Book Reviews

Friday, October 30, 2020


Bestseller Badge

If you’ve read one of my books to the end, you’ve probably noticed that I always ask for a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever the reader bought the book. This isn’t because I want to read paragraphs full of praise for my awesome writing talents. Well, I do, but that’s not primarily why I wish almost everyone who reads my books would take the time to leave a review, if only one of a dozen words or so. Reviews are examples of what’s called “social proof.”

Human beings are social animals. Most of us, anyway. Except for the occasional hermit in the woods, most of us like to live in groups. Groups of families, towns, fraternal organizations and clubs, churches, synagogues, you name it. And most of the time, we belong to groups of people like us.

We gravitate toward people who are close to our own age, have similar beliefs, and who generally look like us. That’s not to say we won’t associate with people who aren’t like us in one way or another. After all, women will speak with men. A good thing, too, or the drop in population would be catastrophic for the human race. And, personally, if I’m in a roomful of women and there’s a black woman of close to my own age, I’m more likely to try to start a conversation with her than a white woman in her twenties. The fact that she’s black is less important to me than that she’s probably a grandmother, will understand cultural references to the fifties and sixties like TV shows, and things like that.

It’s the same with books. When people are looking for a book to read, it’s reassuring to know people like them liked the book before they buy it. This drive to read what others are reading is what makes bestsellers. If everyone is talking about a book, you’re more likely to buy a copy for yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll read it. Come on, fess up. You have at least one—probably more than one—bestseller sitting on your bookshelf that you’ve never read.

I have several. In particular, I have John Adams by David McCullough and Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Both were incredibly interesting men, and I’ve always wanted to know more about them. Both books were mega-bestsellers. But somehow, I’ve never made the time to read either one of them. I’m not that interested in biographies. I also have the Wheel of Time saga, all 14 books, which I’ve never read either. Much as I want to have read it, fourteen epic books is a major time commitment. At the end of the day, what I want to read is a mystery or a romance. A story that will take me away from the real world for a while. But I bought all of these, largely because everyone was reading them. Or so I thought.

While people might not always read book reviews in choosing a book, they do take note of the fact that there are some. Or that there are 1,000 or more. If there are no reviews, that must mean no one is reading this book. It probably isn’t worth my time. If there’s one or two, it’s a little better. But if a book has hundreds or thousands of reviews, lots of people have read it and taken the time to tell the world about it. Wow! Maybe I should read this one, too.

That’s why I ask for reviews.

I used to be diligent about reviewing every book I read. I know how important reviews are to an author. I also felt obligated to tell people what I thought, sometimes to warn them off a book that I had not liked at all. It’s interesting to me that my most-liked review on Goodreads is a one-star review of The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark.

But as time passes, I leave fewer and fewer reviews. I don’t like leaving one-star reviews. Amazon also rejects reviews of books by people you know, so I can’t leave reviews of books by people who are Facebook friends or who I follow on Twitter and things like that. That leaves out an awful lot of mystery writers. That’s one of the “clubs” I belong to—other mystery writers.

It also takes a long time to write a considered review, time I don’t have now that I’m trying to publish books more frequently. I almost always leave a “rating,” meaning I click the number of stars on my Kindle at then end of the book. I started that with the intention of going back online on my computer, where it’s easier to type, and writing a review. But I rarely do that now. Actually, I’ve started not to leave a rating on books that I didn’t like at all.

There is one major exception I make to this practice. If the book blew me away, knocked my socks off, was so good that I couldn’t wait to buy another one by that author, I always leave a five-star review with comments. This experience is so rare recently, I feel the author deserves to know that at least one person thought it was a great book.

And so, I’ve started to understand why so few people leave reviews on my books. But, if you’ve read one and had that “What a great book!” reaction, I’d really appreciate it if you took a few minutes to sign on to Amazon or Goodreads and write a few words.

Even if you don’t, I’d like to thank all of you for giving my books a try.

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Elise's bookshelf: currently-reading

A Clash of Kings
0 of 5 stars
tagged: currently-reading