When I read a new book, what happens to fictional people inhabiting an imaginary world might grip me for hours. Quite rarely, some of the characters linger in my mind for days, or pop in unexpectedly weeks after I reached “The End”. The author who created that world, on the other hand, remains a detached name on the cover. Regardless of whether she is a famous storyteller or he is someone I’ve never heard of before, it wouldn’t occur to me to thank the author for my reading experience. Moreover, if an idea to rave to about the book to strangers sneaks into my mind, I’ll shrug it off. No one asked for my opinion, so writing a review is at best self-indulgent. And frankly, who cares about my 2 cents?
Well, one of the sections in SELF-PRINTED (3rd edition) by Catherine Ryan Howard, caused me to think again about reviewing a book that I’ve enjoyed.
“Thing is,” Catherine writes, “reviews are very important to self published books; much more so than they are to their traditionally published counterparts. With no editor or agent to vet the quality of the work, the potential customer has to look elsewhere for promises of quality.”
Since I don’t consider myself as qualified to reassure others about the quality of a literary work, I didn’t dwell on this passage, but a few pages later, I read more about reviews:
One of the nicest things about having a book out there in the world is opening your e-mail account and discovering messages from readers in far off lands, telling you how much they loved your book. Now I have no idea how many of these messages I’ve got, but I can tell you this for a fact: it’s a hell of a lot more than I’ve got Amazon reviews. Now I love those e-mails – I print them out and file them in a Break Open in Case of Loss of Confidence in Writing Emergency – but I sometimes wonder, if these people love my book so much and they took the time to e-mail me about it, why don’t they take five minutes to give it an Amazon review and tell everyone else? As I’ve already said, Amazon reviews are so important to self-published authors, I can’t stress it enough.
As a reader I understand why one prefers to contact an author directly (an email is personal – I can put there stuff that resonated with me but not intended for the public eye), rather than leave the praise on the unrelentingly cold medium of Amazon. However, after I read Catherine’s self-publishing book, and saw similar arguments about the importance of reviews in David Gaughran’s blog, I understand why an author would appreciate my “thank you” more if it’d be displayed where those considering buying the book could see it. A self-published author, who produces a book on a par with a publishing house, has to invest a lot of time and go into considerable expenses after the storytelling part is completed (there is no one else to pay for professional cover, editing, proofreading, etc.). Then, after the ebook/paperback goes into the world, there is no professional marketing department to promote the self-published book, and no brick-and-mortar stores where a customer can discover it. So if the book really stood out, a nice way to thank the author is to praise the book where it can be seen by potential buyers (on whom the author’s career depends).