You can find any amount of ‘help a writer, leave a review’ memes on social media, but the whole business of book reviews seems to be getting messier and more frustrating by the day. Rumour has it that getting five reviews (good, bad or indifferent) works some arcane magic on Amazon’s incomprehensible rankings, yet some books seem to make it onto the chart with no reviews at all.
The internet is, of course, crawling with sites which will supply a number of supposedly authentic-sounding opinions for a fee, despite it being widely insisted that the Zon will pull any of these it discovers and mete out horrible punishments to all concerned… It’s a known fact that reviews apparently left by an author’s friends and family will be removed, but there have certainly been times when the ‘friendship’ consists of the reader following the famous-but-not-personally-connected-to-them author on Twitter or something, which seems a little excessive. There’s also a prohibition on asking for reviews, or offering free gifts (apart from a copy of the book) in exchange for sharing your thoughts with the reading public.
Of course, review sites will claim that they enforce their rules for the benefit of book buyers, but this doesn’t seem to extend to idiot-proofing the process. It still seems to be entirely OK for someone to leave a dozen different 1-star ratings, all with no more comment than ‘Not really my cup of tea’, and not be kicked up the twinkle for wasting everyone else’s time – that sort of thing is surely no more help to a potential purchaser than the same number of 5-star ‘OMG this book is the greatest ever’ ratings.
There are competent and entertaining, informed and helpful reviewers out there, who give a considered verdict and quite often do so in a way that’s enjoyable to read whether the book itself is to your taste or not. But there are also venomous assclowns.
So if you bought a book and liked it, the best way to show your appreciation is still to leave a review somewhere. It doesn’t have to be more than a sentence or so, but every well-thought-out comment, whether you loved the thing or loathed it, is a simple and effective little act of kindness, to writers and to readers.
Why not just pick a book at random and let the rest of us know what you made of it?