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If you’re like me, your “To Be Read” (TBR) book pile is teetering with the fascinating work of other authors whose books merit our attention. We want to read and review their stories, because we know the importance of reviews. Reviewing is how we can best help other authors to thrive.
Book reviews dictate whether a book sells or not. It’s not even necessarily what the review says or how elegantly it is written. It’s the mere fact of the review itself and the number of stars awarded. Simple reviews with 4 or 5 stars sell books.
A personal example: On September 19, 2017, my latest novel received a 5-star review. It was a good review, to the point and effective. I was grateful and encouraged! Sales kept humming along. Then, not another review followed for seven months. During that time period, Amazon adjusted their algorithms to give more visibility to books that continued to receive reviews. With no reviews coming in, my book became less visible, sales slowed, and then they dried up. Not a single tried-and-true marketing strategy worked. Nothing about the quality of my work had changed, but, month after month, there were no more reviews.
Seven long months after the last review, a few reviews popcorned into view, one here and then a couple there. Again, they were short and sweet, 5 stars, and effective. They were everything that reviews need to be to make Amazon happy. Praise God!
My book’s sales bounced out of the basement. To keep the recovery going, Amazon dropped the price. Sales skyrocketed. During all of this, the quality of my work had remained the same.
If book reviews aren’t written, sales die. It’s a fact. It’s not personal. It’s business.If #bookreviews aren’t written, sales die. It's a fact. It's not personal. It's business. Click To Tweet
Writers know this, but readers are usually unaware. Estimates vary, but the percentage of readers who review books seems to be only one to three percent. Because of this, authors prioritize the reading and reviewing of other authors’ work. If authors don’t sell books, we don’t get paid. And if authors don’t get paid, we can’t keep writing unless our work is a charitable gift to our readers. Typically, that’s not sustainable.If authors don't sell books, we don't get paid. And if authors don’t get paid, we can’t keep writing unless our work is a charitable gift. Typically, that's not sustainable. Click To Tweet
This is why our TBR piles are teetering.
Authors create marketing material, manage the account books, pitch our work, blog, juggle a day job, work social media, and try to have a balanced life with children, aging parents, pets, health problems, life’s mishaps, and everything else that fills each day. In the middle of all this, we must squeeze in time to actually write.
How can we continue? The odds seem stacked against us unless we remember this.
God is still sovereign over everything that touches our lives. If you doubt the bounds of his sovereignty, take a look at Isaiah 45:5-12. If the Lord wants us to continue, he will move our readers to write those reviews and will provide boosts of income that are necessary.
Tim Keller tweeted recently: “Since God is in charge, you can be called to a vocation, but not called to be successful in that vocation.” Only God knows what his intent is for our calling. Our responsibility is to use the gifts God has given us to the best of our abilities, while his responsibility is the inspiration and the outcome.
It’s always been this way, for everyone from the apostles on down to modern Christian writers – all of us united in proclaiming the goodness of God in our own unique way. Since this is true, we can trust God, whatever the outcome, remembering that we work for him.
As we’re trusting God and relying upon him for our success, we can best help one another by reading and reviewing the work of other writers. In this way we live out Jesus’ instruction to treat others as we desire to be treated.