Why Reviews Mean So Much

I never got the importance of literary reviews until I was published. As a lifelong reader, I’ve always been the type of person to have a book in my hands, or tucked away in my tote (now a days, it’s both a book and my Kindle). But it never occurred to me to write a review or even write to an author. Boy, has that changed. Being on both sides of the fence, as a published author and a voracious reader, I now take the time to write reviews and write to authors.

Why do reviews mean so much?

For one thing, they provide the type of marketing that no one can buy. That’s called word-of-mouth. As a reader, I’m much more likely to buy a book that a friend has recommended. I’m also more likely to purchase that same book if I go to a site like Amazon, or Goodreads and see lots of favorable reviews. Sometimes the reviews don’t have to be so favorable either. A book that has drawn in lots of readers and inspired them to take the time to write a review is usually a book that is worth checking out.

A few years ago, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller, The Tipping Point. It completely changed the way I viewed marketing. As someone with zip business or PR background, the book totally fascinated me. In his book, Gladwell talks about what makes “things” take off.  It’s a fascinating book and one well worth reading.  There’s a pretty decent summary of the book right here.  But if I could summarize what I got out of the book, it would be this one simple sentence: sometimes little things make big differences. In the world of publishing, those big differences can start by a little good buzz that in turn, promotes more buzz, and so on. And we all know where that can lead to.

Reviews are also an important form of feedback. Now, I know lots of authors who will say they never read their reviews. And I totally get it. A bad review can paralyze the creative genie inside your soul for days. I don’t happen to be one of those authors (well, I can be creatively paralyzed, but I don’t let that stop me from reading the reviews). I read every single review I can get my hands on. Partially, because I just can’t help myself. I was the kind of kid who snooped around my mother’s hiding places to find my Christmas presents in November.

But I also read reviews because I think they make me a better writer. The great reviews that give you 5 stars and gush about how much the reviewer loved the book are an ego boost (and who doesn’t love that?), but equally important are the reviews that touch on something the reviewer found lacking, because believe me, I have no illusions that my books are perfect. As a matter of fact, NO book is perfect. Every published book is a story that could still be improved (the author just ran out time).

What about those awful, 1 or 2 star reviews that crush your soul? Those are important to read as well. At least for me. It teaches me that:

a) not everyone is going to “get” me or love my sense of humor

b) That no book is going to be universally loved

c) that sometimes there are legitimate criticisms that I need to open my eyes to, and

d) it keeps my skin tough.

And believe me, publishing is not for the weak or thin-skinned. Rejection is a way of life for every author, published or not. We have to develop a strong sense of self based on our own criteria, not someone else’s.

And lastly, those reader letters? I love them. They make my day. If you’re a reader and you love a book, take the time to write the author and tell them. Lately, I’ve been receiving some very nice fan mail about my first two books (my Bunco Babes books which were contemporary romances) asking when I was writing another story. Based on that fan mail, I’ve decided to epub the third book which was never published. So see? Little things can make big differences!

About Maria Geraci

Maria Geraci writes contemporary romance and women's fiction. Her latest release, THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB is available now from Berkley, Penguin, USA. "Romance readers will revel in the Austen-perfect happy ending and the warm friendship among members of the club." —Publishers Weekly
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28 Responses to Why Reviews Mean So Much

  1. Berinn says:

    Great post, Maria. Honest and inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Here, here, Maria! I count on reviews when deciding whether or not to try a new author, reviews from readers as well as professional sites. I try to post a reader review for books that touched me, surprised me, or made me think in a new way. And I count on reviews of my books to (hopefully!) draw new readers to my books as well!

  3. Thanks for the great blog, Maria. I agree about reviews. I think some readers give a poor review, not because the book wasn’t well written, but because it didn’t live up to her expectation. Perhaps they thought it should be sexier or it was too over-the-top (I write erotica). I’ve read books that had a great premise and kept me engaged, but the writing style didn’t suit my needs. As you said, you can’t be everything to all people.

  4. Thanks for the great post, Maria. I agree that not all books are for all people. I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks for readers is their expectations. Often the book is not what they thought it would be. I write erotica and if a review (usually just a number and not a comment) isn’t great, I’m thinking it’s because the book either isn’t hot enough or put the person out of their comfort zone. We can’t please everyone.

  5. Julie Leto says:

    Funny you should post this, Maria. Just yesterday, I received a not-so-shiny review from a rather big review site. It was fairly written and even though I obviously disagreed with the reviewers opinion, I wasn’t surprised. This particular reviewer has never liked my books. But she keeps trying! I have to give her props for that. She liked some things and didn’t like others…hopefully, her readers will be interested enough to judge for themselves and give the book a try. But the fact that it was reviewed (and that my cover was posted on the front page) was great for me. I’m very appreciative.
    Julie Leto`s last blog was …TOO WILD TO HOLD available!

    • Maria Geraci says:

      Julie, Those less than stellar reviews used to get to me, now like you, I try to look for the best in them, and always remember that regardless, someone took the time to read my book and talk about it. 😆

  6. Amy Atwell says:

    I loved this post, Maria. I think as authors we sometimes focus so much energy on trying to get people to *read* the book that we overlook the importance of what those readers take away from the book. The thoughts and emotions (hopefully profound and satisfied, right?) are what many of us strive for, but without the feedback from the readers we may flounder. Now that authors have the ability to publish books themselves, I think it becomes more important than ever for readers to praise well-written stories that touched their hearts or made them think. It’s equally important for readers to share what didn’t work for them and why.

  7. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Maria,

    Great post! I also just had a not so shiny review posted yesterday – and it made me realize that I can’t please everyone! She didn’t like my main character – that’s not something I can change, nor would I want to!

    On the other hand, I received an email from a reader who told me she couldn’t put one of my books down, she absolutely loved it. I’m working on finding the balance between them. All reviews have value, but it’s important to take away only the positive and leave the rest behind.

    • Maria Geraci says:

      Dale, a reader fan mail will definitely top any negative review! I have all my fan mail in a special folder and when I get a review that makes me feel bad, I open up the folder and start reading. It’s an instant perk up 🙂

  8. June says:

    Great post, Maria. Very good points to remember when reading the reviews that make you go “ouch.”

  9. As a Maria FANGIRL ( 🙂 ) YAY on self-publishing that third book. A wise decision, IMHO.

    Back in 2006, I met Julie Leto at a STAR conference (it may have been their last conference ever!) What I remember is something Julie said…there was (maybe still is) a woman who HATED Julie’s book. Called their trash. She tore off the covers and kept them on her refrigerator to remind her. But she still bought every one of Julie’s books just to tear off that cover. Julie said she didn’t care how much the woman hated her books as long as kept buying them to remind herself how much she didn’t like Julie’s books. Julie…Do you remember that?

  10. Liz says:

    Sometimes readers may not post reviews, but they may post a one line recommendation on blogs or throw in a good word were the review bad. When I see a post an author might have missed, I try to bring the link to the author’s attention. Much more reflective of word-of-mouth than formal reviews, and the author has a chance to acknowledge kind thoughts. (I can’t say refute bad ones, as luckily the bad reviews I’ve seen haven’t pertained to authors whom I’ve read.)

  11. Misty Evans says:

    Maria, you have a healthy outlook about reviews. I have a love-hate relationship with them. Some of the low star reviews of my books criticize them for length or something else out of my control because of my publisher. Those can be irritating because there’s nothing I can change about the book.

    I’ve recently had a hard time deciding if I want to keep writing. Then yesterday, I got a great review and decided that, yes, I DO want to keep at this crazy business. Like you said, little things make a big difference.

    I love reader fan mail and just one of those can cancel out a bad review. In this day and age, it’s wonderful when fans take time to reach out and let an author know they love your stories. I keep all my fan mail and read them over any time I need a pick-me-up from a negative review!

  12. Cynthia Eden says:

    I love your last line–little things can definitely make big differences!!!
    Cynthia Eden`s last blog was …The Good, The Bad, and the Unread

  13. so true! I even put it in my sig line for my email, to leave a review. I check reviews all the time when I’m going to buy a book. The bad and good. I think some readers dont leave them because they think they have to be a masterpiece. Writers dont care if they’re short and to the point!

  14. Oh, Maria!!
    I’m thrilled to hear you’ll be self-pubbing the 3rd Bunco Babes book — I *loved* the first two! Yay, yay, yay! And I know what you mean about those little things…they can slowly but surely alter our course ;).
    Happy weekend, my friend!
    Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …ENTANGLED is Out Now!

  15. Edie Ramer says:

    I’m so with you. I’m telling people that I’d appreciate even a few lines will be good. It doesn’t have to be a book report.

  16. Liz Kreger says:

    I enjoy reading reviews but I don’t really base my purchases on whether its a good review or a bad one. They’re always selective. For instance … my “Touch of Magic” from our anthology “Entangled” got a “C” in one review — and I totally understand why. This is a story in which you really have to know the background of the worldbuilding in order for it to make 100% sense. This short story is an offshoot of a single title. I still think its good, but the average reader may not.

    I’ve been burned by buying books based on a rousing review … and then again, found books that were panned. All in the eyes of the beholder, Maria.

    Great blog. Makes ya think. And yes, I do read my reviewed. The good and the bad. They’re educational.

  17. Very interesting post. Despite 1 and 2 star ratings, if a book interests me and has some good recommendations, I’ll take a chance. I agree that not everybody is going to like our book, so we need to remember that an grow an extra layer of skin.
    J.L. Campbell`s last blog was …Snapshots of Jamaica & Beyond Words

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