Saturday, October 31, 2015

So You Want to Write a Book Review

keys, padlocksAsk 100 independent authors the key to success (other than being able to actually write worth a darn) as an author, and I would be willing to bet that more than 90 of them will give the same answer: reviews. Positive, plentiful, relatively well-thought-out reviews. There's simple math involved when it comes to sites like Amazon. You need a minimum of reviews before your book starts appearing in the customers-also-bought section.

But it's not just that. We need numbers, but we need numbers when it comes to stars also. And no, they don't all have to be 5 stars. An occasional low rating shows the reviews aren't rigged. Not that I'm encouraging you to give me a 1-star review, but you never have to feel like you need to inflate the score because you either know or know of the author. Score the book the way you feel it should be scored.

book, reading, pages, handsAnd the third thing we need as authors is for the reviews to be useful. Not that I would ever say no to someone who writes a brief, "I loved this book because I did" 5-star review. I will take those all day. But the kind of review that really gets other people to take a chance on buying a book is the one that gives them a reason to believe it will be worth their time and money. The problem, though, is that a lot of people are intimidated by writing reviews because they just don't know what to say. So for those folks, here's a list from author Luisa Playa of things to consider including when you write your review. I adapted these from a website called Booktrust. Click the name to go to the original post.

  1. Give a one- or two-sentence summary of the book, being careful not to include any spoilers. If the book is part of series, this would be a good place to mention it. And you should also, as best as you can, tell the genre of the book.
  2. Tell what you particularly liked about the book, such as plot, characters, writing style,  dialogue--whatever you enjoyed.
  3. Tell what you didn't like too. You should be honest. If you found a character or situation shallow or implausible, say that. No book is perfect and folks don't usually find reviews that claim one is to be believable.
  4. Wrap up with a general comment about what you liked and didn't like. This would also be a time to talk about what other books, types of books, or authors this book reminds you of, such as, "If you like the writing of Robert B. Parker, then you will enjoy this book."
  5. Finally, if you're on Amazon or Goodreads, decide how many stars you think it deserves.
girl, sad, crying, raining, rain drops, window, people, womanOne other comment on reviews. As with anything, please be kind and reasonable. Even if you didn't like the book, you don't have to be mean in how you talk about it. Remember--someone probably worked hard for a long time to write it and, while it may be bad, that doesn't mean you have to try to make that person cry. Along that line, review the book on its own merits, not based on any extraneous issue. I got two 1-star reviews for books since I started publishing books. One was puzzling in that the description seemed to be positive, but the reviewer didn't rate it accordingly (I still suspect that the rating was accidental). The other, though, said that he or she couldn't read the book due to file issues and, rather than simply contacting me about the problem so I could fix it, the person gave it one star without any idea of the quality of the writing.

So I hope you find that helpful and, more than that, I hope that if you've read and enjoyed one of my books but have never written a review, that you'll seriously consider it. It really is the greatest gift you can give an independent author.

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