Ok so, reviews. Reader reviews are massively important for writers like me because they are the only way anyone will know my book is any good.
It’s the writers with the big publishers and agents whose books get reviewed by newspapers and magazines. At my end of the food chain, published by a small press, these types of reviews are thin on the ground. Which is why it matters even more to me that readers have given their feedback.
It’s strange how print media reviews of books have died off in the last few years. The number of papers and magazines which put serious effort into book reviews has tanked. Here’s an example. Back in the day, when I was a reporter on local newspapers they used to carry a fair few book reviews, especially if the author was local – in fact it was a big deal to make sure books with a local link got a review and a reasonable amount was made of it. I know this because, often, I used to write the reviews.
When my publisher sent a copy of my book, Song of the Sea God, to my home town paper they ignored it for a month or so and then gave it away as a reader prize. Presumably someone in the features department found it at the bottom of the in-tray and thought ‘blimey – we’d better do something with this!’ short of actually reading it of course. (To be fair, before all this they did interview me about the book and do a decent story – I’m not having a go, just talking about the demise of book reviews).
Where have they gone? Perhaps it’s a symptom of the post-literate society, people would rather browse the web than read books, and that filters into newspapers just the same as everywhere else.
Of course the posh, broadsheet national newspapers still do reviews – but how many of us get in there? Only the chosen few.
So most of us have reader reviews. They are part of the digital revolution – and a fantastic part of it in my grateful opinion. All of a sudden, with the advent of the interweb, we all get to say what we think about books we have read – the reader has a voice! Not just the reviewer from the Sunday Broadsheet who went to the same private school as the author whose books he reviews and their agent and their publisher – but the actual reader. That’s you and me.
Receiving these reviews has been one of the best parts of seeing Song of the Sea God published. I had steeled myself before it came out for the possibility of bad reviews. I was determined to take them on the chin, realise people were criticising the book not me, and not take it to heart.
As it turned out I needn’t have worried – the reviews have thankfully been very positive.
The main place people do them is on Amazon, both in the UK here and USA here. It’s become such a colossus in the book selling word that many people bought their copy from them – and the traffic through these pages means that they are a great place to let prospective readers know what you think of a book. But I also get reviews on Goodreads here, and on people’s own blogs and websites.
I value them all hugely for the simple reason that I know people can trust them. It’s the easiest thing in the world for the author of a book to tell everyone how wonderful it is – or indeed for their publisher to do so on their behalf. Personally I don’t bother telling everyone how fantastic my work is – what would that be worth after all? Nothing really.
It’s much more important if readers, who have no connection to me and have shelled out their own good money to buy my book, take the time and trouble to give it a vote of confidence. That’s a vote you can trust.
So that’s one key way that they do matter very much indeed – they shape the fate of a book like mine – they give it the support and back-up it needs to survive and thrive.
But they matter in another way too in that they salve the fragile ego of the author. The truth is, when you write a book, you can’t be entirely sure if it’s any good or not. You might tell yourself it’s a towering work of genius but it’s not what you think that counts – it’s what the reader thinks.
Getting positive reviews is about more than continued success of the book – it’s about letting the author know that their work has been acknowledged and appreciated.
So a massive thank you to all who have reviewed Song of the Sea God so far and please – if you have read it and are thinking of posting a review – do so. They are always important, always needed and always very gratefully received.
Here are a few of the things people have been saying about Song of the Sea God in their reviews:
“This is the most remarkable book I have read in a very very long time. Its not surprising that this book took Chris two years to write. Its a complete Feast of Words!”
“This would make a great movie incidentally in this modern era of the dark comic twist.”
“This is writing at its best. I was immediately taken with the narrator ‘Bes’, a mute dwarf, and wondered how Chris Hill was going to be able to maintain this particular dialogue throughout the rest of the story. He achieves this exquisitely.”
“This book is one of the best I have read in years. Could not put it down as the subject matter is so unusual.”
“I became engrossed in the novel from page one and remained that way until the very end. Honestly, I didn’t want it to end.”
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.