Friday, June 22, 2018

Please leave a review.

I have such mixed feelings saying those words. 

Here’s why…

I know reviews can help build my platform. The more reviews, the more exposure a book will receive, which in turn will jumpstart readership. And since social media is a prevalent source of advertising, asking for a review on those platforms is the most effective way to get a response...But asking anyone, especially friends, to give an opinion of one of my books is uncomfortable.

Of course, most people buy books other people recommend, which is why reviews found on social media will carry the most weight. A good review can and will positively influence someone who is considering your book for purchase.  

Outside of a friend’s recommendation, reviews guide my reading selections.

After reading a book’s description, I usually scroll down to read the perspective of other readers. Though some may only mention whether they enjoyed the book or not, others give guidance on what to expect—relevant, but difficult social issues are presented—it contains language or graphic material—the book touched the reader on a deeper level.

As an author, I can tell you I’m looking for constructive criticism when I read a review on something I wrote, but honestly, I’m looking for the third thing I mentioned—I’m hoping it touched them. 

Another author once told me she didn’t read reviews anymore. She didn’t say why, but I think it might be something we all have to guard against—not tying our work, perhaps even our worth, to another person’s opinion, which is why we must remember reviews are just that—a personal opinion.

Another reason I struggle asking for a review is though we can ask, many people won’t actually take the time to write a review, even well-meaning friends so why bother? Even I have trouble writing a review unless I can praise the book with four or five stars. But opinions widely vary. We don’t enjoy the same genre—the same style of writing—even the story’s point of view will matter to some readers. I read a review that said they connected to the main character, while another reviewer said they didn’t like the main character at all, which simply supports we're drawn to different stories for different reasons. A story with realistic circumstances, dialogue, and a spiritual takeaway are usually motivators for my next purchase. 

Lastly, and the most awkward reason asking for a review is the how I feel about reviewing fellow authors. Their opinions feels weightier, and on the flip side, leaving an honest, yet encouraging review if I didn’t enjoy the book the way other reviewers have isn’t fun. 

I know writers more seasoned than I have advice they can offer, and I hope they will. 

Until next time, keep writing, because your voice matters!

Penelope grew up in Tennessee, but has lived in various states and a few countries outside the United States. She holds a BS in Business/Political Science and a MS in Multinational Commerce from Boston University. 

After working in the field of banking and finance, she left to invest her time with her children at home, and occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. Today, she resides in Indiana with her family where she serves in her church, and occasionally teaches a Bible study or Precepts.

An avid reader of fiction and perpetual student of Biblical truth, she is pursing the life of a writer. She believes her roots, faith, and her experience with other places and cultures, all meld into the voice that splashes onto the pages of her novels.

A Powerful Voice and A Furrow So Deep are Christian Romances published through Anaiah Press, LLC. And her Christmas novella, My Christmas Hope, will be released November 16, 2018.

To follow Penelope on social media:
Facebook: PenelopePowellAuthor
Twitter: @penpowell89


  1. I'll be honest, Penelope. Reviews are the bane of my existence. I wish Amazon and other review sites would do away with them completely. They are intended to help others make up their mind as to whether or not a book is for them. But I've found, just like with movie reviews, what many book reviewers love is generally what I don't care for at all. I'd prefer to read a book's description, maybe a bit about the author, and then sample the book with Amazon's "Look Inside" feature in order to make up my mind whether or not to download a copy or order the paperback.

    I've published 30 books (I'm a hybrid author but pretty much independent now). I didn't receive a review on my first book (published in late 2010) for over a year after its release! I was blissfully ignorant as to reviews and their importance to an author.

    Once I had a few books published, I started getting one-star reviews on Goodreads for books pre-release that only the editors and myself had read! The problem with Goodreads is that you don't have to leave an actual review, only stars.

    I have been blessed with many very good and positive reviews overall, and for that, I am immensely grateful to a growing reader base and faithful readers. Even so, I'd say 80% of them do NOT write reviews. They either don't want to, don't feel they can, and I've had some tell me "You're the writer, and I can't begin to do your novel justice." I've posted notes on FB about writing a short sentence review (even a few words), but that doesn't work. I don't want to harp on them or some will consider it nagging or annoying.

    I understand why the author told you she doesn't read reviews. If you have a tough, thick skin, more power to you. Go for it! The overall issue I have with reviews is this: there is a lot of abuse within the review system. Good reviews are encouraging for authors and negative reviews can be helpful if they're constructive. I've learned that reviewers rate books based on their own personal experiences and reactions to the themes, characters, and anything else about a book they choose. I've also found many readers will only review the books they don't like--go figure, right?

    I woke up this morning to a scathing one-star review that was incredibly hurtful. It made me gasp because of what was said. Nothing could be further from the truth of what they said, and it was just flat-out wrong. And it was the first review the person had ever written, making me question it. I'm better now, but my writing productivity was completely shot for the day.

    Even after nearly ten years of writing, editing, and publishing, I'm as sensitive now as I was when I first started out. Ironically, that same sensitivity makes me a better author. Words are powerful, and books are powerful. But so are reviews. They are a double-edged thing, but it's something we have to live with as it comes with the territory. But I must also say this: focus on the POSITIVE reviews if you can. They mean the world and are a great source of encouragement. Don't dwell on the one negative in a sea of positives (wise advice I'm still working on myself)!

    The most important for us as Christian authors is to remember that we're writing for the Lord's glory. It's really only important that we honor Him in our writing. And, honestly, I'm not sure that anyone else but authors, and other authors, truly cares about ratings. In the long run, what does it really matter? I want to keep writing and keep my focus on HIM. The enemy knows my weakness and loves nothing better than to exploit it. I will not, I CAN not, allow him to succeed in distracting and discouraging me!

    Congratulations on your books and best wishes in your future writing pursuits! Blessings! ~JoAnn Durgin

  2. Thank you for weighing in JoAnn. Advice from veterans helps... immensely so I appreciate you taking time as you did.

    I was talking with my daughter just last night about my lack of love for social media and the quantity of participation was optimal.

    When I ask for a review, I often feel I am nagging, even with individuals who've promised to leave one.

    Knowing this may always be a struggle, and I'm not alone is oddly encouraging. LOL

    Thanks again, and blessings to you!