On Reviews

Early last week, my Twitter feed blew up with the news of the ongoing squabble between bookseller Barnes and Noble and publisher Simon and Schuster. Seems Barnes and Noble has been cutting orders of Simon and Schuster books because the publisher isn’t stepping up with the money.

A quick lesson, from what I can remember of Liz Pelletier’s talk during ECWC ’12: Publishers pay money for the different kind of displays you see in bookstores. The larger displays, like those stand alone four sided ones that are all mass market paperback and usually toward the front, where the new release hard cover books are? Those displays are sold, and chances are one side, or possibly all four sides, are books from one publisher (might use different imprints, but all the same publisher). Same goes for the smaller displays and I think, if memory serves, even having your book placed cover out on the shelves, rather than spine out. It all costs money, and those displays are bought up months, if not years, in advance. It’s kind of like payola in the recording industry (which is now illegal), and Barnes and Noble wants the publishers to pay more money for it.

The point of this post is not to get into whether Barnes and Noble is right to be asking for more money, or if Simon and Schuster is right to say no, we’re not going to pay it. The point is the dispute hurts debut and even mid-list authors because they don’t get any face time.

When’s the last time you wandered through the shelves of a bookstore looking for something to read? Probably months, at least, right? You’re not alone. I rarely wander the stacks any longer myself.

Most of the books I’ve read in the last year to two years have been recommendations from one source or another. Maybe I read about it in the Barnes and Noble Week in Review newsletter (which is fabulous, by the way, even if it is put out by a giant bookcorp). Maybe one of my friends on Goodreads added it and I thought the title sounded interesting. Or maybe I overheard one of my friends at work talking about it and I had to jump in, because that’s how I roll, and I went out and picked it up myself.

And when I read those books, I try and make the time to write a review, even if it’s only a few lines long.

I’ll admit, I can be pretty lax when it comes to reviewing books on Goodreads. Half the time, hell, most of the time I end up giving it a star rating and not bothering with a review. And not every single book I’ve read goes up on Goodreads, either. But after reading this post by author Stephanie Burgis, I’m going to try and do better.

The way we find books these days is changing. So much promotion is done online through blog tours and giveaways, Twitter promotions and Facebook question and answer sessions. And reviews. Review review review those books, because otherwise that brand new author you love could end up losing their distribution deal. Author Allison Pang (A Brush of Darkness) blogged several months ago that the Abby books wouldn’t be continuing because of lack of publisher interest. I could be wrong, but I interpret that to mean the sales weren’t quite what they wanted, and it wasn’t financially feasible for them to continue pimping her books.

I see a book review as a tool to helping someone make an informed decision about a particular title. I try to explain what worked for me and what didn’t as best I can, and keep the fangirling to a minimum (although in the case of certain authors, that’s really hard to do). There’s no overabundance of exclamation points or GIFs. There’s no “Team Edward!” or “Team Jacob!” or team anyone (but if I had to pick a team, I’d be Team Warner by now. Adam is so passe.) I’m not going to rate something I haven’t read, just based on my excitement for the title. None of these things help the author. I don’t “like” other people’s reviews on Goodreads unless it was something I would have said myself (and frankly, from what I’ve heard, “liking” a review doesn’t help the author much, either. Just buy the damn book already).

And on the question of GIFs, could we please stop? If I see a GIF in a review, I navigate away from the page. Those things annoy the shit out of me and I hope one of the first things Amazon does now that they’re buying Goodreads is to take away the ability to post a fucking moving picture in a review.

There will always be effusive reviews that make you think the reviewer was bribed in some way or another to post it, and there will always be reviews that personally attack the author for no reason whatsoever. You can’t prevent everyone from being TSTL, unfortunately, but you can help an author out by leaving an honest and thoughtful review.

Happy reading!


4 thoughts on “On Reviews

  1. Thanks for the shout-out. 🙂 In my case there were a few additional factors that aren’t public, but you’re not too far off the mark, either. (You’re also assuming my publisher actually did any marketing of my books…and they really didn’t.) *shrugs*

    Today’s publishing world is changing so very quickly and a lot of the marketing burden does get placed on the authors, but as you note, there is only so much we can do. We absolutely depend on reader word-of-mouth and reviews to help us with sales. And with the latest issue with B&N? Everyone loses.

    Reviews can be very helpful, even if they’re negative – so anything readers can do to spread the word is brilliant. 🙂

    1. I actually read A Brush of Darkness based on a recommendation from a co-worker, and I’m glad I did. Your news a few months ago was disappointing to me as a reader, because I loved the world you’d created and wanted more! But yes, I firmly believe book reviews play a big part in getting books sold these days, and I’m happy to do what I can. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I have nothing more to add, except that now I’m going to make sure I keep reviewing everything. There’s been times I’ve been tempted to skip reviews, even for the one star books, but after reading this it makes sense.

    Reviews are the books marketing today.

    As for gifs and icons, I sort of don’t think it will happen anytime soon. I think they’re here to stay.

    1. Sigh. You’re probably right. I’ll just have to deal with it.

      But yes, keep on reviewing. I honestly believe even a few lines can help make up someone’s mind. Thanks for stopping by!

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