I remember back when I wrote my first novel nearly ten years ago. I did a lot of local signings and talked to a lot of people and would often quip, “if you like it please tell everyone—if you don’t like it I’d love it if you told no one.”
Book reviews are incredibly powerful tools. Yes, yes… it comes up frequently on this blog. If it’s not blatantly obvious from the themes and subjects I often touch on, I am an author and I am a Christian—not the “I went to church last Christmas” kind but the kind that isn’t shy about having strong beliefs, tries not to be a hypocrite, tries to live a life that would make God happy, and the kind that will love you if you are a drunk or an addict, promiscuous or homosexual, a Muslim or an atheist, or even a lawyer or politician. I don’t have to agree with you in order to be a decent human being to you—even if I think you are flat out wrong, Jesus’s command to love with the power of God does not diminish. Where the heck am I going with this? Here’s the rub: you don’t have to spend much time in a Christian Bookstore or scrolling down the columns of Christian books online in order to find a pretty significant quality difference that Christian authors must overcome. The deck is stacked against most Christian Indie writers (and small faith-based publishers don’t help by setting the bar for quality control soooo low…ever bought a book from Tate Publishing? It’s a wonder it doesn’t disintegrate when the humidity crawls above 30%).
I feel like being aware of that stigma helps Christian authors make better books. I’m a little miffed, though, by a 1-star review on my nonfiction book, Why Your Pastor Left, on Goodreads. I ran a paperback give-away for the nonfiction book that was categorized as religious. That means I paid to print a copy of the book, paid to ship it to me, and paid to ship it again to a contest winner in exchange for an honest review online. One of the winners was a blatant and outspoken atheist who was very willing to have me pay money to send him a product not meant for him just so he could give it a negative mark and leave a comment stating “Religion is an enemy of rationalism and intelligent thought. It promotes ignorance and anti-science. If the church wants to keep people involved, why not speak out for a solid scientific education. How about working on climate change or speaking out against gun madness or supporting good government. It’s all about some other world that we know nothing about.” He also shelved it as a book under the Atheism category. Soooooo… yeah. I checked out his reviews and he’s got a pretty big habit of surfing Goodreads in order to locate Christian/religious books and give them a 1 star rating in order to use an online medium to blacken some eyes and discourage readers from picking up books that might support an ideology he doesn’t agree with.
(just an FYI sidenote: it’s generally pretty poor taste to tell an author that their book was terrible because it wasn’t about what you wanted it to be about–a real Vermin Supreme move… “Dear Mr. Author, I recently read your book on the history of pirates. I’m greatly disappointed that you never once mention the secret cyborg uprising that I believe controls Washington DC. I’m afraid I must give you a 1 star rating, but only because I can’t give you less.”
Please don’t let the take away from this article be that it’s cool to surf Amazon, Goodreads, etc. and leave a 1-star review for every Christian/Atheist/Democrat/Muslim/etc. book you can find with a review comment that boils down to “this ideology is foolish and must be avoided.”)
That was my experience today. After I got over being butt-hurt and sent him a fairly friendly message I thought I’d share the story—but not as a means of seeking revenge (please don’t scroll through Goodreads and then send him nasty messages—that would do no good.) This is an example of why leaving supportive reviews are so important! When you leave an authentic, glowing review for an author you like it will lead to others wanting read and support as well… when there are enough positive reviews they drown out the negative ones or indicate those that are clearly character assassinations.
Support the authors you like: book reviews literally cost you nothing! If you want to check out my author page and leave me some positive reviews or scroll through my backlist, you can find me on my author profile: amazon.com/author/christopherdschmitz or on my website!