Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Good, the bad and the not so bad

By R.J. Harlick

Sorry, people, I thought I would be able to write a blog in my rush to head out west, but I’m afraid I have run out of time. So I thought I would resurrect a blog I wrote a few years ago.  By the time you read this I will be winging my way to one of my favourite cities, Vancouver.

Do you read reviews? Reply to them? Review the works of other writers?

Even though this was written three years ago, my views on reviews still very much apply. I see them as an integral part of my writing. They along with book sales and fan mail are the only measure I have on how well or not my books are received. They help to reinforce the worthiness of the many lonely hours spent creating and honing the stories. I read them, good or bad.  I don’t hesitate to broadcast good reviews to my readership via Facebook or on my website and other promotional material.

As we authors know, reviews are one of the key tools for attracting readers to our books. Objective reviews by reputable reviewers are often the main tool libraries and booksellers use for book ordering.  I would hazard to guess that more copies of my last book, A Cold White Fear, appeared on library and bookseller shelves than would’ve otherwise after receiving a good review from Publishers Weekly. 

I have sold books at store signings by simply mentioning that my books have been reviewed by a well-known Canadian reviewer. The type of review didn’t seem to matter. What was important was that the book had raised the interest of the reviewer enough for her to put the time in to review it. Keep in mind, reviewers receive hundreds of ARCs and rarely have time to review all of them, so they have to be selective.

Reviews have more than proven their worth on book tours. On one particular tour, my publisher had arranged for a review to appear in the respective local paper of each store signing. I had numerous people come specifically to buy the book after reading the review.

I value all reviews regardless of whether they appear in traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines, on review websites, in personal blogs, online bookseller sites or Goodreads. They are equally important.  I won’t however pay for a review.  Remember what I wrote earlier. A good review gives me a sense of accomplishment. Paying for one wouldn’t give me this, because a paid review is ipso facto a good one.

I also use reviews to help me hone my writing.  If a reviewer has objected to something in my book, rather than pulling my hair, I will keep it in mind when writing my next book. I have been known to send a reviewer a short thank you note. I don’t dwell on whether it was a good or bad review, but use it as a way of thanking the reviewer for their time spent in reviewing the book. I also want them to remember me next time one of my books appears in their pile.

Although the question is oriented to reviews, I mustn't forget the value I place on reader ratings that are offered on the various online bookseller sites and on Goodreads. I am sure I'm not the only author who finds them valuable. So if you enjoyed a book don't hesitate to let the author know by giving it a rating regardless of whether you have time to prepare an actual review.

As for reviewing other crime fiction books, I rarely do it. The crime writing community, particularly in Canada, isn’t all that large and many are my friends. I feel that if I reviewed one book I would have to do them all. And if I did that, where would I find the time to do what I really want to do, write crime fiction.

Speaking of reviews, my next Meg Harris mystery, Purple Palette for Murder is coming out in October. It will soon be available on Netgalley.  Printed ARCs are also available. If you would like one, please let me know. My contact information is on my website, rjharlick.ca.

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