Friday, 13 May 2016

Why reviews are more important than stars (for readers, not writers)

By Nicki Edwards

Author of Country Town Life, Love and Medical Dramas
"Heartwarming Australian Romance"

Today I want to talk about reviews and why they're important to readers. (They're important to authors too, but only because good reviews make us feel better. *grin*)

Today's post therefore, is all about why reviews are important to readers.

I recently received the following review and I decided to unpack it and show why a review is better than just a rating. This was a Goodreads 4 star review of an advanced readers copy of  my new release "The Peppercorn Project" which comes out on May 31st. I don't know this reviewer personally but contacted her to gain permission to share her review.

"Unexpected but true, I really enjoyed this book."

The opening line of the review is important to readers because it shows why the reviewer has given the rating she has. This sentence also tells the reader that she wasn't expecting to like this book and that makes a reader think "hm...maybe I might like this book too."

The reviewer's usual genre isn't sweet romance, so, as a reader, now I'm curious. What was it about this book that made the reviewer not only choose it, but like it enough to give it 4 stars and say she enjoyed it? 

Readers of this review will know the author has 'hooked' the reviewer so they'll read on, wanting to know why. "hm...maybe I'll be hooked too."

"I have been reading a series that has a faster pace and needing a break, I decided to go for something slower...this one really worked for me."

Readers often change things up in their reading lists and this reviewer has explained what she likes about this book. It has a slower pace. Sometimes that exactly what readers are looking for (and vice versa).

Out of interest, I checked this reviewer's usual reading list (which is a good idea when you're reading reviews). Her list includes some of the following categories:

'pierced and tatted'
'makes me laugh'
'wounded warriors'
'hot and tingly'
'mystery crime suspense'

Did you see 'sweet' or 'clean' romance on her reading list? No. Neither did I. So, again, as a reader I'm even more intrigued. What was so good about this book that the reviewer chose to read outside her usual genre and enjoy it enough to give it 4 stars? Actually go back a step. Why did she request a copy to review in the first place? The cover perhaps? Other reviews? She's read my other books and enjoys them? Or is there another reason? If there is, wouldn't it be good to know what it was? 

Readers like to know why the reviewer chose to read this book.

You might be interested to know that the reviewer told me she'd never heard of me or my books, but the cover of "The Peppercorn Project" caught her eye then the blurb was enough for her to request it. Good to know how important covers are - they have to fit the genre.

"The book takes place in Australia which I love..."

Readers like to know where books are set. But why did the reviewer love it so much?

"(it was) a change of scenery when it comes to only reading books based in America. I liked the different use of language...and how different it is."

Another nugget of gold. As an Aussie author, it's not always easy to pick up an American reader, as they often don't like the settings, can't understand the language, don't get the Aussie lingo etc. etc. 

This sentence says a lot to other Americans who might read this review. "Hm perhaps I might like this book too."

"Now I know this trope is unpopular with the dead spouse so it won’t be for everyone and at times I had some difficulty with it."

Sometimes readers want to know the 'triggers' in a book. Death is a big trigger than may turn people off. Out of interest, did you know the 'dead spouse' trope is unpopular? I didn't. 

"I enjoyed how their relationship progressed...They only took their relationship to the intimate level really at the end of the book but I have to be honest I don’t care."

Very interesting. A reader whose usual reading style includes 'hot and tingly', DIDN'T CARE about the sweet behind closed doors scene. Other readers might think "hey, I'll change things up and try a sweet romance too."

"If you’re looking for something sweet and warm then this is a read for you."

The review finishes with a recommendation that sums it all up perfectly.

I look forward to your hearing your thoughts on this post. Does it challenge you to give reviewing a go? You never know, you might enjoy it so much, you start your own review blog.

If you do write a review, make sure you review it on Amazon or iBooks (or wherever you purchased the book) and on Goodreads. 

And if you don't feel comfortable doing that, why not just share a short review on your own Facebook page with a link to the book you've just read? Every author will love you for it.


  1. Great review - and a great analysis.

    This also shows how someone who didn't necessarily enjoy the book can still "sell" it to other readers. She might have said that she didn't like the fact the only sex scene was closed door . . . which would appeal to that growing group of readers who want romance without explicit sex scenes.

    My review of The Peppercorn Project will go live on 31 May . . . and will include a comment for my Christian readers to the effect they might not this part. But I won't include that paragraph in the Amazon or Goodreads reviews, as that's a different audience.

    1. Thanks Iola. I hadn't thought about suggesting people write slightly different reviews for different target audiences. I look forward to your review of Peppercorn. :)

  2. Wow, what analysis, Nicki. Well done. I've never seen that done before. I tend to read reviews more than I rely on the numbers. Especially in the early days of a release most of the reviews have high scores because many of the reviewers are the "promoters" or authors "tribe" who've had early access to the novel.

    Fabulous stuff, Nicki. Trust the launch is going well.

  3. Thanks Ian. I always read the reviews of books when they are first released and I look for both the good reviews and the not-so-good ones. I think a book that only has positive/glowing reviews suggests the author has asked everyone she knows to review the book even if that's not true. Mind you, the sting of bad reviews can take a while to subside!

  4. Brilliant, Nicki. I learned a lot from your analysis. And how wonderful the reader tried something different (you) and liked it!!!

  5. Love your post on reviewing the reviewer. What a fabulous insight into the minds of readers. Who'd have thought about the death trope? I'm even fascinated that Americans are supposed to have trouble with our slant on things. We can read their stuff easily enough, and surely they get to see enough of our on-screen culture to understand us??? Best wishes for the release.

  6. Nicki, great post! Thanks for sharing helpful insights from both the author and reviewer perspective :)


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