How important is a Civil War book's bibliography?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Got Reviews? Why Publishers, Authors, Booksellers, and Other Potential Readers Need to Hear From You

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We save our hard-earned money and we buy the books on the subjects we love.

Sometimes we check them out from libraries.

 Sometimes we borrow them from friends or families.

(Or, if you are Mark Wade, you attend my exclusive dinner parties, sneak down the hallway, ride the secret elevator to my private lair, and snatch them from my personal library.)

However, the vast majority of book readers never leave public reviews of the titles they read. Not on blogs, not on Facebook, and not on Amazon. Not in newsletters, or in magazines, or in newspapers. And they don’t think twice about not having done so.

And I understand why. People are busy, and/or they don’t think they write well enough to leave a public review.

Here are a few reasons why you should pen a review, however brief or long, however general or detailed  …

1) Authors need your feedback. They labor alone for many years, send a manuscript off to the publisher, and wait for a long while until it is published. Reviews are the only way to really get feedback from the end user: YOU. Trust me, authors do not write for the money. They write for the joy of researching and writing, and to enrich your lives by feeding you (hopefully) what you love. Tell them your opinion.

2) Publisher’s need your feedback. It is important to let publishers know what you like, or don’t like. Footnotes or end notes? How are the maps? Are there enough, and are they placed properly? Ditto on the images. We publish for many of the same reasons authors write. It ain’t for the money; it’s for the love of the game, to add enjoyment to the lives of others, and to leave something worthwhile for posterity (at least for me).

3) Other readers need YOUR opinion. Folks can read our blurbs and jackets and ad copy until they are blue in the face, but potential readers are more influenced by YOUR opinion. Think about it. Don’t you like to read what others think about a new book? Sure you do. So does everyone else.

4) Booksellers and wholesalers follow reviews carefully. Here is a simple, if extreme example to make my point. The simple memoir Steel Boat, Iron Hearts: A U-boat Crewman’s Life Aboard U-505, by Hans Goebeler, with John Vanzo is a remarkable book, but its success isn’t because of author promotion (Hans is deceased, and John does not do events), but because some of our promotions triggered a wave of reviews. (Most u-boat titles have single-digit reviews on Amazon; Steel Boats has 484—the most of any u-boat book ever published; at last count and the next closest is in the 200s). As the number of positive reviews climbed, more booksellers and wholesalers stocked it, more libraries picked it up, and more readers discovered this little gem. Foreign rights agents sought us out, as did a major audio rights company. Thousands of readers around the world would not have never of this title except for the reviews. They matter.

5) Amazon uses reviews and page hits to determine which books are popular, and how to match them with other similar interests. Amazon reviews, especially, matter. Many people check there and glance at a star rating. How many of us looked at a book and thought, “Only a two-star average with six reviews? I will pass.” Or, “Wow this has 22 reviews and a 4.5-star rating average. I will get a copy.”

“But Ted, I am not a good writer!”

I hear this all the time. It. Does. Not. Matter.

Click your star rating (5 stars for SB, of course), and just write what you liked (or didn’t like) about a book. It can be as simple as, “I liked this book because the subject is interesting, it was easy to read, there were lots of maps, the footnotes were informative, and I learned a lot.”

If you feel comfortable, leave several paragraphs and go in-depth. If not, leave a sentence or two. It is the overall star rating and the fact you felt compelled to leave a review that matters most, even if your review is not detailed.

Your participation with reviews is critically important and likely much more so than you realize. We scour the web and magazines for reviews to learn whether what we did worked—or didn’t. So do authors and booksellers and wholesalers and agents. Your collective opinion counts.

Hopefully, your SB stack looks like this....
If you have read one or more of our titles and have not posted a review, would you consider taking a few minutes and doing so? Maybe find your SB books and stack them on the corner of your kitchen table or office desk. Whittle down that stack one a day until you finish. It is easier and faster than you think. 

Also, if you belong to a Facebook Civil War- or military-related page, post a review there.

Let us, the authors, other booksellers, and more importantly, other readers, HEAR from you.

Thanks as always for your support. Independent publishing could not exist without you.

-- tps