The Importance of Reviews

Reviews are a double-edged sword. A great review can make your day, and make your book. Good reviews are important- they improve your rankings and help your book get visible. Amazon‘s complex algorithms are beyond my scope but they surely take into account reviews and ratings. Goodreads is an amazing place if you’re a reader. There’s nothing quite like it for book lovers– and the reviews are often incredibly insightful.

There is also nothing quite like the feeling you get when your book is given a 5 star rating. The first time (and second time, and third time) it happened I wanted to shout it out for all the world, hug the reviewer, buy them coffee, send them free books!

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It touched my heart to know that the words and story I struggled with daily for months were valuable to someone. It made it all worth it- all the early mornings and late nights, the frustration, the effort.

And then.

The dreaded 1 star. I saw it just as we were getting ready for a family dinner, a celebration of sorts that had been planned for months. All I could think about was that 1 star review, dropped there so casually as if it were nothing. And it probably meant absolutely nothing to the person who left it, but to me it was crushing.  It was all I could think about at dinner. I didn’t want to ruin the night for everyone else so I kept it to myself and pasted a smile on my face, helped myself to an extra glass of wine.

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I let myself wallow in my self-pity for exactly 24 hours. Then I got on with it. Why was I letting that 1 star review outweigh all the other more positive reviews on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, not to mention Goodreads? That seemed unfair to the readers who’d enjoyed the book and taken time to write a good review. Their opinion means just as much to me.

(There have been stories of authors receiving comments on review sites by other authors or people with personal vendettas. Those are something else entirely.)

Still, I’m grateful for ALL reviews. Even the not so good ones. Why? If the review contains a valid point I’m happy to hear about it. I WANT to know if a reader has spotted a typo, or an error, or sees an area where the story could be improved.

More importantly though, if the reviewer simply didn’t like the story it tells me something: that person is not my audience. That’s not who I’m writing for, and this is crucial. As an author you have to find your tribe. You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. Find the readers who get what you’re doing, love the story you’re telling, and every day write with them in mind.

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So appreciate those reviews no matter how many stars they have, because ultimately they will show you who you’re really writing for, and that is worth everything.

And to everyone who has taken the time to read the book and leave a review or a rating. Thank You. I’m working on book 3 right now, with you in mind.


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