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The Third-Best Thing You Can Do For A Book

The best thing you can do for a book is read it. The second-best thing you can do is buy it. (And, of course, we writers would be all in favor of your doing the second one first.)

But, if you like a book and want to support it, and help reward the author for his or her labors, in this day and age the third-best thing you can do is … write a review.

To expand on that concept a bit, the third-best thing you can do for a book, and the book’s writer, is to compose a review and post it online on the sales page for that book. Do it on the book’s Amazon page, and/or the  Barnes & Noble page, or on Apple’s iTunes/iBook store, or wherever. If you’re allowed to do so, post it on more than one bookseller’s site. Follow the rules, follow the etiquette, get your facts right, but do the review

Why am I campaigning for reviews? Because the number of reviews, and the average number of stars (or whatever) in those reviews, are absolutely key in generating visibility and credibility for the book. Various book promotion services won’t even look at a book if it doesn’t already have a certain number of good-enough reviews. Amazon and the others have fiendishly complex computer programs that push books with lots of good reviews toward the top. A good book with few or no positive reviews will vanish into a cloud of thundering silence. (Not bad for a bit of over-blown imagery.)

So do the writer a favor. Write a few words yourself. The review needs to be coherent, and it needs to follow basic rules of grammar and spelling and such like, but it doesn’t need to be long. Two or three sentences, providing an opinion of the book, and offering a fact or two to support your opinion, will do the job.  Pick the appropriate number of stars to match your mood, click the mouse a few times and, boom, you’re done. You can get more elaborate if you like, of course, but the above will do the job.

Don’t just do it for one book. Do it for lots of books. Get good at it. Get into the habit of doing it.

Naturally, we writers would prefer glowing, enthused, five-star reviews — but we’ll settle for honest.

Some level of sentience above “marginal” would be nice as well. FoxAcre republished Lawrence Watt-Evans’s book Among the Powers some years ago. As is often the case, for whatever reason, the author’s title choice wasn’t used when the work first came out, and the book had previously been entitled “Denner’s Wreck.” Republishing a work is a chance for the author to get to do things his way, and so we gave the book the title the author wanted.

Lawrence is a friend and neighbor. He and I worked pretty closely on the book. Every piece of advertising copy included the words “Previously Published as Denner’s Wreck.” Those words, or something very close, appear on the book cover, and the copyright page — and in the Amazon description. I was there. I wrote the copy. I designed the cover. I didn’t have to insist on including the “previously published” language because Lawrence insisted, but I would have if he didn’t. It was everywhere it should have been from square one. Honest. And yet some braintrust summoned the energy to dismiss the book as “False Advertising” and a “Cheap Moneymaking Shill,” if I am quoting him correctly, because he managed to miss all of the disclaimers, and, apparently, didn’t recognize the plot description as being of a book he had already read. I suppose he discovered his error later on, as he seems to have revised his review to claim that the disclaimer was “there now.” The implication is that his review forced us, the evil publisher and the conniving writer, shame-faced, to add the disclaimer. Virtue triumphant!

Sorry, fella. It was there the whole time. Honest.

And the one-star review is likewise still there, falsely and unfairly accusing author and publisher of fraud, and dragging down the review average.

So don’t be that guy. But do be the person who writes a meaningful review. The author has provided you with some hours of enjoyment. Repay her or him with a few minutes of your time, and stake your mini-claim to a small slice of micro-fame at the same time.


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