Using a Peer Review to Your Advantage

Written exclusively for Savvy Authors

Ash_CaboYou’ve finished your novel and now all you need are reviews from industry experts that will hopefully help with not only getting the word out about your book, but more importantly generate some sales. And writers know the importance of these reviews: with each book we write, we’re silently praying for a great reception from our peers. But what if another author from your genre gets their hands on your book and…loves it? In my opinion, a critically acclaimed author’s review is the absolute most important—and biggest—compliment that any writer can receive. A successful writer knows the exact things to look for as far as character building, the flow of the story, details of the scene, and the correct use of language, whereas someone without their experience may not have the eye to notice some of these things. 

I see New York Times best-selling authors utilizing this to their advantage by highlighting the reviews of other best-selling authors in the descriptions of their books. And guess what? It helps increase sales. Period. And that’s why not only authors, but people in other industries like the medical field, all take advantage of this same method, spreading the word about any comments that they found favorable. Personally, I follow the reviews of a lot of my favorite authors, and if they’ve rated a book 5-stars, chances are my opinion will be close (though there have been times where my own reviews varied slightly). But at the end of the day, we follow those we love to read, and if a favorite author says someone else’s book is great, chances are it is—and definitely worth taking the time to read.

However, there’s also a flip side to this viewpoint. What if the best-selling author doesn’t like your book? Well, in my opinion that’s a risk worth taking. And if I were in the shoes of such a writer receiving that poor review, I’d use it to my advantage to try to improve my ability as a storyteller—because most writers like myself have a passion almost to the point of obsession, so it’s never an option to just stop doing what we love. It’s imbedded in the depths of our hearts, twisted through every fiber of our minds, and it’s impossible to just give up and abandon the ship. 

So that means we must take every piece of constructive criticism we get—however painful it may be to our egos—and use that to our advantage to be better, revising our work to where each and every page controls our readers’ emotions so completely, they absolutely cannot put the book down—even if they wanted to. Because isn’t that what all of us want? A book so captivating that the greatest, most popular authors alive will be hooked and then give us the review of a lifetime? 

So while some may believe this to be a conflict of interest in the industry, I couldn’t disagree more. This is the pivotal moment that all writers strive for, and I refuse to live in fear that I’ll get a bad review—or that if I give a book an average review then that author will reciprocate. To encourage new authors, the review system for books needs to be built on both honesty and integrity of opinion, where in even the worst books, there is still something positive worth mentioning. At the same time, authors must realize that even the best in our industry can still receive the worst of reviews, and recognize that we’re all human and can form biased opinions based on our interests, which is why it may be best for some of us to stick with a genre we enjoy reading. For me, not only do I love writing urban fantasy/paranormal romance thrillers, but I love reading them as well, and therefore I feel comfortable reviewing books by other authors in my beloved category. 

So it’s time to develop a thicker skin and put yourself out there, because one day that New York Times best-selling author is going to read your book and hopefully they’ll love it, but even if they don’t, you enticed them enough to buy it in the first place, and if you have the right mindset, I’m sure their review will only help you become the best writer that you can be. 

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