Which would you rather have: Reviews or Fans?

I’ve been posting and reading a lot lately about reviews — how to get them, how they effect sales, etc. Out of this “research” something bubbled up to the surface that had never really crossed my mind — the purpose of reviews.

We’ve all reviewed something. Whether it was a movie, a mountain bike, a recipe, a CD…anything under the sun is eligible for review. We review things when we love them and we review things when we hate them. But why do we review these objects of our desire or distaste?

To help our fellow consumers who might be wondering if they should drop their hard-earned ducats on the same product. If we loved a product, we want others to have the same experience as we did. If we hate a product, we want to warn others so they don’t have a similar experience.

As indie authors, we tend to forget the base purpose of reviews. Instead of looking at them from the consumer’s standpoint (for which they actually were created), we look at them from our point of view. What is that POV? To help us sell our books.

We practically beg, borrow, and steal to snag a review or two, because we think those reviews will be the one thing that will kick our numbers over the cliff and into that magic place “Quittingourdayjobland”.

Is that really a truth we should hope for? Shouldn’t we be planting our flag of success more on our fans and less on the word of the general public? I have yet to receive a single review for either A Blade Away or I Zombie I, but I have had plenty of people contact me telling me how much they loved my work and how excited they were to read more. I have been called “A Hell of a writer”, my writing has been called “Extraordinary”, and my ability to craft a scene has been described as “amazing.” These words were not said in reviews, they were said to my face and not by friends or family. These compliments came from people who are becoming fans of my work. Have they left reviews? No. Do I care? Not really. Why? Because they went out of their way to express themselves to me personally which means more to me than a review. Those words means I have connected to readers and they to me. I have fans and that means more than anonymous reviews.

When I was a hair stylist I had a mentor tell me to not look at clients as a single service, but a long-term investment. Clients were not a 35 dollar hair cut or 80 dollar color, but an 8-10 thousand dollar investment that could span decades. Those were the types of relationships I created and that philosophy has followed me over to my writing career. I look at readers as an investment and just as they are investing in to my work, I am investing into them.

I want to create works that people are going to read and want more of. I want to create works that make the readers want to connect and reach out to me. In other words, I want fans, not reviews.

…not that I would turn a blind eye to a good review. 😉