The Joy and Sorrow of Reader Reviews


Let me say one thing right up front: I think it’s wonderful that there are so many opportunities on the Internet for readers to review novels they’ve read. I absolutely love being able to check out what other readers think about a book I want to buy. If most of the reviews of a certain book are glowing, I toss out the solo stinker, assuming the reviewer either has an ax to grind or very esoteric taste. Similarly, if most of the reviews are negative, I’ll assume the one or two fabulous reviews are from the author’s mother. If my mom were alive, I know she’d be sending reviews of my books to Amazon under a dozen aliases.

So, reader reviews are a boon to the reading public. However, it’s another matter if you’re the author under scrutiny. I know some authors say they never read reviews of their work, but I don’t believe them. How could they not?? The problem I have is that I tend to read reviews just before bed, after I’ve finished working and am idly surfing the ‘net. I’ll read ten reviews of one of my books on Goodreads, let’s say, or Shelfari. Nine reviews will give the book four or five stars and the tenth will give it three stars. A one star review, I can ignore. I simply assume it was written by the girl whose boyfriend I stole in the 2nd grade. But that three star review. . . hmm. That one gets to me, because I feel as though I failed a reader. I’ll lay awake, thinking about the negative or mediocre review, trying to figure out what I did wrong. Did I really let the middle of the book drag? Was the main character truly too whiny? Did the ending honestly fail to satisfy? What can I learn from the review? I ask myself that last question all the time.

Are you a reader who leaves reviews on these and similar sites? I hope so. It may feel kind of creepy to think that the author will be reading your review, but I think I can speak for most of us when I say that we take them to heart. It’s a wonderful way not only to let your fellow readers know what you think, but the authors as well.

From now on, though, I’m going to read them in the morning.


  1. Carol A. Strickland on August 23, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Oh, to have such a problem! As the author of a fairly new ebook (not available on Amazon) I have only received one reader review and one publication review. (Both were quite nice, thank you.) Even though I have a contest going for anyone who will review me ANYWHERE, I have yet to have anyone enter, and I can’t give the reward out to the my 2 existing reviewers because they have funny Internet names with no way of contacting them.
    But wouldn’t a review, even a 3-star one, be oh so loverly?
    I do indeed leave reviews but have learned only to do ones for which I had praise to give. Okay, except for the Really Big Name Author(s) who seem to have given up actually writing and instead are in Coasting Mode. I ask them to focus again on their craft, reestablish contact with their muse, and please tie up the series they have dragged out for so long. It’s late and we want to go home already!

  2. Denise on August 23, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I am one who leaves reviews at Goodreads. I am generally ‘careful’ about the books I read because my reading time is so limited. I usually choose authors I am familiar with, read books that get good reviews or take the advice of friends whose reading tastes I share. Sometimes I simply like what I see/read on a jacket cover and give someone new a try. And as a bookseller, I often read books recommended by my company in order to make recommendations.
    I have been really fortunate in that I have not read too many books over the past few years that I didn’t like a lot, and I am usually generous with my reviews and ratings at Goodreads.
    I recently read a book recommended by my company that was a terrible disappointment, though. I was so disappointed in it that I only gave it a two-star review. The author had a nice writing style, but the plot and characters were ho-hum and predictable…I can not recommend the book in good conscience. The book has made the NYT Best-Seller list which stuns (and annoys) me. If the author reads my two-star review, she will probably just blow me off as someone who is disgruntled. Lol!

  3. Gina on August 24, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Call me naive, but I never really thought about authors reading reviews on GoodReads.
    I know readers read the reviews on Good Reads, but the thought never crossed my mind that some authors were reading them too! How interesting!

  4. Ingrid King on August 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I leave reviews on amazon and, and I guess with the exception of the “rock star” authors that sell in the millions and either no longer care or no longer have to care about what individual readers think, I always assumed that authors actually do read these reviews. Which is why I only leave reviews for books I enjoy. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, so why would I leave a less than favorable review? Even if I don’t like a book, I’m sure the author still worked really hard at it. And let’s face it, whether you like a book or not is mostly a matter of personal taste and preference. I always keep the author in mind when I write a review, and I don’t see the point in writing something that is going to hurt someone’s feelings. Like mom said, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all 🙂
    And I do enjoy reading reviews other people leave, if it’s a book or an author I never heard of, they might influence my decision to buy the book, although mostly, my decision will be based on the description of the book.

  5. brenda on August 24, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I may read other reviews but choose books that I want to read despite those reviews…I read a couple of reviews on INTO THE WOODS-had read it already but when Diane mentioned it, I read it again…I liked it better than the reviews…We all like different genres…I know that I have been quite disappointed in some of the books by some of my “regular writers”–I just assume they can’t be perfect all the time!!!!! Just finished such a book by an author I love…this one was horrible-would I write a bad review–never…

  6. Lindsay on August 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Hi, not leaving a comment on this specific entry, just want to say love the new layout and title is fantastic! Love it!

  7. Diane Chamberlain on August 26, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks Lindsay! I’m struggling a bit with it all!

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