Guest Post: Dougie Brimson - Why reviews are so important for the eBook author

Over the last couple of years, as you might well have noticed, the world of publishing has changed dramatically. Not least for mid-list authors such as myself.

No longer under the total control of editors or publishers we are now free to go it alone to write what we like and publish it when we like. Trust me, for all kinds of reasons that freedom is liberating!

For the reader, this evolution has been equally revolutionary. Who would have thought five years ago that not only would there be a genuine alternative to good old paper, but that there would be books available to download for free at the touch of a button!

However, the rise of the ebook has added a new and very important element to the reading process and it is one which not everyone seems to have grasped. It is the power to review. Be it on Amazon, iTunes, Goodreads or any of the numerous reader websites, if you enjoy or even dislike a book you are now able to tell the world.

That my friends, is power, real power. And I will tell you why.

As a professional writer of ebooks, whenever I release something new onto the market the promotion of that book falls not to the publisher as it used to, but to me as the author. As a consequence the normal routine is to bombard media outlets, social media, related websites and blogs in the hope that someone will help by providing some publicity.

This, as you can imagine, is an extremely important part of the self-publishing process because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a book might be, if no one knows about it no one will buy it! But this work can consume an extraordinary amount of time and whilst it can be fabulous fun, it can also prove to be both frustrating and soul destroying.

However, after a certain amount of time you have to get back to the actual process of writing which means that you have to let your latest stand on its merits and fend for itself. It’s at this point that all authors hope that their readers will kick in and take up the task of spreading the word on their behalf. Fundamental to that is the review.

From the readers perspective, a review can have many functions but for the majority of authors each and every review is a promotional tool and in that sense they are almost unrivalled, which is why we all ask, plead and even beg readers to post them. It isn’t that we want you to boost our self-esteem (nice though that is!) it’s because the simple truth of the matter is that nothing sells books like word of mouth and these days, that primarily means what readers have to say on the online outlets.

Of course there are people who would never review a book for all kinds of reasons. The usual three being ‘I wouldn’t know what to write’,’ I’d be embarrassed’ or ‘I can’t be bothered.’ But by thinking in this way they are actually missing out on what to me is one of the most exciting elements of the ebook revolution and that’s the potential for the reader to become directly involved in the publishing process.

Because when you download a book be it free or paid, you earn the right to have an opinion. And since your opinion is as good as anyone else’s, rather than keep it to yourself or simply share it with your immediate family why not share it with the global community? You don’t have to say much, just a sentence or two, but anything is better than nothing. Believe me, it can be a great deal of fun!

Equally and just as importantly, by posting a review on one of the online stores such as Amazon and iTunes –and this is the crux of the matter- you instantly become a part of the promotion for that book.

I won’t try and explain the mysteries of the various ranking systems and why every single review counts but think about it in its most basic sense; your glowing review could be the one which introduces someone to the delights of a new writer, a new genre or even a new interest. Surely that has to be worth a few minutes of your time!

And speaking as an author, reviews have other benefits. One of which is that they help me to decide what to write next. For example, I had no idea that there was so much interest in sequels to my novels Top Dog and Billy’s Log but now, thanks to both the sales figures and the fabulous reviews posted by readers, I do. Which is why you will hopefully soon see both, possibly within the next 12 months. For me that last sentence encapsulates why I place so much importance on my readers opinions. Because by posting a review and helping to keep a title or titles selling, the allow me to concentrate on the actual process of writing and turning out fresh material.

At the end of the day, as a writer I would hope that’s what my readers would actually prefer me to be doing as opposed to trying to catch the attention of some bored journalist in the hope that they might say something nice about my latest. It’s certainly what I’d much rather be doing.

So please, if you have ever read a book and like it, take the time to leave a review somewhere or even mention it on Facebook or Twitter. As I have said a million times each and every one of them genuinely helps and as someone pointed out to me today, a review is a fabulous way of thanking the author for his or her efforts.

Dougie Brimson is a professional author and screenwriter. He has published 14 books including both fiction and non-fiction and is currently enjoying an 8 month unbroken run at the top of the Amazon & iTunes soccer charts with his free thriller, The Crew.

He also penned the multi-award winning feature, Green Streetstarring Elijah Wood.

His next book, a sports based comedy entitled Wings of a Sparrow, is due for release in eBook format in August.


Dennis Hamley said…
You're dead right there, Dougie. Reviewing can have incredible consequences. I used to review for, of all obscure publicationa (no, that's not really fair) The School Librarian. I was amazed when Philip Pullman thanked me for a review I did of an early Sally Lockhart novel, saying it turned the whole series round for him because he thought it was going nowhere. And once, at a book festival, Mal Peet rushed up to thank me for my reviews of Keeper and the other Paulo Faustino novels. I was amazed he had even seen them. But once upon a time Walker had quite a good cuttings service. And I was as chuffed to hear it as they were to get them.

Some reviews, of course, are hateful: I've had a few of those. But we have to put up with them and just hope they are honest opinions. And I'm chary of asking people to do reviews: I'll only ask if they've told me beforehand that they like the book. I don't seem to get many unsolicited reviews. Is this because no-one thinks the books worth reviewing or that nobody's reading them? I hope the second!
Dougie Brimson said…
I'm very fortunate in that I get unsolicited reviews and accept both good and bad with grace. You have to!

But I am also not adverse to asking people who mail me about a title to review it. Even though I was once accused of begging for reviews by a famous sportsman whose book I'd knocked off of #1 on a chart once.

It all comes down to word of mouth. It's the greatest selling tool there is. If any book proves that, it's 50 Shades.
Lee said…
Nowadays, word of mouse.
Lee said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said…
Undoubtedly some kinds of reviews are important:

Of course, it helps to have written a book as splendidly idiosyncratic, as spectacular (thanks, Dan!) as A Naked Singularity. Otherwise, why bother writing at all? There's far too much stuff out there already.
Jan Needle said…
welcome aboard dougie. very stimulating and useful piece which i'll be thinking about when i've got more time than i've had this weekend. promotion is pretty alien to me, but i know you're right. i must become a better person! (memo to self: for a start, weekends aren't the time to be so busy....)
julia jones said…
Trouble is that reading a book and finding the words to describe the experience (let alone analyse) seem to need two quite different parts of the brain. I think it does become easier the more reviews one writes and the less hung up one feels about being profound. An appreciatiation is the thing - or even an acknowledgement that the reading experienc has happened.
Ratul Roy said…
Dougie, you are absolutely right, there needs to be more importance laid on reviews for eBooks. Speaking of reviews on eBooks, there isn’t a single book available on this and we would love it if you would self-publish a book with us at Orange Publishers on this very topic.

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