Ask just about any author and they’ll tell you that we live and die by reviews. You wouldn’t think that much weight would go into such things, but they really do. I’m sure there’s even more to a review than I am aware of. Reviews are, in their own way, a lot like baseball statistics. You can take a quick glance, see how many five star reviews, how many four star reviews, how many three’s, two’s…please, not ONE’S! But yes, numbers count.
You might wonder, which is better, to have few reviews, but all of them five stars, or a LOT of reviews and they run the gambit from low to stellar? That’s a good question. It’s my personal belief that the old adage, ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ tends to ring true. Reviews mean READERS. Good, bad or indifferent, the higher the number, the more attention your work will get. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look at a book that hasn’t really been out a long time, but has a TON of reviews that range from 1 star, to 5. I’m sure you’ve heard of Fifty Shades? Yeah. No, I haven’t read it. I’ve had plenty of people who have read it tell me not to waste my time.
So, what are the numbers? We’ll get to that in a moment.
Currently, this book is being made into a movie. That should tell you something. Does it tell you that it must be an amazing story with a wonderful plot and perfectly developed characters?
Uh,….no. What it tells us is that Hollywood has run out of potentially entertaining original ideas and is turning to commercialism. Take a healthy dose of a nude Scarlett Johansson, sprinkle with a dash of Chris Hemsworth and rather than getting Avengers 3, you get Hollywood’s version of Fifty Shades. Yeah, THAT should sell at the box office.
Let’s talk numbers now. Since it’s release in April of 2012, FSG currently sits on Amazon with 21,247 reviews. Honestly, that’s a ton!
Of those reviews, a healthy 9,372 are five star reviews. That means that clearly 44% of the people who read this thought that it was top shelf stuff.
Roughly 11%, or 2,341 people thought that it deserved four stars. That’s a pretty good score. Four stars is respectable. Any author would prefer five stars, but four stars beat…
Three star reviews sit at 1,914 or roughly 9%. Well, hey. That’s like less than 1 in 10 so…pfft.
Two star reviews. Yeah. These pretty much say that you suck. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it. They’re telling you something here. FSG has 1,884 of these bad boys. That’s 8.8%. Close enough to round up to 9. Yeah, I wouldn’t be happy. But, when you consider that in the grand scheme of things, this is really a small number compared to the total of reviews, right? I mean, at over TWENTYONE THOUSAND reviews?? Okay. If I could get that many, I’d take the 8.8% of 2 Star Slams.
Here’s where things get…nasty. ONE star reviews.
To say that FSG wasn’t well received by quite a few people? Well, 5,736 people slammed it with a one star. Some of the comments left are more entertaining than the book according to the huge number of replies that the comments got. You need to keep in mind, this is 26.9% of the people who left a review. I think we can safely round that to 27%. That’s more than 1 in 4.
So what’s the point?
I haven’t read FSG so I’m not about to comment and say, ‘this story is awesome, ignore the numbers and dive into it!’, nor will I say, ‘this story was horrible, don’t waste your time’. The point is what I was trying to say earlier. ‘There is no such thing as bad press’…but with a caveat. When your FIVE star reviews outnumber your ONE star reviews almost two to one, then it’s a safe thing to say that bad reviews are still GOOD PRESS.
But if all you have is five or six reviews and they’re all one, two or three star? You need to find out what is wrong and FIX IT. Read the reviews, see what the readers are complaining about and correct it. If they say that you can’t spell, for crying out loud, run your work through a spell checker! If they say your grammar is so bad that they couldn’t follow your line of thinking, rewrite and hire an editor. If they say the story is just lame, well, maybe you should take up an easier profession than writing. Maybe astrophysics?
Reviews aren’t just there for the public either. Places like Amazon use those numbers to ‘rank’ books and authors. Rankings are then used to determine all kinds of internal decisions that we’ll probably never understand. Spotlights, favorites lists, recommendations, referrals to other readers in the same genre…it all comes into play. But only if the numbers are there.
Reviews are the lifeblood of this profession. Most readers simply aren’t used to leaving them. Writers have to sometimes get creative to help coerce their readers along. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. I’ve seen authors use all kinds of gimmicks to help. From simply asking, to having contests, prizes, awards, even drawings to have the readers name used in an upcoming novel.
Got a favorite author? Have you ever referred a friend to their work? Then do your favorite author a solid and leave an honest review the next time you finish one of their books or short stories. If you referred a friend or loaned a book, encourage your friend to do the same. Your actions could make the difference between your favorite author or their book being spotlighted or even noticed by someone looking to make it into a screenplay. Yes, your review could have that much power.
Now, go forth and REVIEW.