The Worst Part of Publishing a Book

The reality is this: people don’t buy books that don’t have reviews. It’s a maddening chicken-and-egg syndrome.

I’m going to confess the most embarrassing, make-me-feel-squidgy part of writing and publishing a book.

It’s not putting yourself out there, saying “I created this art. Please experience it.” (Although that is difficult.)

It’s not writing about sex. (Although that’s its own level of interesting.)

It’s not even asking people to spend money to read what I’ve created, because I know everyone has their own tastes in reading—I sure do—and my story is not going to be everyone’s bowl of Cheerios. Those who don’t want to spend the money won’t. And that’s okay.

You know what is the worst part?

Asking for reviews.

Isn’t that lame? It’s lame. It’s totally lame. Not only do you have to read my book, you have to TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK.

It stinks. But it’s a critical part of the whole selling-a-book process.

The Thing about self-publishing (and even traditional publishing to a degree) is that authors are expected to pound the pavement and market their books. That’s fine. That’s what I signed up for. I am willing (and enthused about) exposing my book to the type of readers who will enjoy it. People who like chick-lit or new-adult romancey books. Or enjoy young-adult books, because my book feels like YA grown up. Or grew up near Boston, because there’s definitely a location sense to it. Or people who just want to get lost in an unexpected love story.

And by reading the book, you’ve done your part, right? Of course you have. But what—now the author is going to ask you to do something else?

Leave you the heck alone, right?

I get it.

Which leads me to The Other Thing. Reviews don’t have to be absolute raves. I used to be reluctant to write reviews because I felt like it wasn’t worth doing unless I could give it a five-star review.

I was wrong.

Think about how you are when you shop for books. Or anything, really—restaurants, vacation spots, vacuum cleaners. If you’re anything like me, you don’t buy anything that doesn’t have reviews (unless your friend who wrote a book asks you to, heh). And when you read the reviews, they probably all aren’t perfect. Heck, if they are all perfect, don’t we get a little suspicious? It’s all educational: the bad reviews tell me just as much as the good ones do. When a customer Yelps about a restaurant having really bad service, I never take that seriously, because service varies so much. Or if they complain to the point where it’s annoying to even read their review, I’ll discount it completely, because if I were that restaurant I wouldn’t want that kind of customer either.

I don’t think that I am unique in appreciating reviews that are real. What’s more, I trust reviews that are real. If you dislike my main character, Charlie, because you think she makes bad decisions, that’s OK. (She often does.) Or if you think Wade is too perfect, that’s OK, too, because sometimes I think so. (And if so, just wait for the sequel—he’s got a dark side.) If you don’t like chick-lit books as a rule, that’s OK, too… because others do, and they’re reading your review already knowing what they like. It’s all good.

Let’s put it this way: If I could have 25 five-star reviews or 100 four-star reviews, which do you think I’d choose?


I loved this book, but I read it initially because LOOK AT THE REVIEWS!
I loved this book, but I read it initially because LOOK AT THE REVIEWS!

Because here’s Thing Three: I don’t think everyone should read my book. I can think of several people I know personally who I would not, in fact, recommend it to. Just because it’s written, that doesn’t make it right for everyone.

But for those it’s right for? I want them to find it. I can’t wait for them to find it. I happy-dance thinking about them discovering it. And reading it. And enjoying it. And—yes—reviewing it. So others can do the same thing.

Almost every day, someone I know who has read WORST-KEPT SECRET contacts me to share their opinion of the book with me. Maybe they’re just being nice, but I’m going to choose to believe that if they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t go out of their way to contact me and write that they liked it.

Now I’ve started to say to these people: “Thank you! Please put that in a review!”

It’s embarrassing. But I have to. And I hope that I’m helping you understand why.

And here’s my big confession: Although I’ve long taken advantage of others’ reviews for my own shopping purposes—books, restaurants, picnic blankets, electronics, bed frames, you name it—I never used to leave them myself. I let everyone else do the work. But now that I’ve had friends who are self-published authors and they helped me understand the position they’re in? I’ve become a reviewer. And now that I have a separate account on Goodreads as Sienna Cash, I’m building up my reviews there, too.

The reality is this: people don’t buy books that don’t have reviews. It’s a maddening chicken-and-egg syndrome.

Also, there are some promotions I’m not permitted to take advantage of, simply because I don’t have enough reviews. (Again: chicken, meet egg.)

So I’ll close this post with a humble plea: If you read my book and didn’t hate it, please review it. (If you want to do it right now, I’ll be obnoxious and provide the link right here.) You can even review anonymously on Amazon. Are you a Goodreads person? I’d love for you to review it there as well.

Buying the book is great. Recommending it to friends is even better. But nothing equals the cache of a legitimate, authentic review.

2 thoughts on “The Worst Part of Publishing a Book”

  1. Latest marketing strategy, as put forth by my for-hire book promoter is to boost my reviews. What does this mean? I have to pay $100 for the reviewer site, plus my book promoter for her time, give my book away free, and hope for the best. Craziest part? I’m going to do it because reviews are THAT IMPORTANT! Thanks for the post.

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