Reviews: No Lifeguard on Duty, Read at Your Own Risk

As soon as your book goes up on NetGalley, as soon as your publicist starts mailing out ARCs, you begin thinking about reader reviews. Will people love it? Hate it? Ignore it completely? Online author’s groups have multiple posts per day discussing reader reviews…celebrating the good ones, bemoaning the bad or unfair ones. But does any of it actually impact a book’s success? I decided to ask my editor what people on the publishing side think of reader reviews.


Q: Do reader reviews matter to you as an editor? Does the publisher care about them one way or another?

A: Yes, reader reviews matter especially on platforms like Goodreads and Amazon.  We’ve found that the more positive reviews that accumulate, the better chance of ‘word of mouth’ and ‘buzz’ spreading to consumers.  Book groups tend to pick novels that have many positive reviews and are good for discussion.

Q: If a book gets a TON of reviews, but they’re a mixed bag, is that better than a smaller number of 5-star reviews?

A:  It’s always better to have fewer 5 star reviews vs. a ton of mixed reviews.

Q: How much do reader reviews factor into a book’s success?

A: I wouldn’t say reader reviews make or break a book since so many factors contribute to a book’s ‘success’ however publishers love to see a book well received in the market.  Again, a key component to becoming a bestseller is word of mouth and an organic recommendation to consumers is imperative.


So, reader reviews are important. Publishers care about them. Editors care about them. Book sellers care a LOT about them. But you know who shouldn’t care about them? Writers. Reviews are not for us. They are just one tiny way readers can communicate what they like — and don’t like — back to the publishing world.

I will admit, I don’t read my reviews. That does not mean I don’t ask (beg!) readers to review, or appreciate every single person who has logged on to Amazon or Goodreads to write one for me. I do! I monitor how my book is doing, how many reviews I’m getting, and my average rating on each site. And when people tag me with particularly lovely reviews, I read those and appreciate them. But I learned early on that reading my reviews — the good ones and the bad ones — did absolutely zero in helping me do my job. Which is to write books.

I know writers who read every review they get. I know some writers who read every review up until a few weeks post publication, and then step away. Some writers have other people monitor their reviews for them, only pulling out the ones that might be most helpful. There is no wrong way to approach reader reviews. My advice to debut authors though, is to figure out early what will work for you, and then stick with it.

My two cents: glowing reviews will not help me write my next book. If I am leaning on them to gain confidence, it’s a false sense of security. The only way to know whether I can write that next book is to get to work writing it. Obsessing over reviews is akin to the high school girl who can’t stop looking at pictures of her ex boyfriend in last year’s yearbook. I get it. We’ve all been there. We were so great together. We have so many good memories! But it’s time to move on. Promote the book, yes. Meet readers, attend book clubs. But step away from the computer. Log out of Goodreads. Get back to work at the job you’re paid to do. Which is to write books.


(PS. Thank you to everyone who has written me such lovely reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads. My mom loves telling me about them.)


The Ones We Choose is for sale in all stores and online!



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Author: Julie Clark

Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Julie Clark grew up reading books on the beach while everyone else surfed. After attending college at University of the Pacific, and a brief stint working in the athletic department at University of California, Berkeley, she returned home to Santa Monica to teach. She now lives there with her two young sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse control. Her debut, THE ONES WE CHOOSE, will be published by Gallery/Simon & Schuster in May 2018.

2 Replies to “Reviews: No Lifeguard on Duty, Read at Your Own Risk”

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t read her reviews. It’s such a minefield and I agree that it doesn’t help me do my job. Now feedback from my editor, and other trusted crit partners? That is what I listen to.

    1. I appreciate every review I get though. That’s the hard part to explain to people…that reader reviews MATTER, but it’s not good for my mental health to focus on them.

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