Peeking At Reviews

Book reviews are weird things and I think most authors have a love/hate relationship with them. They also know the old adage to not read reviews, understanding that not everyone will like their books.

And yet, authors need book reviews. Don’t worry, this isn’t a post pushing you to write a review. Indie-authors in particular need them. The more reviews, the higher the book floats to the top of the visibility pile. It’s vital to have reviews. It’s vital to have people ‘share’ posts rather than just ‘like’ them. All these little things equate to word of mouth advertising, which, as everyone knows, is the best kind.

Warning: I have no idea what kind of photos tie to book reviews, so I’m just inserting whatever catches my eye. Except for the last one that SO relates to peeking.


Prax – the local banded raven waiting for cats to be fed so he can steal kibble

But here’s the thing. Even though we know not to read reviews, sometimes the temptation is just too much and we peek. Or at least I do. Kind of like peeking in the Christmas stocking before everyone else gets up. Or peeking at the last page of a book to see if the author agrees with you who the bad guy is. Or peeking at the text being typed by the person crammed intimately into the airplane seat next to you.

I just realized peeking is like solving a mystery. And I do love a good mystery.


Taken from the back door last week. Snow level is dropping.

Anyway, this is my problem on those rare occasions when I peek at a review. It’s one thing when someone writes out a review, but those people who just click on the number of stars and don’t say why can be frustrating.

It has nothing to do with the number of stars. I don’t care if the book got five or one. As long as there’s an explanation, that is. You hate the book? Tell me why, because maybe it’s simply that my book and you weren’t a good match. Or, more importantly, maybe it’s actually something I can learn from.

Those who say nothing and only assign the stars, aren’t giving me the end of their story. They’re not allowing me to peek into their life, to see why, to understand. Sounds selfish, I know.


Rocci – the kitten someone dumped a couple weeks ago that the husband rescued

That can drive a mystery writer bonkers. Probably all writers. You immediately ask the same questions you asked yourself when you started writing the story. What if…Why…How can I…In other words, there’s a need for dialog.

Let’s talk. Explain it to me. Help me see your view. Allow me to explain. Allow me to show how the words ended up the way they did.

That may sound a bit pathetic but I’m sure you get what I mean. It’s not out of desperation. It’s out of a desire to understand, to interact, to grow. It’s also an excuse to talk writing with people, which is absolutely wonderful.

So if you take time to click on stars, consider taking a few seconds to tell the writer why.

Because even if writers know they shouldn’t read reviews, everyone peeks.

Bath 2

The epitome of peeking. Look how happy I am. I started young.


Book reviews are gold for authors. I’m tempted to stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign that says ‘Bought my book? Please write a review’.  It’s free advertising after all. But did you know that there are whole websites devoted to reviewing books? Well, with the internet, of course there is. Writers can submit their books for online reviews, which obviously can increase, or crash, sales. I just finished reading a blog post by Molly Greene ( about book reviewers. As always, with Ms. Greene’s blog posts, I found it interesting and informative. There was a list of things not to do when approaching a book reviewer.

Things like no mass mailing, researching their website first to make sure it’s a fit, being professional, etc.

And you know what this is? The modern-day version of sending out query letters to traditional agents and publishers. I remember those days not-so-fondly. The Writer’s Market annual guide to agents and publishers, a huge heavy book with all the listings. Going through it with a highlighter marking all the ones that accepted mysteries by unpublished authors. Then researching them to find out if my mystery fit their wish list and making sure they were legitimate. Then agonizing over the perfect query letter, mailing it out, and waiting weeks for the rejection letter.

Interestingly, one thing I learned from that process was that there are degrees of rejection. In the beginning I got form letters. Once I even got my self-addressed, stamped envelope returned, with nothing inside, and simply the words ‘no thanks’ scrawled across the back of the envelope. But hey, it was hand written! Then I improved to where I got personalized rejections with things like, ‘this may not be for us, but send us your next one’. Talk about excitement when that one arrived.

But I digress.

What is obvious is that the work stays the same, no matter what the medium. Whether I’m sending out stamped envelopes or hitting the ‘send’ button, some things never change. Research. Professionalism. Being polite. Knowing your market. Knowing your product, etc. Which, in many ways, is true within all walks of live. Respect for all things.

It’s kind of reassuring, in these days of computer programs I flounder with, that there’s something I recognize from the ‘old days’. I don’t need my teenager to explain this to me. I just need to do some research. Been there, done that, can do it again.