From discussion groups, forums, and blog posts I have come to notice there seems to be an epidemic among authors that I am calling “Review Overkill Syndrome“. I believe this is one of the things that is causing a lot of the havoc and division in the community and other things that are going on (sock puppets and buying 5 star reviews). It spreads like the Black Death did in the Middle Ages and the mortality rate is just as high!
Because of these things, reviews have lost a lot of their value to the readers. They are learning how to spot fake reviews. Loss of value and gaming the systems are usually the result of overkill.
First things first. I know that reviews are necessary and we need to have them for marketing (for blurbs and other stuff). We need them to some extent so that other readers will know what other people thought about the book. But then the question becomes: how many are enough for me to sweat bullets over to get? This is usually necessary at the launch stage, but to keep at this after that will drive you mad.
First let’s define the word ‘overkill‘
First of all, there seems to a pressure to get X reviews in X time. I felt it for myself, but I cannot determine where it comes from. Is it peer pressure? Publisher pressure? Keeping up with the Joneses? After some contemplation before I had come across some of the great insight I have read lately, it began to sink in that this isn’t the only thing that is important to an author. Sure they’re great and all, but reviews aren’t what you exist for and that’s not all that book bloggers, book groups, etc exist for either.
It’s all about the reader in reality. You need reviews to give a perspective reader a good picture of what the book is like and what others thought so they can decide if they want one too. But due to overkill, that may not be enough any longer!
Review Overkill is so bad that authors’ better judgement have become impaired. Screw events, social media interaction, blogging, etc–it’s all about the reviews, baby (said: positive)! If they get a bad review due to any number of reasons, then a whole new can of worms is opened. Some things authors do for the sake of the illness leads to bad reviews: discourtesy, rudeness, presumptuousness, etc. That’s not always the case, but it can be a majority of the time. Other times it just happens.
Symptoms of Review Overkill Syndrome:
- Spend 24/7 submitting to reviewers and nothing else
- Spamming discussion forums and groups with review requests
- If someone talks to you, you beg them for a review
- Instead of cherry picking book bloggers and reviewers, you submit to every blogger you come to regardless if they review your genre or not.
- Beating down virtual doors if there is a delay or asking for proverbial ups from the waiting period ahead of others for any reason other than ARCs or launch day. (basically abusing a book blogger’s good will)
- Complete disregard of other events and functions book bloggers can do for you. i.e. A book blogger is unable to review your book and offers and interview instead–that blogger is cut off and you yell and scream at them since it’s all about the reviews!
- You will get those reviews anywhere you can get them and it doesn’t matter. You make your own if you have to.
- If people don’t give me those reviews I’ll play dirty if I have to. I’ll get them one way or another.
Review Overkill Syndrome is a very bad disease and if you don’t get treatment soon your author career could die or be permanently disfigured. Nipping it in the bud early is optimal.
How to treat:
- Carefully choose reviewers. Check out this guest post by Naomi Blackburn, a very prominent reviewer, on Terri G. Long’s blog. I am presently drafting a post for BadReadHead Media for choosing reviewers from a different angle.
- Get involved in the community and have fun. There is much fun to be had!
- Getting involved also can lead to reviews, but don’t let that be the main focus of the event. Look to connect with others first–especially readers!
- Remember that reviews are not for you, they are for the reader. When querying book bloggers, feel free to ask them if they review books with their own opinions as well as the perspective of the target audience. This is optimal for any author, but even more so for children’s, MG, and YA books.
- Make yourself accessible to readers. Fan mail, interaction, and things such as that are more rewarding than JUST the book reviews. Look at reviews as favors rather than necessity
- Not worrying about book reviews all the time creates more peace of mind. Spend more time perfecting your craft and producing a killer product.
Curing this disease would make happier authors, readers, and reviewers and a better place for everyone. But until then keep a watch out for the symptoms and treat it accordingly.