March 15, 2016

Show Me the Stars: Why I (and Many Authors) Need Reader Reviews

I need to know how I'm doing. For all our sakes.
I need to know how I’m doing. For all our sakes.

By Alexa Day

Is there anything more tedious than the person who does not grasp how fortunate she is? I think not. I endeavor not to be that person.

I recognize that I have one of the best jobs in the world. I love writing erotica and erotic romance. I’m always happy to share my Tuesdays with you folks. I have so little to complain about.

I really hate to ask you for anything when I’m so happy, but this has been on my mind a lot lately.

I have very, very few reviews.

I did have the audacity to complain to a colleague about this once. She told me to count my blessings and move on. After that, I stopped complaining for a while, but now I find this is bugging me again.

I want to be clear about something first. Nothing is going to stop me from writing. I’m wired a little strangely. If I’m not writing, the pressure builds up in my head and I become cranky and difficult to live with. Writing is self-care. So I’m going to keep writing, whether there are reviews or not.

If there are no reviews, however, I am left to presume that one of the following four things is true.
1. My work is actually awful, and everyone is sparing my feelings.
2. No one is reading my work. Tough to say whether this is better or worse than #1.
3. You don’t want the whole world to know you read That Kind of Thing.
4. You told me exactly what you think of my work in person and don’t understand what I am now crying about.

Let’s grab those one at a time.

If you are hesitating to leave a review because my books are awful, you’re not really helping either of us. If I don’t know there’s anything wrong with a particular story, I’m going to keep writing stories that are basically just like it. I need to know if something’s not working for you. That’s just quality control. Don’t worry so about hurting my feelings. I’m an attorney. I’ve been a newspaper reporter and a bartender, and before that, I integrated my high school. I have been called everything a woman can be called. You are not going to hurt my feelings with words. I’m a writer. Words work for me, not the other way around.

As for the second possibility, I really do struggle with whether it’s better or worse than knowing the work is horrendous. I would venture to say that most authors worry that they’re shouting into a void, sending their hard work out into a world that couldn’t be less interested in it. The idea bothers me a great deal, despite the fact that I’m hardwired to keep shouting, even if no one cares. Discoverability is a big deal in our fast-paced high-tech publishing world. My concern that no one sees my work runs deeper than my ego (which is saying something). See, if I don’t have all that many reviews, the world gets a little smaller for me. Any number of promotional opportunities want to see a certain number of Amazon reviews. Besides, how often have you passed on a product that only has a handful of reviews?

With regard to the third option, I want to share a little Amazon secret with you.

Amazon recognizes that you might feel weird about revealing to your friends and family that you read the sorts of … well … explicit sexual content I take such delight in writing. Amazon wants to help you out. Your Amazon settings likely hide your reviews of Those Kinds of Things (explicit sexual reading, vibrators, etc.) from the prying eyes of your judgmental circle of acquaintances. You can tell the whole world that you loved that anal scene so much you had to reach for one of your favorite, highly reviewed toys. If your settings are all right, the public at large need never know.

Finally, I want to thank those of you who have actually come right up to me and told me you enjoyed my book. If I seemed shocked, please bear in mind that I think I’m shouting into the void, as I mentioned above. I like talking about books with readers, and few things are as pleasurable as knowing what readers want to see in their favorite stories.

I still need you to leave me a review.

I know you just told me how you feel about the book, and I’m really grateful for your kind words. But that was for me. The review is for the other people on Amazon. People who don’t know you or me. People who are wondering if this book is better than that one or why they should bother to buy either of them.

That wonderful stuff you told me? Well, other people on Amazon need to hear it at least as much as I did.
So, you see, it’s both safe and beneficial for you to come out of the woodwork and let me — and the rest of your favorite authors — know what you think of our work. More reviews, even the bad ones, ultimately mean better visibility. Better visibility means better sales. And better sales make it that much easier for me and my colleagues to keep writing.

You can spare a kind word for that, right?

Follow Lady Smut. We want alll the stars.

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  • Post authorbarbaramikula

    Alexa, while all we writers like to see reviews, maybe you should count your blessings. I had a reader who consistently left HORRIBLE reviews, but continued to buy my books. It was the most upsetting feeling until I went into Bookstand’s archives and saw that she rarely, and I mean rarely, left a good review. I have had many wonderful reviews from readers (including one who said my books helped save her 20 year marriage that had gotten stale — what a thrill that was!). That has helped take away the taste of the bad ones, and thankfully, she seems to have forgotten about me. Since I have 30 published books, there is certainly lots of ammo she could still be lobbing at me! Skye Michaels

    Reply to barbaramikula
  • Post authormadeline iva

    “Likely” will hide your review from family n friends is not good enough for me on Amazon. That’s why I do my reviewing over at Goodreads. (Thank you, Goodreads!)

    Reply to madeline iva
  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    It’s a tough gig getting reviews. I feel sometimes like it’d be easier finding a cure for the common cold. Sometimes when i see those Book Bub recommendations and it’ll say “with over 5,000 five-star reviews!” I just shake my head and wish i could have just a fraction of that reader’s review success.

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
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