In my last post, I went on about how to stand out in a field that blossoms with new writers every single day. A comment by Amanda brought out what I think is a good point: Eventually, sub-par works will be sent to the bottom of the slush pile through the review process. She has a good point and this does give me some hope as a writer in this crowded setting. Um, unless I end up being one of those at the bottom of the slush pile.
On second thought, I don’t have too much concern about being buried. You see, I’ve seen plenty of ho-hum published books. Heck, if they can make their way to a shelf then surely I will be able to. I believe that reviews will help get me there.
In order to understand this, it is necessary to take off the writer’s hat and put on your shopping cap. Think about the last time you considered purchasing an item. If it is an online purchase, chances are there were customer reviews of the item in question. In fact, it may be difficult to find a web site that doesn’t use some kind of customer review process. Of course Amazon comes to mind for a lot of us. When I am deciding on a purchase then I absolutely pay attention to the reviews. Something with a fair number of reviews that only averages three stars loses my attention pretty quick. On an item that has a lot of five start reviews I will seek out the few “low star” reviews just to make sure there’s nothing I’ve missed.
Let’s look at this as it relates to books. When we are considering a book other than something on the best seller list, the reviews have a lot more power. Six reviews with five stars tells me something. Six reviews with three two-star ratings tells me something more. People do pay attention and a poor review carries a lot more weight for a small independent author than a mega-author. In the long run, it means this book (or this author) may never get legs. A couple of offerings from a writer that end up with stinky reviews and it may be back to the ol’ day job for said writer. I know it sounds harsh but that’s probably a good thing. Think of it as a form of natural selection.
It’s interesting that conversely, stellar reviews do not pave a path to best-seller status. There seems to be a limit as to how much a positive review can help a writer. Obviously they don’t hurt but the upward movement seems to need more of a boost than a mere five star review can provide. All of the factors needed to shoot a writer into the stratosphere would take more room than I have in this post. A good review is a component and nothing more.
So the harnessing the power of reviews means not hoarding or garnering positive ones. A writer is better served by doing everything in their power to avoid negative reviews.