Starting out as an independent author publishing her own books, I quickly came to realize how important reviews are to attracting more readers.

One learns fast. MUST. GET. REVIEWS.

If a potential reader happens upon your book and sees it has no ratings or reviews next to it, well, it just looks sad and somehow suspicious.

Testimonials are important, after all. We are unlikely to consider any purchase without checking to see what others think of it. As authors that is what we are doing. Producing a product for people to consume.

And once those reviews come in, it is hard to ignore them. I understand readers write reviews for other readers and not the author. But if I hear someone whisper my name, it’s human nature not to be curious about what’s being said.

I can’t read my reviews.

It’s too excruciating. Even the nice ones! I have my husband read them for me, then he gives me the highlights.

But I pay attention. Reviewers can share valuable insight on what did not work for them. And sometimes, I will agree. That ending seemed a bit rushed. The book could have used a few more scenes here, or there. I think about all that when it’s time to outline and write my next story to make it a better experience for the reader.

Whenever I check Amazon or Goodreads, there’s the title of my books with a certain number of stars next to them.

Sometimes, I see them when I close my eyes, like a retinal burn.

It was quite a thrill to discover a YouTube book review by BookWhimsy online. I was searching for something else and accidentally stumbled across it.  Cynthia discussed my urban fantasy, The Monsters of Chavez Ravine. She talked about the social injustice throughline in the novella—eminent domain evictions that forced out the mostly Mexican American residents from the old neighborhoods where Dodger Stadium now stands. In short, an insightful review that included what she liked and what didn’t work for her (the romance subplot). It delighted me that a reader found the monsters creepy.

The review did NOT include a rating.

Suddenly, my work was untethered from the ubiquitous star system and floated free. Like a child going forth into the world without a report card stamped on its forehead.

Okay, that’s a temporary thing. In the real world of Amazon and Goodreads, etc., the stars remain as firmly attached as barnacles and that is not about to change.

And believe me, I’m grateful every time a reader hits those stars and leaves a review. With Amazon’s algorithm, and with so many books for readers to choose from, they are critical to indie authors like me.