Craig Allen Heath
Your Review Matters
The reader review is the most striking and valuable development in modern publishing.
As I close out the second month since publishing my debut novel, Where You Will Die, I have been grateful and enlightened by the few reviews I have received. They have been overwhelmingly positive, and some have offered great insights, which is good for readers and for myself. I have only two now from professional reviewers, but the half-dozen from readers have proven eye-opening.
Forty years ago, when I first got serious about writing as a profession, reviewing was the domain of professionals only. Books were distributed and sold almost exclusively by publishing houses, and their staff and author agents would send review copies to every newspaper and magazine that they could afford, in hopes of seeing a review in print. It was a rare thing, and the general public certainly benefitted from hearing about new works. But there was a big disconnect - a professional reviewer is often burnishing their own career bona fides, sometimes at the expense of helping readers make good choices.
I know this to be true - I was a professional culture reviewer for a number of years in my early career. I was a "cub reporter", trying to break in to regular freelancing and staff gigs with local papers. My efforts landed me a regular spot on a local weekly, The Chico News & Review, writing pieces on local theatre and music, movies, art, and books. It was a dream job that paid next to nothing, but it helped me hone my craft and got me lots of comp tickets.
And though I did my best to be fair to the artists and the audiences, my central focus was my own career as a writer - my own ego. I was showing off how much I knew, how sophisticated I was, how deft with language, how razor sharp in wit. Readers of my book reviews got a thorough review of the material and my judgement of its merits, but what they did not get was the simple opinion of a fellow reader.
That's what is so new and so valuable today - the reader review. Anyone and everyone who reads, and who loves reading, can let their opinion be known in many venues online, without the slightest gatekeeping from major newspapers, magazines, or even online publications. Readers can post to their own social media accounts, to aggregate sites like goodreads, and to the web sites where they purchased the book, like Amazon. This means that when you are looking for what to read next, you have a veritable staff of like-minded folks giving you their take on a book that is more concise, focused, and purposeful than those from career reviewers. You can find out if people with similar tastes think you should part with hard earned cash for a book, or move on to something else.
Professional reviewers offer a great deal of value, don't get me wrong. but the advent of the reader review is as big a game-changer as independent publishing itself. The two go hand-in-hand.
So, if you have read my book, do your fellow readers (and of course, me) a favor - please post a review. The Kindle and paperback editions are available exclusively on Amazon, and reviews there are the most read (as well as, truth be told, the best for my novel's exposure.) But in whatever forum you prefer, please post a review.
Please do this no matter what you thought of it - good, bad, or indifferent. If you honestly think it deserves one star at best, something people should avoid, say so. I've enjoyed reading some glowing reviews, but some have offered very fair and honest critical remarks, and gave the star ratings to back up their words. I've learned a great deal from them, and these lessons will inform my future work. But you will also offer a "pay-it-forward" value to other readers, either by praising or panning it.
Let your voice be heard, let your ideas inform, let your experience be someone else's guide.
Oh and if you haven't yet read it, Where You Will Die, is available exclusively on Amazon in Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and paperback formats.
Praised by Kirkus Reviews as "This philosophical mystery will captivate readers thanks to a winning cast and setting." It currently enjoys a 4.5 star rating on both Amazon and GoodReads