I’m terribly bad about leaving reviews. Yeah, me: I should know better. The worst of it is that when I run through my list of stock excuses I realise very quickly that they are all things that I know are not really true. For my own future reference, then, and for the benefit of anyone who might be labouring under similar misapprehensions, I’ll just leave this here.
1. No one expects an essay. Except me. I expect myself to write an essay, I feel I ought to be able to expound at length on the merits of anything I’ve spent a week reading … but this flies in the face of all experience. I have been known to write long reviews, but only of books that I’ve known for years and read and reread over again and reach for like an old friend when I can’t sleep and don’t want to think, or, more rarely, of books that have bowled me over out of the blue and set my mind on fire – and that, I’m afraid, is an extremely high bar. But, I repeat, no one expects an essay. A sentence. In fact, to Hell with the grammar checker, not even a sentence, a word or two, a sentiment, a gut reaction. That’s fine. And boy is it appreciated.
2. No one’s going to hate me for awarding fewer than five stars. Well, okay, the occasional complete [insert unprintable expletive here] might be volubly heartbroken to receive four stars, but their opinions are clearly invalid. I know this. I only have to look at my own reactions to know it. I’ve been deliriously happy with four stars and positively relieved to receive three. My reluctance to award fewer than five probably says more about my own deep-seated insecurity than anything else. Besides, if you only have five star reviews it looks as if only your mates have reviewed you.
3. I really do have time. See point 1.
4. Every little helps. If you’re reading this, you’re in a pretty select number, and I often let myself off the hook by saying, well, you know, hardly anyone is going to read my review anyway, so it doesn’t make much difference whether I write it or not. This is clearly nonsense, of course. I have no way of knowing how many people read a review I post on Goodreads, on Amazon, or on Smashwords, and how ever many other reviews there might be for a work in any of those places, it doesn’t make mine any less useful, because you never know which line, which phrase, might chime with a potential reader and tip the balance for them.
5. I really do have an opinion. Returning to those deep-seated insecurities of mine (don’t worry, I’ve almost got them under control), who am I to give an opinion on anyone else’s writing? I’ll tell you who I am: I’m a reader. Every reader has an opinion, and any reader of reasonable discrimination can pick and choose between reviews and see whether they’re likely to agree with any individual reviewer. As to the validity of your opinion, if you’re havering about leaving a review I already have more faith in your judgement than in an awful lot of the reviews on Amazon. I see a lot of appeals, ‘love an Indie, write a review’, and that’s absolutely true, but don’t forget it’s not just the writer you’re helping. How hard is it, in the flood of new releases, to even begin to know where to start? Throw a lifebelt to a drowning reader: write a review.