Imagine this historical book purchasing scenario:
Last night, you finished your latest read, only to discover you are out of new books. Tomorrow is Saturday, so you decide to go book shopping in the morning.
After sleeping in late and eating a leisurely breakfast while reading the news and drinking coffee (oh, I wish I had this life), you pack yourself up and get in the car to go to your favorite bookstore. Once there, you head over to the table or shelf near your favorite author to look at any new books that might be similar.
You browse the table. A cover catches your eye and you pick up the book, flip it over (or open the front cover) and read the description. Does it sound good? Maybe! You hang onto it while continuing to look through the new offerings.
A store clerk approaches and asks if they can help you. You show her the book in her hand and ask if she's read it or heard anything about it. She does her best to guide you in your purchasing decision, giving you a rundown of what she liked and didn't like about the story. Or, she tells you that she hasn't read it personally, but the store manager did and absolutely loved it. Based on that recommendation, you buy the book.
Sound oddly familiar?
The basic process of buying an ebook is still the same, except for the instant gratification of going online as soon as you're done with one book to order another. But once you're at the store, you're going to look at covers, read descriptions, and then decide if you want to purchase the book or not.
Unfortunately, in today's online market, you don't have someone there who's paid to help you make a decision. Sure, Amazon and the other retailers try to give you recommendations based on "also bought" or "similar to" algorithms, but the computers can't tell you about the emotional impact of the story, or why they bought, but never finished the book.
Yes, you might get book recommendations from friends or colleagues, but what if you don't have many friends that read as much as you do, or in the same genre as you do?
In a world where hundreds, possibly thousands of books are published each day and people are increasingly purchasing their books online, it's important to have a way to narrow the field of interest. Reviews are a big part of that process.
A quality book review gives the potential reader a chance to understand the content of the book and the hook, as well as the flaws of the book. It doesn't have to be long; even a couple of sentences can be enough to give someone an idea of the pros and cons of the story.
What do I mean? Here's an example of a one-star review from a book I really enjoyed, The Martian by Andy Weir:
Okay, so this person didn't like the science...well, I'm not an engineer, so I can accept some fallacies and suspend my disbelief without losing my mind. At the same time, I like having a solid basis in the science of science fiction, so technical detail is probably a good fit for me. And I like McGyver solutions, so I think that would be interesting.
How about this five-star?
With this one, I see plausible science fiction with a survival action-adventure. I'm not really a fan of stories told through journal entries, so that's a turn off, but I can imagine a scientist or explorer would be writing everything down in a log, so maybe it works. (It does.)
See? Not very long, but full of information that's helpful toward making a purchasing decision. In other words, you, the reviewer, become the wise, all-knowing expert, and it only took a few minutes to write and post the review.
Why do I bring this up?
An author's career is built with the support of readers. Readers share books and talk about them, they recommend them to friends and family. Reviews are just a small step beyond that, but they increase an author's or a book's visibility in the marketplace.
So next time you finish a book, please consider writing a quick review and posting it wherever you like to purchase your books. It will help the author, and more importantly, it will help other readers.