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The word “review” creates immediate mental roadblocks for most readers—and for authors, it can lead to frustration, or even heartbreak. Author Joseph LeValley has a simple suggestion to make this process easier on everyone.

By Joseph LeValley

Enormous amounts of time, effort, and ink have been devoted to the question of how to get reviews for our books. We ask our readers, and plead with our friends and family members to write reviews. Then we watch in frustration as a tiny fraction of even our most devoted fans bother to post them.

While there’s no magic solution to this, I do believe one simple change could make a significant difference: stop calling them reviews.

The word “review” creates immediate mental roadblocks for most of our readers. This seems obvious from two perspectives. First, most people consider writing a review to be a lot of work. I recall hearing audible groans in high school whenever the teacher assigned a book review. As soon as an author says the word “review,” a reader’s mind may conjure up that high school assignment he or she dreaded. The second mental roadblock is likely to come from most readers’ feelings of inadequacy. When they hear “review,” they think of the professional reviews they read or hear in the news media. Many of these are insightful and eloquent, and perhaps clever or witty. Most readers immediately assume they’re not qualified or capable to write book reviews like these.

Some readers are consciously reluctant. We’ve all heard people say things like, “Oh, I’m sorry, but I just wouldn’t know what to say.” When we hear this, we reassure people we only need a line or two, and we may convince them to do it. Unfortunately, we don’t get a chance to have this conversation with most readers. Even more often, the readers themselves don’t realize the depth of, nor reasons for, their reluctance. They have good intentions, but somehow never actually do it.

The solution to all of this is very simple: stop asking for reviews and begin asking readers to post star ratings and comments. This simple change in language will eliminate any potential misunderstandings regarding what you’re asking, and will avoid any mental connections to readers’ negative experiences in the past.

I don’t yet have any data to support this theory, but when my new novels release this year, I’m going to use the “ratings and comments” language exclusively in asking for readers’ support. I’m convinced it will make a difference. I hope you’ll give it a try. Then post a review… uh, comment, about your experience.


Joseph LeValley is an award-winning author, and a former journalist, business executive, and rock musician. His series of mystery/thriller novels feature Tony Harrington, a young newspaper reporter in the Midwest. His fifth and sixth novels are releasing in 2023: The Sophocles Rule in March, and Three Weeks in Winter in November. Learn more  about his work, or order his books here.