The impact of a book review cannot be overstated. As Indie Authors, we all know this. We live it and breathe it… But do we, really?
Book reviews are coveted by Indies. Whether it is a few words or a few paragraphs, the response from readers, whether good, bad, or indifferent, helps us understand how our work impacts people outside of our imagination. We crave reviews. We love getting reviews so much that each time we receive one, we share it on social media and our website. We grab our most comfortable bullhorn and tell the world about the nice things people have to say about us and our books. Even if our work has been poorly received, we still covet the review.
Reviews are not just “ata-boy” pats on the back, or at least, they shouldn’t be. They help us become better writers. They allow us to see our storytelling influence from a distance. A few sentences of constructive critique help us realize what works and what doesn’t work. Reviews help us to grow in our art and remind us that there is more to the act of writing a book than simply answering to the Muse. Book reviews are what connect us to the reading world. Yes. It is also true that reviews can help Indie Authors make money by bringing more attention to their books, boosting them in the rankings, and helping to sell more. As much as we’d all like to think that we’re artists unaffected by the whispers of economic pressure, the impact reviews have on our income cannot be ignored. Book reviews mean word-of-mouth advertising, which sells more books. Reader reviews are vital to our future in this industry.
However, Indie Authors, too, need to remember the importance of writing reviews for their colleagues. We are not in competition with each other, or we shouldn’t be. Rather, we’re all part of a community whose main goal is to improve the world around us through the written word. One of the best ways we can do that is to offer constructive critique to our fellows and be open to learning from each other. After all, who understands our industry and its nuances better than we do?
Just as a swimmer cannot improve without their teammates pushing them to strengthen their stroke and improve their times, writers need the same support and encouragement to improve their performance.
Writing and receiving book reviews is akin to the techniques that must be mastered by Olympic swimmers. Reach back on one side and breathe, then thrust your arm in the pool and pull. Then turn your attention the other side, reach again, breathe, throw in the other arm, and pull. Only through this bilateral approach to offering and accepting constructive critique can we, as writers, improve. Book reviews from our fellow Indie Authors build stronger writing muscles and advance the forward momentum of the entire publishing industry. We inhale story and exhale impact. We train through our writing, stretching with every page. Then we coach with our reviews, offering an above-surface perspective of our authoring. Only by becoming attentive to training and receptive to coaching, can we become proficient and help our entire team to the gold medal podium.
If a swimmer stands on the sidelines and offers silence to his teammates, only focusing on their own success, they may earn a gold medal for their individual achievements, but when it comes to elevating the sport as a whole, they do more harm than good. They divert attention away from the smaller ripples in the pool, creating an atmosphere where fans only cheer for the record-holders, and ignore the rest of the team. There are so many other swimmers who are strong and could achieve so much more, if only they had the support of their teammates and a bit of enthusiasm from the crowd.
I see plenty of Indie Authors asking for reviews of their work in the back pages of their books, on social media, and in newsletters. Memes are rife with reminders about how book reviews feed Indie Authors and sustain us through self-doubt and imposter syndrome. We beg and plead for reviews… even if it’s only a single sentence. But sadly, I don’t see enough reviews actually written by Indie Authors.
No doubt, there are a few well-known authors who we all wish would write an endorsement “blurb” for our book… that would be heaven realized, right? The thing of dreams. It would be the recognition and validation we all crave. But do we do it for each other when just beginning… or when struggling through the adolescence of our writing careers… or even when we’ve been at it for a while and need a bit of reassurance that we’re not wasting our time? Not so much. If we don’t cheer for each other, how will the spectators sitting in the stands become infused with our enthusiasm for this thing we love? Why should they care? Why should they put forth the effort of publicly responding to our work, if we don’t even do it for each other?
Leaving a review for a book isn’t just about boosting that Indie Author’s monetary gain to help to sell more books. That might be a nice by-product, but it’s not the most important impact of a review. Leaving a book review–especially if you’re an Indie Author–is also an act of support for the entirety of the writing profession. It is one of the strongest ways we can coach each other toward becoming stronger writers and strengthen our team. Not to mention adding ripples of attention to the reading pool.
Go back and watch some of the old footage from the Olympics when Michael Phelps was swimming. You’ll notice that when his teammates were cheering him from the pool deck he swam stronger and faster. Of course, focus on strengthening your stroke and improving your personal skills. Don’t ever neglect your own writing career to cheer for others. But also, cheer for your fellow Indie Authors, share above the surface observations that might strengthen their craft, and support their momentum toward publishing their next book. If you do it for them, they’ll do it for you.
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