By Beth Groundwater
Do you read book reviews, either professional or amateur? Do you base your reading choices on them? As an author, I probably pay more attention to professional reviews than my friends do who are purely readers. There are some review publications and some particular professional mystery reviewers whose opinions I trust and who influence my reading selections a great deal. However, I also pay attention to what books my in-person reader friends recommend and what books my on-line Goodreads reader friends recommend. For a select few, almost every mystery book they rate 4 or 5 stars goes on my to-read list.
Also as an author, reviews are VERY important to me, because they are an important way for my books to stand out from the crowd of hundreds of thousands of books that are published every year.
or they can enjoy reading your book so much they can't put it down, even late at night when they really need to go to sleep.
If that magical state happens and they write a good review, that can start the all-important word-of-mouth cycle that gets people reading the book, and if they like it, recommending it to a friend.
And if that friend likes reading it, too, he or she will recommend it to more friends and the fire spreads until soon whole crowds are reading your book. Or, at least that's the hope and dream of all authors I know!
Recently, I've been in this anxious state for my June 8th release, Fatal Descent, the third in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger/rafting guide Mandy Tanner. Instead of the usual setting for the first two books (the upper Arkansas River in Colorado), the murderous action in Fatal Descent takes place on the Colorado River in the remote Utah Canyonlands, specifically Cataract Canyon.The first breath of relief came in April with a review from Publishers Weekly (click on the link for the full text):
"The tension runs high in Groundwater’s absorbing third RM Outdoor Adventures mystery … Scenic descriptions and folklore add atmosphere to a suspenseful tale."
With that review, I could breathe a little sign of relief. The second loosening of tension came with news of a Fatal Descent review in Kirkus Reviews. But then the tension increased a little again when the review turned out to be more lukewarm than blazing hot like the Publishers Weekly one. Here's the pull-quote:
"A late-season rafting trip spells trouble for a river ranger doubling as an adventure tour guide."
Next in May came the first review, along with a 4-star rating, from an amateur reviewer on Fatal Descent's Goodreads page:
"... Fast-paced, intense read where the personalities of the folks on the trip (and their interactions with one another) and the things Mandy learns about them make for a gripping puzzle. ... Highly recommend, as always!"
By that point, I was feeling pretty darn good. Then, two days ago, I felt like the girl who hits the baseball over the fence for a home run the first time when a very complimentary review of Fatal Descent came out in Library Journal. The book even merited its own sub-heading "River Tales," and who could complain about being compared to Nevada Barr!
"Groundwater’s third entry (after the Left Coast Crime Rocky Award finalist Wicked Eddies) is marked by an outdoorsy intensity and authentic sports chatter sure to resonate with Nevada Barr readers. Her methodical, gentle buildup mirrors the river’s course so that when the characters hit the rapids, life jackets are a must."
I had so much fun researching and writing Fatal Descent, and I hope that readers have as much fun reading it. You can order copies now from your local bookstore or favorite on-line retailer. If you enjoy reading it, I hope you'll tell your friends about it (and ask them to spread the word). If you hang out in Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, DorothyL or some other on-line reading community, I hope you share a review of the book. It's you readers who determine a book's (and ultimately an author's) success or failure!
Please share in the comments whether or not you are influenced by reviews, professional or amateur, and if so, where you read them.