{Coffee with Kara}: Book Reviews

I’ve seen a lot of discussions lately, both publicly and in private groups, about book reviews. And the same few questions keep resurfacing…

  1. Is a reader obligated to leave a review?
  2. Is a reader obligated to leave only a positive review?
  3. Should an author read their reviews?
  4. Is it okay for an author to publicly share a review–either negative or positive–and “call out” the reviewer online?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO!

Let’s break these down one at a time, shall we?

Is a reader obligated to leave a review? No. A reader is in no way obligated to do anything. They aren’t even obligated to buy your book, but if they do, they don’t owe you anything beyond that. Sure, it’s great if they decide to leave a review, but please don’t think they are somehow required to do so.

Is a reader obligated to leave only a positive review? No. If a reader does write a review, they can say whatever they want–positive or negative. A review is simply a reader’s opinion about the book, and let’s face it: we will never make everyone happy. Negative reviews are a part of being a writer.

Should an author read their reviews? I often say no, but as an author myself, I know this is much easier said than done. So I always tell authors that if they can’t handle the possibility of a reviewer saying bad things, they shouldn’t read their reviews. After all, reviews are intended for other readers / consumers. Not authors!

Is it okay for an author to publicly share a review–either negative or positive–and “call out” the reviewer? NO! I cannot emphasize this enough. It is never okay for an author to “call out” a reviewer. I get how awesome it is to read a really great review and want to share it with the world. But don’t! Remember: reviews are intended for other readers/consumers, NOT authors! So read it, be happy, tell your friends–privately–and then move on. Same goes for negative reviews. Read them if you must, complain–privately–to your closest friends, and then move on. But never ever be that author who screenshots a review, shares it, and makes fun of the reviewer.

Now, among these recent discussions, a point came up that I thought was really interesting, and it was something I hadn’t heard before so I want to discuss it now.

If a book doesn’t have a lot of reviews, a publisher could decide not to pursue publication of more books.

As per my usual disclaimer, I can’t and won’t speak for other publishers, but on behalf of Anaiah and my personal experiences with various publishers, I can say I have never heard of this happening. I can tell you that Anaiah has never taken the number of reviews into consideration when deciding to offer contracts on new books. Why?

Because the number of reviews does not equal sales!

Lots of people buy books and don’t leave reviews. Publisher’s understand this, and therefore, decisions are based on hard sales numbers and figures (among other things).

So, weigh in on your thoughts about reviews. Do you read yours? Do you feel readers are obligated to write a review?

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