As I write, From The Storm sits patiently on Amazon wearing five gold stars from seven reviews.
I know all seven reviewers. They are my friends and family, and each of them offered their review without being asked.
Should first-time authors accept the help of their friends and family to give their book a boost?
I don’t see why not. There’s no doubt that, in doing so, you are bringing bias into the equation, but if you have good friends then you are also bringing honesty. I couldn’t have finished the book without the encouragement of my family, and I know that my friends would not have let me get this far if they didn’t genuinely believe in what I was doing.
The argument against ‘friendly’ reviews is that they are misleading to the potential reader and an obvious indication that you are not yet established, but as an independent author you only have a few tools at your disposal to get your book noticed. Those precious stars, lined up next to an appealing cover, are vital if you want to attract potential readers. They are the book’s one and only advertisment.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all adverts were like this one?
Sadly, they’re not. All marketing is a form of calculated deceit; whether it’s a celebrity who’s paid to endorse a product, a film trailer that’s better than the film itself, a publishing house that prints the best snippets from the best reviews on the back of a book, or a self-published novel that accepts friendly reviews.
Of those four examples, which sounds the least dishonest?
Finally, as a reader, the thing that should really drive you to buy a book on the Kindle store is the sample, not the reviews. The writing itself is always where the buck stops. It is the only thing that can, the only thing that should make the difference between somebody either buying the book or moving on.
I’m very grateful to my reviewers. They’ve made the book stand out and their feedback has given me confidence. The test now is to see how those stars change over the next few months. Encouraging this change means encouraging strangers to read and review: scary but necessary.
For anybody doing anything similar, remember the following:
To escape criticism — do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.