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What reviews teach me about my novels

As Mystery Thriller Week fast approaches, I and many other MTW authors are preparing to see a slew of new reviews of our precious novels. It’s an exhilarating and somewhat nerve-wracking time. What will the reviewers say about our books? Did they enjoy the story, characters and setting? Could they relate to the protagonist and their journey?

As the author, deep down you hope every reviewer thinks it is a 5 star ‘must read’. That’s only natural. But that rarely happens. Yes, even the Harry Potter series has received its fair share of 1 star reviews.

It’s no wonder we worry; a great review can help interest another reader in our books, which can lead to a sale. They really do matter.

Yet I love to read reviews for another reason. Every time a new review is posted, I learn new something about my books. How is that possible, you may ask? I did write the story and know the plot, characters and setting intimately. What could I possibly learn from readers?

Quite a bit, in fact!

Reviews teach me how others see my stories and characters. I’m often surprised by the details readers choose to mention in their reviews. Sometimes it’s a chapter or subplot I wasn’t certain belonged, debated about removing, yet ultimately left in because I liked it too much. It’s gratifying to see those bits getting picked out and celebrated. Conversely, it’s strange to see that the chapters or characters I spent the most time working on getting right, or thought were controversial in some way, are never mentioned.

It’s even more interesting to see how others read and interpret my stories as a whole. For example, I’m fascinated to see several readers found my debut novel Down and Out in Kathmandu an edge-of-your-seat-thriller they had trouble putting down, while another reviewer enjoyed the story but found that it moved a bit too slow for her tastes.

They are talking about the same novel. In this case, a book I wrote as a semi-cynical take on the backpacker culture in Asia, not intentionally as a travel thriller. Yet, no reviewer has seen it in that light.

Does that bother me? Not in the slightest! I know when I read a book, my knowledge, interests and experiences color how I read the story and relate to the characters. After I write my review, I often read those left by others and see that many have interpreted it differently than I did.

That is all part of the reading experience!

I’m so grateful to everyone who takes the time to share via a review their perspectives and interpretations of my stories. I learn a tremendous amount from each and every one, whether they are 5 stars or not.  I can’t wait to see what the upcoming Mystery Thriller Week reviews will teach me.

Happy reading and enjoy Mystery Thriller Week (February 12-22) everyone!


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Jennifer S. Alderson

Hello! I am the author of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery series, the Zelda Richardson Art Mystery series, and Adventures in Backpacking novels. I love to write and blog about travel, art, museums, expat life, and great books. Thanks for stopping by!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jennifer S. Alderson

    Thanks, Janice J. Richardson! That is a great question. I hope to have that problem some day! 😉

  2. Janice J. Richardson

    You nailed it! Reviewers find pieces of our books that flew under our radar and celebrate or diminish them. I wonder if an author who has hundreds of reviews pays as much attention as those of us with just a few? 🙂

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