Four Questions for You (and Me)
Q1: When you read a book, do you review it?
Q2: When you write a book, do you ask for reviews?
Q3: When you’re looking for a book to read, do you read reviews as as aspect of your book selection process?
Q4: When you see reviews for your book, do you care about what others say or is the number of reviews all that matters?
My replies to my own questions:
A1: I don’t read a book because I intend to write a review about it. Rather, if it’s intersting enough as I read it, I begin to consider shreing my thoughts with others who might become interested.
A2: Yes and no. I see Amazon/Goodreads consumer reviews as an expression of a kind of “herd mentality” where the number of reviews is what an author is presumably seeking. This cuts both ways, I think: there are some reviewers who seek the author’s attention by reviewing, or perhaps have a wish to be affiliated with the people who write (almost exclusively) five-star reviews. But to my mind, it’s not about the quantity of reviews. I’m looking for quality of insight and enjoyment. And good writing.
A3: Another yes and no. I read The New York Times Sunday Book Review pretty thoroughly each week, but most of the time I don’t actually read the book itself because the review gave me what I sought. I know, that’s kind of dumb, but most of the time reading those reviewers is kind of like reading what those “influencers” write on their blogsites. When it comes to reviewers, I rarely pass up reading Dwight Garner’s “Books of the Times” in the NY Times’ Arts section. He’s insightful, and I like his writing a lot.
I often don’t get books read promptly upon their publication. It can take me a year or so to get to them, because I have so many in my pile. And because I read every word. And because I only read once I’m in bed for the night.*
A4: If course I care about what others write about my books. And it would be disingenuous if I said I wouldn’t like more people to read my novels. But the number of reviews is not like notches on my Colt Peacemaker’s ivory handle. It’s not even about whether the reviewer wrote a positive or a negative review (although I’ve only seen one bad one, in which the reviewer complained that the book wasn’t worth the price of the Kindle version. Ah well. . .).
* I’m trying something new right now. I’m reading a chapter a day from Sara Dykman’s Bicycling with Butterflies every afternoon. It’s my break from whatever I’m working on, which is mostly getting Bridge Across the Ocean ready for publishing. I’d listened to it as an Audible book first time, but now I’m reading it simply because she’s such a good writer. I’m tabbing a lot of passages.
But I’m also reading a novel at bedtime, Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street, by David Payne, published in 1984. So I have one nonfiction, one fiction, book going at the same time. I figure I can handle that and won’t get the plots mixed up.
I haven’t read reviews of either book, and don’t intend to until I finish them and make up my own mind. I do this with movies, too. I don’t check their score on IMDB until I’ve finished watching. Makes me wish there was an IMDB for books, because it sure isn’t Goodreads.