Have you ever written a book review?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Your Reviews Matter—and Help Keep Civil War Publishing Alive

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We love reading about the Civil War.

We save our hard-earned money and buy the books on the subject(s) we love. Sometimes we check them out from libraries. Other times, we borrow them from friends or family members.

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, not in newspapers, broadsheets, or emails. And most readers don’t think twice about not doing so.

It’s understandable. Most people are busy, and/or they don’t think they write well enough to leave a public review. Many folks admit the idea doesn’t often cross their mind, or don’t believe a review is really all that important or could possibly make any difference.

They could not be more wrong.

It matters—in more ways that you can imagine.

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

First, authors need your feedback. They labor alone, often for many years, send a manuscript off to the publisher, and wait for a long while (sometimes years) until it is published. Reviews are one of the few ways they get feedback from the end user: You.

Trust me, authors do not write for the money. They write for the joy researching brings them, and the pleasure of the writing experience. They do it to enrich your life by providing you (hopefully) what you love. Share your honest opinion with them. Your Reviews matter to them more than you know.

Second, publishers (at least those who care) need your feedback. It is important to let us know what you like, and what you don’t like. Some publishers are exceptionally engaged with the reading public and look very much forward to hearing from those who purchase and read their books. (We scour the web for reviews to learn whether what we did worked—or didn’t work.) If we don’t hear from you—how will we ever truly know whether we were successful with a given book?


How was the writing? How was the overall editing? Did you like the footnotes, or do you prefer end notes? Why? What did you think of the quality (or lack thereof) of the maps? Were they helpful? Were there enough of them? Were they placed properly? Ditto on the images. Interested publishers seek out fair and honest reviews and trust me, we pay attention.

Publishers publish for many of the same reasons authors write. Speaking for myself, it certainly isn’t for the money, but for the love of the game. The concept of adding enjoyment to the lives of others and enriching them in a unique way is truly satisfying. So is leaving something worthwhile for posterity.

Your Reviews matter.

Third, other potential readers rely upon and need your honest opinion. Marketing blurbs and jacket copy are important sales tools, but interested readers are more influenced by YOUR opinion. Think about it: Don’t you like to read what others think about a new book in which you have an interest? Of course you do.

If Book X is released and the first several reviews are very negative—no maps, terrible writing, repetitive, sloppy or no editing, etc.—aren’t you glad you didn’t shell out thirty bucks for it? Sure you are. On the flip side, if early reviews are glowing, doesn’t it help you make an informed buying decision?

Your reviews matter.

Fourth, most book readers don’t take into consideration that booksellers and wholesalers follow reviews carefully. Here is a simple example outside the Civil War that makes my point.

The fascinating memoir Steel Boat, Iron Hearts: A U-boat Crewman’s Life Aboard U-505, by Hans Goebeler (with John Vanzo) has been very successful--but NOT because of anything the authors have done (Hans is deceased, and John as a rule does not do events), but because some of our promotions triggered a wave of reviews, that turned into other opportunities.

As the number of positive reviews climbed, more booksellers and wholesalers stocked it, more libraries picked it up, and more readers discovered this gem of a memoir. Foreign rights agents sought us out, as did a major audio rights company. Thousands of readers around the world would never have heard of this book EXCEPT for all the your reviews—which climbed in number from 19 to . . . 501 (as of the date of this post).

Wait a minute, you think, "Why do I want to make money for a publisher?" (Seriously, you thought that?) Well, if your niche publisher goes out of business, who is going to publish what you love to read? If your doctors goes out of business, who will treat you?

Your reviews matter.

Fifth, Amazon—the uncomfortable elephant in the room today—uses reviews and page hits to determine which books are popular, how many to stock, and how to match them with other similar interests. Many people check Amazon first to see how a book has been reviewed (I know many of you are nodding your head, right?) How many of us have glanced at a star rating and thought, “Only a two-star average with 10 reviews? I’ll pass.” Or, “Wow, this has 22 reviews and a 4.5-star rating average. I will get a copy.”

Your reviews matter.

I can hear some of you shouting, “But Ted, I am not a good writer!” I hear this almost daily. Here is a dirty secret: It doesn’t matter.

Just write what you liked (or didn’t like) about a book. Post it on Amazon, on Facebook, online somewhere, or maybe in a series of tweets. It can be as simple as, “I liked this book because [the subject is interesting,] [it was easy to read,] [there were lots of good maps,] [the footnotes were informative,] etc.” If you feel comfortable, go in-depth and write several paragraphs. Your opinion matters.

Reviews help keep authors writing, publishers publishing, and readers reading. Your participation with reviews is critically important and likely much more so than you realized.

Help shape YOUR reading future. Your opinion matters.


— Theodore P. Savas

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Anonymous said...

Used to write reviews for monthly library newsletter. Always chose books I loved. Anybody can slam a lousy book and there are plenty of them out there. Better to rave and encourage readers to read good books!