Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Write a Great Book Review!

 Or, "Eek, I want to write a review but..."

As a writer, our bread and butter in the current world are reviews given by readers on such sites as Amazon and Goodreads. It's how we move up in the rankings and expand our exposure. It's how we get new readers to, well, read our work.

Interestingly enough, the problem I run into, when soliciting reviews from people I know have enjoyed the book, isn't that they don't want to leave a review, but that they feel like they are ill-equipped to leave a 'proper' review.

Au contraire, mon frere.

YOU are the most uniquely qualified person to leave a review, because YOU took the time to read and (I hope) enjoy the book. No one else can leave a review like YOU.

So, ahem, how does one write a good review?

Here are my top ten things to consider:

1. Honesty. Seriously, that's it. If you write a honest review about the book, then you've done best by the writer, and that's all we can ask.

But Connie, I don't want to hurt your feelings! As long as you're respectful and honest, you're not going to hurt my feelings, I promise. I'm always growing as a writer, and I cannot grow if I don't know what I'm doing wrong.

2. What Did You Like? Tell me what you liked about the book. Did you enjoy the main character's attitude? Were the scenes visual enough for you? Did you feel like you were watching a movie as you read? Was there any particular scene that moved you? Did you cheer for the good guys? Or the bad ones?

3. What Didn't You Like? Tell me what you didn't like about the book. Were any of the characters obnoxious stereotypes? Did the writer go on too long describing a tree that never reappeared in the rest of the book? (I'm looking at you, Mr. King.) Were you uncomfortable with the violence and/or cursing?

4. Did It Teach or Move You? Did you learn something new about a culture or a stereotype that you didn't know before? Did you connect with any of the characters? Did it bring up a memory for you? Did character struggles make you overtly emotional?

5. Did It Remind You of Any Other Book? This seems like a weird question, right? But if you mention that a book reminds you of another book, people who are reading the reviews are more likely to say, "Oh, then I might like this, because I liked that book, too!"

6. Was the manuscript written well? And I mean, grammar and flow. Nothing is worse than a good story lost to typos, bad grammar and lack of paragraphs! So it's good for the author (and the publisher) to know if the quality of the manuscript is top notch or lacking.

7. Not My Genre, But... If you read a book on a whim (or as a courtesy to a new writer) and it is outside your normal genre, it's actually really helpful to comment about that. If you enjoyed it, if you didn't, mentioning that you usually read romance novels, so the gore was a little much, this lets other potential romance readers make better decisions about whether or not to take a chance on the book.

And three things you should never do:

8. One liners. Even with a five star rating. It doesn't help us as an author when you comment that you really like everything I write, but don't talk about the book at all. But I would much prefer that to one-star one liners. It's frustrating to get a review that basically says, "This book sucks" without any explanation on why it sucked for them.

9. Name drop. I love my friends. I love my friends who take the time to read my novels. But when you leave a review that says, "She's my bestest best friend ever, and I think she's the best author on the planet!" without any quantifying commentary about why this book in particular is covered in awesome sauce, it feels like a cotton candy review: pretty but full of fluff.

10. Revenge Review. Oh, this shouldn't even be a thing, but alas, it is. In the world of publishing, there are occasionally indie authors who cannot survive a low-star comment on their work and will purposely go to that author's books and leave crappy one-star reviews, dragging down the book's ranking. Don't be that troll. Just don't.

I hope this makes your book reviews a little easier to write (and a tad more beneficial to the author).

Keep reading!

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