Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

do a review!

Have you ever thought how important customer reviews are to other customers? Most of us have been used to the kind of reviews that a business will post where they are all glowing recommendations. The internet has changed that. Now there can be sites  devoted to putting down a product; so when a potential buyer goes looking, they find the pluses and the minuses. 

Reviews recently helped me understand why the last pair of tennis shoes I purchased in a store feel tighter than I expected based on my hurriedly trying them on. Reviews have helped me realize a dress should be purchased a size larger than I normally buy based on it being cut small. Reviews let me decide which food dryer was too expensive for what it was worth.  Reviews of our Tucson vacation home let other renters decide if it's for them-- and I always read reviews before I stay in a hotel or rent a house somewhere. I try to read them all, as one person's negative experience doesn't mean something is wrong for me; but when they go into why it was bad, that helps my decision.

These kind of reviews are ordinary people taking the time to write about something they purchased for the benefit of the next person. I am not talking about people paid to do reviews, but people who take time out of their busy lives. I've both bought products and decided against them based on reading a number of reviews for what other buyers experienced. 

Where it comes to indie writers, reviews of their books are very important. Having a lot of reviews can convince someone else this book is worth buying. This is why writers set up street teams where they give out books before their release in return for reviews. Now, honorable writers do not ask for positive reviews-- in return for a copy-- they just ask for a review. Doing this, is like salting a mine (except not dishonest) as reviews attract reviews.

There are those who buy all their books based on a New York Times or New Yorker book review. Others buy books that are never going to make those elite lists, but the benefit of a quality review from a past reader for a future reader is great.

When Round the Bend came out last Saturday, I had mentioned my trepidation regarding how it would be received. It is an historical romance about the Oregon Trail, but it's a long book (130,000 words puts it in the epic category). It deals with not only the hardships of the Trail, a love story, but also a very difficult family relationship.

The sales came in very well, better than I had expected even. I don't know if they will continue but that depends on how Amazon gets it into its rankings. I was fortunate to have been in a writer/reader group that likes pioneer romances, and I think that helped with early sales. Word of mouth and networking really is critical to getting books seen for any chance of being purchased. Yes, it takes a tribe.

Are writers like ranchers and farmers? It's always a case of-- but what about... And that was what I felt when the sales were good but what about reviews. There weren't any for days. I began to worry that people had bought it but not liked it. Maybe its length turned them off, and on my concerns went.

Then it got a review. Nervously, I looked to see what it said, and I can tell you reading it made my day. Not only did the reviewer like the book, but she got what I had hoped readers would.
"This is my first experience in reading one of Ms. Trueax's books and I wasn't disappointed. The story was exciting and never got boring. Amy and her family were traveling to Oregon along with Matt, his brother Morey, and father. It was a large wagon train so the storyline had many characters. I just loved St. Louis the Wagonmaster. He was the salt of the earth with so much experience in leading and understanding people. St. Louis had healing experience which was invaluable to those who traveled with him. I've never read a book like this with so many avenues that kept me fascinated. Amy and Matt were lifelong friends but he started feeling more than mere friendship. Amy actually began being courted by Adam, the Wagontrain Scout, but found out "the feeling" just wasn't there and soon realized her love for Matt was more than being a friend. Matt's brother, Morey, was disturbing in this book and led to the violence in Matt's life. The father was also part of the lies and deception that led Morey to hate his brother, Matt. I don't want to spoil this story for you so I won't go on. However, if you want an exciting, adventuresome and mysterious book, this historical western genre is for you. There is some violence and sexual content but the author did a great job in making all actions part of the story itself. I loved it!" 
I have had books that literally never got a single review even with sales.  And then this one got a second that made me also feel very good.
 Rain Trueax is at her best from the first sentence. Each phase of the plot and characters are richly developed.
The Oregon Trail experience, physically and mentally grueling, either built character in the hero Matt or caused dangerous psychopathic mental breakdown in Matt's brother Morey. The wagon master St. Louis Jones' experience went beyond previous trips on the Oregon Trail. He had lived with Indians and trappers. He had a depth of understanding of humanity. He was a believable mentor for Matt's amazing growth. Through him Trueax revealed insights to the Indian and emigrants' points of view and their conflicting interests. Obviously Trueax's writing reveals extensive research with exact details of folk and Indian medicine, cooking, weapons, and geography. On fly fishing I thought didn't exist until after the civil war but I was wrong and Trueax was correct to have dry flies and a bamboo rod. I am eager to read more of the series to find out if Loraine finds her true love and the destiny of Scout Adam Stone. Will they eventually get together?
I am not sure what accounts for a reader taking their own precious time to review a book, but I can only say that it means a lot to the writer when they do. Even if the book you read had a New York Times review, taking the time to do one yourself is a gift to other readers-- and yes, the writer. 

They say that reviews are only meant for the reader, but I know from other writers that writers cherish getting them. Even an indie writer, with hundreds of reviews, and I know some who have had that many, each new one is important and valued. Sure, when a review is negative, it's not so much fun, but it can be educational and help a writer to see an aspect they may have missed.

So whatever product you buy, give a thought to adding a review. Amazon lets people review products they did not purchase there. They won't say verified purchase, but the reviewer can tell from where they did make the purchase. A review might not seem like a big deal to you, but the time you take is a big deal to both future purchasers and the person/company behind the product.

When I bought my last pair of tennis shoes from a store, I got almost no info from the sales person. I came home, read Amazon reviews and found out not only what my problem had been (these tennis shoes were cut narrower in the toe than usual) but also that my favorite style of tennis shoe was still out there-- something the store never told me. I ordered them; and when they come, you can bet, if they are as they were last time, I will add my review.

I make a lot more effort now to do reviews, but admit I used to do none. It's not just when we are irked at a product that it's good to take some time but also when we love our experience. It contributes to the pool of knowledge and helps the community. Viva la internet :). 


Linda Kay said...

Great post, my dear...those reviews aren't easy to come by, as people get too busy to put one in. I'll need to organize my team!

Rain Trueax said...

It really does take that, Linda. I don't have a street team but heard about it and found stuff online as to the benefits but the drawbacks. It lets someone else get involved with promoting work they believe in. I think they can be fun for those with a big group behind them anyway-- just adds some organization

Tabor said...

I read reviews and do write a few, you make me realize that I should take the time to write more. So happy at our success with this recent historical romance...hoping so much the sales go gangbusters!

Tabor said...

That was supposed to by YOUR success, but I sent before proofreading.

Rain Trueax said...

I think it's good to write them, Tabor, even for books where you learned about them through New Yorker or wherever. It gives a different viewpoint.

And I especially think it's good to do reviews for products we buy. We can save other people money.

Rain Trueax said...

and thanks for the good wishes on the new book :)