A few months ago, I started seeing a ton of reviews popping up on my books on Amazon. Reviews from total strangers.
And I wasn’t even asking for the reviews. They were just showing up.
Then I discovered that Amazon added a new feature to Kindle where, after you finish reading a book, it pops up a message and asks you to leave a review. (I also recently started adding a “note from the author” at the end of my books, asking people to leave a review if they enjoyed the book.)
But here’s the thing about getting more reviews. Something really, really key that a lot of writers forget about.
People will only leave reviews if they actually make it to the end of your book.
No one leaves a review on a book they started and never finished. No one leaves a review on a book that didn’t keep their attention or that didn’t make them walk away feeling like they enjoyed their experience.
And they’ll only see the message from Amazon, asking them to leave a review, if they get that far.
This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself as an author: is my book engaging enough that the person reading it will read all the way to the end AND have liked what they read so much they will take the extra few minutes to leave a review?
If you’re not getting enough reviews right now–or any–there’s a good chance it’s because no one is making it to the end of your books.
I’m not saying this to make you feel bad. But I am saying it to wake you up to the fact that you may need to take a serious look at what you’re putting out there and whether or not it’s actually any good.
Some things to consider:
Did you hire a good content editor who actually knew what they were doing? Did you listen to the feedback and suggestions from said content editor? Or did you just take it upon yourself to think that you know what you’re doing and you don’t need to listen to the editor?
Or maybe you didn’t hire a content editor at all, and instead assumed your book was good enough because you’ve read hundreds of novels so obviously you can write a novel? (Not true, by the way.)
Did you find Beta Readers–who aren’t friends with or related to you–to check the book out before you published it? Does the book have an actual plot and story structure? Or is it an episodic narrative of a character’s day-to-day life?
Did you give the reader something to sink their teeth into? Was the book actionable? Did it give them information they could take away and use right now in their own lives?
Does the book actually have an ending that’s satisfying to the reader? Or does the ending come as a total disappointment or not even actually feel like an ending because nothing really gets resolved?
All of these are errors I see writers and authors making. And it’s a big part of the reason why no one reads, finishes or leaves reviews on their books.
Harsh? Maybe. But I’m hoping it’s also a reality check for what it really takes to write a book that gets reviews. And not bad reviews, but 4- and 5-star reviews. Rave reviews. Reviews that say the person loved the book so much they couldn’t put it down or it totally changed their life and way of thinking and being.
What it all comes down to is knowing the craft of what you’re writing and doing due dil to bring the best possible story or nonfiction book to your readers. It means stepping into the identity of the pro writer you want to be and treating your book with the same care and professionalism that you’d get with a traditional publisher.
Because when you self-publish, you are the publisher. And readers will still hold your book to the same standards that they hold books that come from traditional publishers.
A reader may not know the difference between a traditionally published book and a self-published book, but if you don’t do a great job with your book, they will be able to tell that something is off. Because stories require certain principles and criteria.
And readers have read enough books to know when a story (or nonfiction book) doesn’t work.
You’ll never fool your readers into enjoying your book if it doesn’t fit the principles and criteria of storytelling. For people who read a lot of books, even if they can’t tell you what’s wrong with the story, they will still have an innate sense of whether it’s good or not.
And even your beautiful prose will do nothing for you if your story isn’t compelling, engaging and cohesive. Beautiful prose is important, but it’s not the most important thing.
That’s why books without beautiful prose will still hit the bestseller lists and gain a huge readership and get turned into movies. Because it’s about the story more than it is about how beautiful the prose is.
Many people think Stephenie Meyer is a horrible writer. And I agree that her writing style is pretty basic. But her storytelling ability is so great readers can see right past the simple words and even cliche ways of describing stuff.
None of that matters when the story is awesome. When the story is awesome the beautiful prose is just icing on the cake.
But beautiful prose will never save a story that doesn’t work.
Dream life or bust,