I'm sure you've heard authors pleading for reviews, and while they are important for all writers, they're even more so for speculative fiction. Romance books get a lot of ratings, and that's followed closely by crime and thrillers. Fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk and everything hard to categorize in speculative fiction are lowest on the list when it comes to reviews.
Why is this? It may be readers feel they can't review something that isn't so easily slipped into a definite genre slot or they're timid about sharing their thoughts on world-building or societal issues. They might be intimidated by what they believe are intellectual books, and there are others who consider speculative fiction "lazy intellectualism." No matter what movies and shows we see in the media, readers still shy away from fantasy and sci-fi books.
No matter the genre though, reviews are beneficial to both the authors and readers.
- reviews help them see what readers like and what they don't like.
- they can help motivate authors.
- the more reviews a book has, the more visible it is to other readers.
- reviews help authors and readers connect.
Reviews are even more important to readers. The number one reason a reader buys a book is because they know and like and an author. Yet to gain new readers, the best way to do so is through word of mouth, and that is done primarily through reviews. Over fifty percent of readers state they read reviews before they consider buying a book from an author they don't know.
Sometimes speculative fiction can be hard to categorize, but readers shouldn't feel the need to do so. Reviews can be simple. Something along the lines of: "I liked that there were fairies in a steampunk world flying on airships and using magical cannons." This tells potential readers this is a mix of genres, and even if they are attracted to one aspect of that statement, they may like it as a whole.
While some people may fear one and two star reviews, those can also be very helpful. A person might say: "I hated it. Too much elf politics." Another reader may enjoy politics in a book and be happy to discover there is a lot of it in the story. Not every reader is going to like a book.
Writing a review doesn't need to be complicated. The star rating is easy to follow. Don't feel bad if you give a book three or two stars while saying: "I liked Fred. He made me laugh. I didn't like annoying Marcy." It's not an insult as long as it's an honest review.
Speculative fiction is a great big melting pot of characters, worlds, and ideas. It may intimidate readers who might want to venture into the genre, but reviews will greatly help bring in those readers. I tell myself that writing reviews is like a super power as a voracious reader who wants other readers to like fantasy and sci-fi as much as I do. A super power which you, too, can have if you put the reviewer cape for a minute or two after finishing a book.