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Why I Read My Goodreads Reviews

I like to give advice. While I don’t consider myself an expert by any stretch, I’ve been writing a long time, and I think all writers benefit from a community that shares information, support, expertise, and suggestions. (And also wine, but that’s a lot harder to do online, as it happens.)

And one of the things I tell people is this: Don’t read your Goodreads reviews. People will say nasty things about your book. About your writing. About you as a person, even though they don’t know you. So why bother? You’ll be happier not mucking up your life with that kind of negativity, right?

Except for this: I do read my Goodreads reviews. Almost every day. I’m a terrible hypocrite, and I thought it might be interesting to explore why. (With a few examples straight from the site to help out, because why not?)

The Magician’s Lie was captivating, to say the least. This novel is a concoction of The Night Circus, Water for Elephants, a splash of Downton Abbey, a pinch of American Horror Story: Freak Show, and a sprinkle of The Hunger Games.

There’s nothing like unvarnished, straight up reader reviews to remind you that every reader is different. Everyone sees what they want to see. If you want to control what your readers experience, to tell them that a certain character is intended to be a hero or a certain scene is meant to be read ironically or they didn’t catch a clear reference to one of your influences in Chapter Sixteen… well, publication is not for you. Once the book is out there, it’s theirs. Period.

Unfortunately I was just bored the majority of the time.

Do negative reviews push me to do better on my next book? Not necessarily, since it’s not like I was sandbagging on the last one. And most reviews, honestly, are neither all good nor all bad. Which is what most reader experiences are like, so it makes sense.

Liked most of it but the ending was a disappointment.

But of course the ones that are very positive feel good. Is that why I’m reading my reviews? Mining the gems, to feel good about myself?

Close to perfect.

The problem with taking the good ones completely to heart is it requires some pretty serious logical contortions to explain why you shouldn’t take the bad ones to heart too.

Immature writing style

The truth is — and this really is the truth, I promise — is that I’ve gotten to a point where the bad ones don’t bother me that much. They don’t hurt. They don’t make me want to quit writing. But I was not always at that point, and if you’re not, definitely stay away from the site.

this is a story I will remember and one I will be thinking about for a long time.

So I go, and I read. What are people saying? These are my readers. These are the people I thought about, hoped and wished for, for years.

Wish there was more to it but somewhat entertaining.

Do I always like what they say? Absolutely not.


But I go, and I read, because I can’t help it. If I see something I don’t like, I shrug and click away; if I see something I do like, I smile, and then click away anyway, because there are other things to do. Like write the next book. Which some of these same people are waiting for.

Excellent read. Kept me on the edge of my seat. Whenever I put it down I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

Why do I read my Goodreads reviews? Because they’re from readers. And whether they loved the book or hated it or somewhere in between, they’ve read it. Which makes me happy, every time.



About Greer Macallister [1]

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut novel THE MAGICIAN'S LIE was an Indie Next pick, Target Book Club selection, and a USA Today bestseller, and has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain's Freckle Films. Her next novel is GIRL IN DISGUISE, about America's first female private investigator, Kate Warne (Sourcebooks, March 2017.)