Book reviews and why they matter

Full disclaimer: I am an author’s worst nightmare. And as an author myself, I realize that my habit is a SHAMEFUL SIN. And no, it is not my terrible grammar. I am still in denial about that. Here’s my confession: I never write book reviews *hides face in shame*.

Reviews are the backbone of any author’s career. Even a bad review is better than no review, because essentially someone (whether in a positive or negative way) is at least talking about your book. Who knows— maybe someone would read a negative review and say: “Hmm… you hate this novel because the wizard lures a woman into his basement and forces her to perform show tunes all night long before he will grant her access to a fountain of youth potion. But that is EXACTLY what I want to read right now!” Bam—book sale.

Side note: Should I put a loose copyright on that idea?!? I have to admit I am a little intrigued.  My first question is what sort of show tunes does a wizard prefer to listen to?

Without getting too much into the business side of writing (I feel an upcoming post on this and don’t want to give away the farm too much, so to speak) here are just four reasons why book reviews are so important to an author’s career:

1) If you don’t tell them, how will they know? Unless you are best friends with Sandra (who lives next door to me) and she happens to mention that I told her about a good book, you would never know I read a good book BECAUSE I DIDN’T WRITE A REVIEW! I don’t know you, and I don’t get out much, therefore I think it’s safe to say I am never telling you about the best book I ever read. Which is a shame because it was good, and I want other people to read it as well. However, that’s never going to happen unless I—you guessed it!—write a review and recommend it!

2) There is comfort in numbers.  This doesn’t just apply to books, this basically applies to everything. Imagine I go to buy a fan online and I am deciding between two different ones—one has three hundred reviews and the other has none.  Unless in those three hundred reviews people say the fan burned their house down (even if there were a few bad reviews), I am probably going to be inclined to buy the one that other people have reviewed because, well, other people have bought it and they didn’t say it burned their house down. There is comfort in numbers and knowing, if nothing else, other people have bought what you are going to buy.

3) Amazon and their strange system. Amazon is just the worst in many ways, but in other ways they are the best (sales wise for sure!) and authors have to learn to love them or they will quickly find themselves fighting a losing battle. This is probably one of the most important relationships in an author’s career (especially if they are an indie author), and I promise I will write a post about them in the near future. But for now, staying on topic re: reviews, Amazon have a very complicated algorithm they use which determines your book placement, suggestions to new readers, etc. The more reviews a book has, the more chance the author has of being bumped up on their charts. You could write the next Animal Farm (weird example, I know, but I love that book and try to slip it into the conversation when I can, ha!), but unless you work the system no one will ever likely read it.

4) For an author to be featured on any sort of promotional site, they need reviews. Listen, we would like to read the next literary masterpiece and think the author is in it for the joy of writing. And maybe they are. But they aren’t going to be writing anything else if they die of starvation. Promotion is so important to an author’s career, and some of the best ways to do that are sites like Bookbub and ENT which promote when your book goes on sale. The crux is: you have to have book reviews and a certain amount of them to even be considered for these sites.

Anyways, I’ve gotten away from my point here. My point is, I am the type of reader that once I find an author I like, I am faithful to that author to my last dying breath. I will purchase and read everything that author writes, even if things go downhill after book twenty in the series. But it is very rarely, and I mean very rarely, I will write a book review. I tell anyone who will listen to me about books (mainly, Shauna, my hairstylist, as comparing our recently read books is kind of our thing), but for some reason I just never feel inclined to sit down and actually write a review. And it is such a shame, and something I am making a conscious effort to fix.

STARTING NOW!

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I’m sure you have heard me talk about my fan-girl obsession with Janet Dailey. I found her in my youth and have clung to her words ever since. Whenever the mood strikes me (which is a lot) I return to one of my favourites and will get lost for the afternoon or evening in the stories that bring me comfort.

Maybe it is because they are easy reads. Maybe its because it’s just uncomplicated romance with a few random historical tidbits thrown in for good measure. Or maybe its because most of her stories revolve around cowboys (who doesn’t love a good cowboy story?!).

I’ve read and own about thirty of her novels (and some novels have two books in one, so not only are they a great deal, but if you don’t have a ton of time to read they are shorter but get the job done if you know what I mean). I have so many favourites of hers, but I will list my top three below in case it interests anyone:

Big Country Sky (Found in the “Can’t Say Goodbye” book with “Show Me”)

Western Man

Darling Jenny (found in the “Maybe this Christmas” book with “Strange Bedfellow”)

*Please note while I was reading the backs of the books on my shelf I kept saying, “Oh, but this one is so good too.”

But, I’m not talking about those today. Today I am talking about Dailey’s new book that I just read. It’s called Texas Tall and it is part of the Tyler Brothers Series. I have read the other books in the series and I think this one might be my favourite. Actually, now that I am reflecting I think the first book is my favourite with Beau and Natalie (Texas True), but I liked this one because it is the last in the series and I have been waiting for this story for such a long time (we all knew it was coming).

Texas Tall tells the story of Will and Tori Tyler. They have been divorced for eight years, but because of their daughter they have stayed a close knit family (with plenty of tension throughout the years between the two divorcees). Anyways, fast forward to present day and now Tori, who is a lawyer, has to defend Will when he’s charged for murder after he kills someone in self defense.

I really like Tori and Will as characters, and I think it was smart for Dailey to save their story for last because quite frankly Will can be a bit of a stubborn ass. And not really for a good reason— I think it’s just more he’s the oldest, he is in charge of his family’s ranch, and it’s just sort of expected that what he says is what goes. I can see how this would wear on anyone, and I really liked that Tori didn’t bow to him (in the past or in present day). At the same time, she knew who he was and what his habits were so she picked her fights. I can respect that.

The actual trial/charge against Will was a little weak. There was never a doubt in my mind that it was self defense, and I think that was actually the point (there is some corruption in their town with the local sheriff and I think this was used to really highlight that).  But as someone who likes suspense novels as well, I would have liked it to have not been quite so black and white.

And now for the good stuff: the love story. I loved the backstory on Will and Tori and how until this book, and not until the end, did we really find out why they broke up in the first place.

It’s funny because I just went to see the Broadway show Grease, and while I was singing along, I couldn’t help but stop and think that while I love the music the actual story sends a pretty crappy message. The fact that Sandy can’t be herself and dresses in skintight leather pants to get the man in the end doesn’t really send a great or realistic message to anyone about love. And I am not really sure what Danny took from it in the end, but I think it was supposed to be the fact that if you like someone you shouldn’t care what your friends think. But as previously mentioned Sandy turned into one of them in the end anyways so he didn’t really have that hurdle to face anymore.

The reason I bring this up is, my number one pet peeve in romance novels is when people lose themselves for their significant other- because to me that isn’t love. Yes, your significant other should bring out the “best of you”, but it should still essentially be you with hopefully a few less bad habits. What I liked about this novel, and for the most part all of Janet Dailey’s books, is the fact that instead of spending the novel trying to change one another or even themselves to find their happily ever after, the characters learn to give and take so they can both be themselves but not want to kill each other at the same time.

I’m not sure what else to say, without giving away the ending, but I will sum it up as: it was good; I will read it again; and Janet Dailey is still the Queen of Romance for me ;).

In conclusion: I love cowboys; I still love Janet Dailey; and write book reviews—it’s not that hard, and they’re important.

 

 

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