Under review

Continuing my series of blogs related to the online world, though I had not realized I was “doing” a series, today we’re here to talk about reviews.  Please settle in your seats and turn off the electronics for the short time you’ll be visiting.  I’ll try to keep today’s “lesson” brief, so you can be on your way.

Advertising is the most widely known and commonly used way of marketing a product.  This includes the newer and more viral presence of the internet.  After a while, though, the commercials, coupons, banners and sidebar ads become like everything else:  background noise.  With all things, be it products or people, one of the most effective and compelling marketing tools is good ol’ word-of-mouth.

The internet is a wonderful place for this to occur, since its reach is far beyond the usual shouting range (or circle of friends).  With such an extended reach, the power of a kind word (or, conversely, a harsh one) is magnified many times, increasing its impact far more than traditional advertising.  The desirability of this form of feedback comes with a big caveat:  it requires the customer to take time and write something about the product/person/whatever.  Think of how many times you stop to tell a manager at a restaurant about good service or a car repair shop owner when you’ve had a good experience.  And that’s just talking.  To sit down at your computer and type an email or go to a website to comment takes even more of a commitment.

As a new author, reviews of my book by those who have read it would be incredibly helpful for me, both as a creator hoping for signs his work has merit (beyond myself) and, more importantly, for potential new readers who have no idea whether they should try out the book.

Over time, as an author’s popularity grows, so do the people willing to comment on the works produced, ultimately creating a rich forum for others to determine if they or someone they know would enjoy reading the book.  Until that time, I must use other means to encourage people to consider reading my work.

The danger in reviews is that they are beyond the control of the author.  Certainly negative feedback can be damaging, but I could make a case that positive feedback could be equally problematical.  My first “official” book review provides an excellent case study.

In the course of writing the book, I selected a small group of friends to read the book prior to finalizing it.  The feedback they offered me was helpful, if not always useful.  Some of their comments had to be chalked up to differences in taste.  Some of their comments were instrumental in making the book better.  All of them said they enjoyed reding the book.  To varying degrees, of course.  I’m not here to snow you.

When the book went up for sale, some of those same people bought a copy.  Since I knew some of these people would be buying books, I asked, if they didn’t mind, could they please put up some form of review (good, preferably) at the site where they purchased it.  It was important to me that the reviews be honest.  Nothing turns off a potential reader more than a “shill” review.

The first such review that appeared for my book was a bit…uh…enthusiastic.  It is from one of those people who read the book at an earlier stage and enjoyed it, so I know the emotion is sincere, but the review itself is a bit “over the top”.  As it sits as a lonely review right now, I worry that it might appear like a “bogus” review, because it is so complimentary.  If it were one of twenty, or even ten, it would not be an issue.  Sitting out there in the spotlight, though, it’s a little embarrassing.

Let me offer a little personality insight here.  Among my manycharacter flaws, deflecting praise is pretty near the top.  Even when I know the praise is sincere (as it is in this case) and deserved (which I hope it is in this case), I am embarrassed by the compliments.  Hardly a show-stopper as character flaws go, but it helps explain my self-consciousness regarding positive reviews.  Not that you should resist posting one on my account.  I’ll suffer your praise if you choose to give it.

The book has only been on sale for about a month and a half, so I’m not expecting reviews already.  As time passes and more books are sold, I look forward to seeing how many of the reading public are moved to comment.  Even if the comments aren’t strongly positive, there’s an old saying that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.  We’ll see if that holds for reviews as well.

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