Since the internet is for gratuitous cat photos, here's yours for the day. Let it be noted that the kittens are now six months old. They are eight pounds and still growing. Yesterday, they took down the shower curtain and the rod in the guest bath. I spend a lot of my time sprinting from one end of the house to the other, squirt bottle in hand, yelling, "Don't you dare!" at some rambunctious kitten offender. They're slowly learning manners. Slowly.
Which brings us to the topic of reviews. If you've had cats before, my paragraph above reminded you what it's like to have young, untrained cats in the house. If you haven't had cats before, it should have given you a glimpse into the reality that having kittens isn't all cute and cuddles. There's destruction and mayhem. Either you're okay with that or you aren't. The point of my paragraph, and the point of a book review, is to help you decide whether having kittens, or reading a particular book, is right for you.
I feel like book reviews live in this weird in-between state. While they help an author beyond measure, reviews aren't really for the author. They're for other readers to help them decide whether my writing and my stories are going to work for them.
Very likely everyone's seen classes taught by any number of people promising you can make your book a best seller on Amazon if only you get enough reviews the day your book comes out. While I didn't take one of those classes, I figured what the heck. Lemme give this a try. I offered a free review copy of a book to a group of my readers. I kept my list to 25 people. I got those 25 reviews. What did this do for me? It got me in trouble with Amazon because the 'Zon really, really hates review copies. They really, really hate reviews that show up from readers who did not purchase the book on Amazon, even though advance reader copies are a standard in the industry. The experiment did provide a brief sales bump for the book, but I don't know that it actually helped other readers. Here's the rub. The people who read and reviewed for me are people who specifically like my writing and my weird bent on story. My stuff works for them. Their reviews are lovely and ego boosting and I adore every single one of these people. But if you were new to my work and wanted to look through reviews to find out that my stories can be a bit complicated and strange, those first 25 might not have done that job.
So I'm not likely to solicit reviews like that again. Lesson learned. I adore my readers and if they're moved to review my work, brilliant. I will weep tears of joy, but no more dabbling in a realm that should remain the sole domain of readers. I will 100% send review copies into the world and where readers leave reviews will be THEIR business, not mine, not the 'Zon's.
Are reviews worth anything then? Absolutely. They are worth the reviewer's weight in gold, every single one, whether the review is five stars or one star. Because they help other readers find me. And that is the greatest gift, ever.