Do Readers Owe Other Readers to Review?
As more authors bypass traditional publishing to bring their products directly to the consumer, the greater the risk is to the reader that she wastes her money (albeit a low amount of it) and her time (possibly more precious) on a sub standard product. The benefit of a book that is published by an actual publisher, whether it is a print or digital first publisher, is this idea that someone impartial has said “this is worth reading.” With a self published book or one published by a house that is run by the author herself (this is more common that you think readers), there is no impartial person standing between you and the book giving a single stamp of approval.
But even with that impartial person given a stamp of approval, non discounted book prices drives down the number of chances readers can take on a book in any given month. With covers, titles, blurbs, and themes so similar from one book to another, relying on the old browse method can be tricky and expensive.
With the increase in pay to play reviews which will undoubtedly grow as the secondary publishing services market grows to address the needs of self published authors, readers’ opinions are more important than ever.
I’ve been trying to buy and read more books that are self published. I feel like I am a pretty forgiving reader and am willing to overlook any number of grammatical and spelling errors and typos so long as the story is readable but I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books out there, even for 99c. I’m not concerned about the money as much as my time, although 99c failures can add up fairly quick. In order to sort through the books, I rarely buy one that doesn’t have at least 30-40 reviews with an average of four stars and above.
I asked Ned about this and he says he feels absolutely no compulsion to rate or review anything he buys, reads, consumes. “There are plenty of people who are willing to provide their opinions,” Ned said, looking at me pointedly. But I rarely leave reviews at Amazon or even Goodreads, both places that I go to look for reader opinions of books. I write reviews here at Dear Author and that is about it. Since the turn of the year, though, I have started to leave one to two sentence reviews at Goodreads of every book I’ve read, kind of like one of reading list roundups here at Dear Author, as a way to give back to the Goodreads community. I haven’t yet started leaving reviews on Amazon but I’ve been thinking about whether I owe the customers on Amazon to rate the books I’ve purchased there.
I don’t think readers owe it to authors to review or rate their books up or down but I do wonder if readers owe other readers to review/rate their books so as to help other readers. Maybe it is to warn readers away or maybe it is to help a book you really think is a gem find an audience. Of course one can say that some readers’ reviews aren’t worthwhile because they are universally “THIS IS THE MOST WUNDERFUL BOOKES EVERR!!! or “icantbelieveiread that cruppy book”. Or you can argue that one good review outweighs a dozen one line reviews that tell a consumer almost nothing. Nonetheless, a cumulative number of reviews, either good or bad, can help to create a general picture of whether a book is worthy of your time.
What do you think?