Book Reviews – Are they worth it?
Updated: Mar 27
Debut authors often struggle to answer this question. They can easily get lured into the myriad of book review services, some free, some paid.
My marketing plan for my debut novel, The Final Crossing, included my own initiatives and help from my publisher in getting book reviews. I knew that book reviews could help potential readers become familiar with my book and ultimately help them decide whether to buy it or not. Once I got the word out, encouraging readers to submit honest reviews, it was a wait and see what would happen.
In the meantime, there were still some questions and doubts in my mind about reviews. Considering that approximately only 13% of readers routinely leave book reviews, would I get a single review? And since readers leave a review only if the book is exceptional or to show support for the author, would I be considered for either one? Then there are readers who want to leave a review but don’t know what to say. As for those who do know what to say, they might be left out from posting a review by large book sellers such as Amazon because they haven’t spent more than $50 in the last year on the platform.
Not receiving feedback and support from readers made me think about using various book review services, which cost between $250 to $500 per review. This was not a good option. It was too risky not knowing what I would get.
I was very grateful for the reviews I had received. I had always asked for honest reviews, prepared to take the good with the not so good, in the hope they would help readers learn more about my book and hopefully decide to get a copy. You can read them on Amazon and Chapters Indigo.
But I was no exception in receiving an unfavourable review.
Well, it wasn’t all bad. My book was reviewed voluntarily for a prestigious international historical group. In consideration for the length of this blog post, here is what the reviewer had to say, in part.
The Final Crossing is, in essence, a coming-of-age tale of Nenshi, a young Egyptian … The author cleverly mixes characters and places into those encountered by Nenshi … As a story, Nenshi's journey has much merit. However, having chosen to set the novel at a specific point in time, sadly, the world the author creates bears no relation to the Egypt of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. Had the author set his novel in a non-specific, fantasy period (like Wilbur Smith does), some of the many anachronisms could be forgiven.
The reviewer then went on to give a few examples where he believed the story fell short of historical accuracies. Needless to say, I was disappointed but not because of his remarks. After all, this was one person’s opinion. I was disappointed because my extensive research disputed his remarks. Also, I felt the review was skewed and did not give a full objective and effective review. Even authors have reasonable expectations in the reviews they receive from reviewers.
So, the question was, should I contact the reviewer? Yes, even though I knew many reviewers prefer not to be contacted. It was important for me to share my thoughts and explain the historical facts from my research.
I have selected two comments from the reviewer (in bold) and then have added my thoughts.
Buildings were made of mud bricks (with the exception of pyramids, temples etc.,) so Hordekef’s accident couldn’t have happened as described.
Yes, common Egyptian houses were usually made from mud bricks. Wealthy Egyptians, such as Nenshi’s master Tehuti, lived in a large stone mansion. Smaller dwellings, perhaps for rich merchants, were also built from stone. It was during the construction of one of these dwellings where Hordekef’s accident occurred.
A priest (or priestess) would have been consulted about dream interpretation, not a ‘witch.’
It is true that a priest or priestess would have been consulted to interpret a dream. In my story the interpretation was made by a woman who was not Egyptian. Her name, Sheikha, was not Egyptian and I called her a ‘divinator’ of dreams. I even acknowledged that perhaps she was an imposter. The reign of Amenemhat III at the end of the 12th Dynasty, saw the Hyksos begin to live and work in Egypt. Over time the Hyksos would rule over Egypt. Hence, I hinted that the divinator may have come from the land of the Hyksos.
After reading the review several times, it did not give me the sense that the reviewer read the entire book since he only remarked on the events that occurred in Egypt. In fact, most of the story takes place outside of Egypt. It’s unfortunate there was no mention of other civilizations and customs such as those from Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia, Persia (I called it Paras), the Bakhtiari nomads, and so on.
So, there you have it. It’s interesting how one review can be so different from another. Contrast the above review with a 5-star review I received from Readers’ Favorite, a U.S. book review and contest organization.
This is the last paragraph from the review.
Vince Santoro takes us back to ancient Egypt in this brave and adventurous story of a slave seeking freedom. The Final Crossing asks some philosophical questions such as what it means to be truly free, what is the human spirit, and what it means to believe in a god? I enjoyed the story of Nenshi and his pursuit of freedom and love. I loved the exploration of different ancient cities and civilizations. I could tell that Santoro has a keen interest in ancient Egypt, as he skillfully described mythology and the beautiful landscapes. This story took me back in time and opened my mind to the wonder of being a human being. It’s a valiant and fulfilling story sure to inspire and warm the heart.
So, are book reviews worth it? Yes. Whether it’s a positive or unfavourable one, they are worth it because there’s always something to learn.
Barbara Kyle, best-selling author, mentor and writing instructor, said this about book reviews. “Any review that's positive, from any source, is worthwhile. I seriously doubt that any single positive review can make a book a success, nor that any single unfavourable review can break it. But reviews in large quantity definitely have an impact.”
What’s your take on book reviews? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time!