I need them, I'm told. So, I've been seeking them, even though the process makes me uncomfortable: pushing friends, acquaintances, professionals, and complete strangers to rate my work with stars and write a few sentences about why.
No one has heard of me. I'm not a famous writer (yet!). So, I know people are more likely to give my book a shot if they can read reviews before they plunk down their dollars. After all, when I'm the one book-shopping, I read reviews when I'm looking at a book from someone I've never read before.
Reviews more so than blurbs or even excerpts give me an idea what someone else loved or hated about a book, and thereby help me decide if it's a book for me. Sometimes what seems to be a poor review will actually sell me the book. Say, for example, that someone complains that they couldn't connect with the characters because they are so darn geeky. I'd say, "Oooh. Geeky characters!" then click that Look Inside button to see what I'm in for. Not every book is for everyone after all, and the very reason one reader hated a book may be why I come to love it.
That's made me a better reviewer, too. In my pre-publication days, I was guilty of not leaving reviews most of the time. I still doubt that my reviews matter when I'm reading Margaret Atwood or Neil Gaiman--they've "made it" already, but when it's someone more mid-list or just beginning? It really really matters. So now, I review regularly.
If a review says simply "This is crap!" that's not particularly helpful to the writer or the potential buyer. But if it says, "The book has a slow start and picks up later," or "I was frustrated by the unrealistic ending," that's helpful. That lets me (the reader) know if what disappointed you is something that would disappoint me, too and me (the writer) see if there's one particular theme coming up again and again that I could take note of to improve my future work.
The reviews I've received so far have a good range. Some people love my book, others, not so much. My harshest review so far still said it's well written, she just really really hated my ending. (I get it: comic book cliffhangers aren't for everyone). And I appreciate each and every review, even the ones that sting a bit. After all, a book with no readers is only half an experience.
So consider this your public service announcement of the day. When you read something, especially by one of us at the early end of our careers, review it! Even if you don't like it, if you can explain why you didn't like it, your review will help.