Why I think you should read your reviews

Posted: May 22, 2015 in Writing

For the simple reason that reviews are feedback.
We need feedback to grow. We learn by getting feedback constantly in our daily lives.

Why are we talking about this and not writing?
Because it directly relates to making us better writers. Sometimes we forget.

A co-worker of mine was midway through The Carrington Event, and he was telling me about parts of the book that enthused him. Well, of course we all listen to favorable reviews and pat ourselves on the back. But even favorable responses can give us important clues to what worked and what didn’t.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

What exactly is feedback?

Many times we think of it as comments made after the fact. But let’s think of it as information we receive in our efforts to reach a goal. In this case, the goal is to become the best damn writer we can be. Maybe we want to strike a nerve with our writing, touch on something that disturbs us into taking action. What you write and think of in your head may not translate well to the written word.

This leads to one of my favorite quotes by John Wooden.

“Communication is not what you say, it’s what they hear.”

I just love that line. It’s typically my moniker below my signature on all my emails. We don’t really know what they hear unless they tell us. Hence, feedback.

Now as a writer, feedback can seem like a scary thing. Especially if it’s negative. We have to learn how to take it and grow from it. Just as we need to find the nuggets of gold in positive reviews. We want to get better right? Even the greats endeavor to get better with every manuscript. (that’s why they’re great).

So I did a little digging around and found some excellent articles about feedback. My definition of it comes almost directly from the last link posted.

How to take feedback
Why you hate feedback
Seven keys to effective feedback

Now we don’t get the chance to always talk to our readers. So how do we get feedback?

Lesson learned*

I had almost 700 ebook downloads and print copies sold and found I had only 6 reviews to date.
I was hoping for more. I mean, did no one else think enough about my book to review it?

I discovered an ugly truth. I simply forgot to ask them. Amazon does a nice job at emailing everyone who purchased or downloaded a product and asks them to review it some 60 or 90 days after purchase. And that’s helpful. But we need to be more pro-active. So I went scouring the net looking for something to help me get more reviews.

I already had Joanna Penn’s excellent How to Market a Book, but forgot one of the points she mentions. In your eBook’s, you need to add (at the end) a place to ask the reader to review your book. You can include a link or what have you, but just after they finish reading is an excellent time to ask them to take a few minutes and give you feedback.

I was reminded of that in this article: How to get reviews on Amazon

So I’m adding in the very piece I was missing. Simply ask the reader – would you please review my book?

You’d be surprised at what they have to say. Some think it’s descriptive, others not. Some think it’s fast-paced, others think it moderate. But whatever it is, it’s what they HEAR. And that’s what counts. Armed with that great knowledge, we can make our next work even better.

  1. nicksteuver says:

    It’s amazing that some readers can think one thing about your book and others the exact opposite. Some readers obviously skim, some read carefully and still write incorrect names of the characters in their reviews, and some will think you’re a preachy little crap for including a bit of detail that wasn’t intended to make a statement.

    When I read reviews, I seek out the bad ones first. Maybe I’m masochistic, but I figure that I intend to write thousands of books and the most useful comments are about what people don’t like. The trouble is sifting through what comments contain things that I should change in my writing (or at least experiment with changing in several stories to see how it works), and what comments would actually make your writing worse if you were to change it to accommodate them.

    The way I see it, the answer is to try out everything at least once and decide for yourself. What do you think?

    If you’re actively marketing, you may also see that certain traffic sources produce different kinds of reviews. People on Reddit, for instance, are known for tearing books apart. People who are writers themselves and have their own works up on Kindle (easily found on Twitter) tend to leave kinder reviews. That said, the Reddit reviews are often more useful.

    Great post! I’ll look forward to more.


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