The Importance of Reviews

I never thought much about book reviews before. I mean, I read them, but I’d never heard an author say anything about them other than how important it is not to let bad reviews get you down. It always sounded as though reviews just kind of happen, like the weather–and I’m sure in some circles they do. A magazine or radio program might review established writer’s newest work for the same reason they cover any other news. A major publishing house might arrange for reviews as part of its publicity.

I suppose it works that way, anyway. Those circles are not my circles. No one will notice my book without my prompting.

I don’t know how to get official publications to cover my work. I’d love to be interviewed by Terry Gross, but I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon. But, it turns out I can get ordinary readers–you folks–to post reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. You don’t have to buy a book on Amazon to post a review there, though I believe you do need to have bought something at some point so as to have an account with them. Such a simple thing, and yet it could do wonders for my visibility as an author.

I never thought of this before–not only that this is something you can do for me, but it’s something I can do for you. I never thought about writing a customer review of a book. I didn’t see the point. But many of my friends are authors, not surprisingly, and I’m interested in their professional success. Curiously, two of my friends each published first books within weeks of mine and all three of us are already at work on our next books, so it’s like we’re siblings, all trying to figure out how to be authors at the same time.

I have not yet read their work, but when I do I will write a review.

See, it turns out authors are human beings. Each book you see on a shelf is the result of somebody’s striving. Each represents somebody’s emotional and financial vulnerability. And while I don’t recommend that anyone buy and read books they have no interest in, if I like a book it seems like giving the author some free advertising is simply the decent thing to do.

The thing is, none of us exist in a vacuum. We speak, we write, we post to social media, and whenever we comment or refrain from commenting on another’s life or work that choice rebounds and has some effect. A rumor passed on, a detail let slip could seriously damage someone’s life–and all the lives they touch. By the same principle, a kind word, a principled silence, a record set straight could do wonders.

If you like somebody’s work, say so. Tell other people about it. Pass on the message.

In that spirit, the following are all writers I know personally who have work available on Amazon. I’ve linked at least one book to each name. I’m not particularly a fan of Amazon–Ursula K. LeGuin, whom I very much admire, has publicly told readers not to buy from Amazon at all–but I’m using it as basically an online book list.

None of these people asked me to list them and I have no particular reason to believe they need my help at present, it’s just that a shout-out to my fellow writers seems like A Good Thing for Me to Do.


About Caroline Ailanthus

I am a creative science writer. That is, most of my writing is creative rather than technical, but my topic is usually science. I enjoy explaining things and exploring ideas. I have one published novel and another on the way. I have a master's degree in Conservation Biology and I work full-time as a writer.
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