sell books.

A personal example: On September 19, 2017, my latest novel received a 5-star review. It was a good review, to the point and effective. I was grateful and encouraged! Sales kept humming along. Then, not another review followed for seven months. During that time period, Amazon adjusted their algorithms to give more visibility to books that continued to receive reviews. With no reviews coming in, my book became less visible, sales slowed, and then they dried up. Not a single tried-and-true marketing strategy worked. Nothing about the quality of my work had changed, but, month after month, there were no more reviews.

Seven long months after the last review, a few reviews popcorned into view, one here and then a couple there. Again, they were short and sweet, 5 stars, and effective. They were everything that reviews need to be to make Amazon happy. Praise God!

My book’s sales bounced out of the basement. To keep the recovery going, Amazon dropped the price. Sales skyrocketed. During all of this, the quality of my work had remained the same.

If reviews aren’t written, sales die. It’s a fact. It’s not personal. It’s business.

Writers know this, but readers are usually unaware. Estimates vary, but the percentage of readers who review books seems to be only one to three percent. Because of this, authors prioritize the reading and reviewing of other authors’ work. If authors don’t sell books, we don’t get paid. And if authors don’t get paid, we can’t keep writing unless our work is a charitable gift to our readers. Typically, that’s not sustainable.

This is why our TBR piles are teetering.

Authors create marketing material, manage the account books, pitch our work, blog, juggle a day job, work social media, and try to have a balanced life with children, aging parents, pets, health problems, life’s mishaps, and everything else that fills each day. In the middle of all this, we must squeeze in time to actually write.

How can we continue? The odds seem stacked against us unless we remember this.

God is still sovereign over everything that touches our lives. If you doubt the bounds of his sovereignty, take a look at Isaiah 45:5-12. If the Lord wants us to continue, he will move our readers to write those reviews and will provide boosts of income that are necessary.

Tim Keller tweeted recently: “Since God is in charge, you can be called to a vocation, but not called to be successful in that vocation.” Only God knows what his intent is for our calling. Our responsibility is to use the gifts God has given us to the best of our abilities, while his responsibility is the inspiration and the outcome.

It’s always been this way, for everyone from the apostles on down to modern Christian writers - all of us united in proclaiming the goodness of God in our own unique way. Since this is true, we can trust God, whatever the outcome, remembering that we work for him.

As we’re trusting God and relying upon him for our success, we can best help one another by reading and reviewing the work of other writers. In this way we live out Jesus’ instruction to treat others as we desire to be treated.





Melinda V Inman, Author of: Refuge; Fallen; and No Longer Alone

Raised on the Oklahoma plains in a storytelling family, Melinda Viergever Inman now spins tales from her writer’s cave in the Midwest. Her faith-filled fiction illustrates our human story, wrestling with our brokenness and the storms that wreak havoc in our lives. Find her weekly at http://MelindaInman.com/blog/. To find her work and to be notified of future published novels, follow her at http://bit.ly/MelindasBooks/.

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15 comments:

  1. A very elegant reminder of the importance of reviews. Thanks for this posting.

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    1. You’re welcome! Thank you so much for commenting, Donna!

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  2. Thanks for this great information. I hope it encourages more readers to write reviews

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    1. Reviews are essential. Thanks for commenting, Yvonne!

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    2. Great read and spot on! Reviews are essential

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  3. Great article, Melinda! I love that quote you shared from Tim Keller. Definitely a much needed reminder.

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    1. Heather, isn’t it good! So much of the sovereignty of God and his purpose for our ministries are contained in those words!

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  4. I read a ton of books and enjoying reviewing. :-)

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  5. Hi Melinda - this was a great post. May I make another point? Honesty is important as well. I leave reviews for most books I read, however, on occasion, I encounter a book I cannot leave a favorable review for. In that case, I simply choose not to review it. I believe this is better for the author in the long run than a one or two star review (however honest) in that I'm not actively discouraging anyone from reading the book. Someone else may love it. It's all subjective. I know many folks love to critique and say negative things, even leave a bad review simply because they can. How many people are turned away from purchasing a book because someone else they probably don't know, chose to not be nice?
    My two cents. Thanks again for a wonderful and relevant post.

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    1. That’s a great point you raise, Cindy! A publicist once told me that we all need a few negative reviews for credibility. She also said a controversial negative review might actually spark interest. Yet, like you, as a reader I simply don’t review if the book is poorly written and fails to keep me interested. If I can’t finish the book, I don’t review. But then, like you, I take a peek and see other reviews for that book that are positive. Since reviews are subjective, that’s when I also simply don’t review. Thanks for adding this to the discussion.

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  6. Informative post, Melinda. Every launch team I've been a part of has asked that I write a review. It makes sense. And it the end, we do our job and trust God with the rest. This post gives me ammunition for my first book...namely to ask and remind readers to do reviews. Love the Tim Keller quote.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! This is why those launch team reviews are so important. The new Amazon algorithms make reviews a continuing necessity. Writers are all trying to sort this one out! The quote is a good reminder, isn’t it!

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  7. I am like you, that's why I have stopped to use 'to-be-read' lists. I never get to read the books anyway, just like I have stopped using to do lists.

    You say book reviews dictate whether a book sells or not. Agree, and I'm amazed at how many Christian authors ignore this fact. They don't have a clue on how to get their book in front of the right audience.

    Thank you for sharing this, because this is a vital message.

    God bless,
    Edna Davidsen

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  8. Such a great point you make, Melinda. Just like we retweet on twitter and promote others, we must provide reviews for authors. "Do to others as you would have them do to you," Jesus says.

    I love the tweet by Tim Keller and your further explanation of it, “Since God is in charge, you can be called to a vocation, but not called to be successful in that vocation.” Only God knows what his intent is for our calling. Our responsibility is to use the gifts God has given us to the best of our abilities, while his responsibility is the inspiration and the outcome." Amen! I specifically like your thought, "Only God knows what his intent is for our calling." Thank you for your blog and how it blesses others.

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