Friday, December 12, 2014

Tips For Writing Book Reviews

      I recently posed a question on my Facebook page. I wanted to know what would encourage people to write more reviews. The more reviews a book has, the more likely it is to sell. Reviews are so important that we authors will beg for them. A responder to my question said it would be easier if there was a form to use because writing a review is hard. That is what inspired me to write this blog post.
     If you follow my blog, you already know I write some book reviews on here. I also review books for another blog. You’ll often see these longer reviews on Amazon from book bloggers, and they can make it seem like the process of writing a review is on par with writing an essay. In reality, a simple review is fine and can be extremely helpful to authors and other readers.
     If you said you’d only post a review to one site I believe most authors would ask you to post that review on Amazon. For that reason, I’m going to focus on writing a review for Amazon. The basic principles are the same for Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc. In fact, I generally use the same review for each of those sites.
     When reviewing a book you first need to decide how many stars to give the book. This is very personal and one reason the written review is more useful than the star rating. I might love a book that you hate. Potential readers are better able to make an informed decision if they know why people gave the book a particular rating. You can find out what each star rating means when you scroll over it on Amazon’s review page.
     5 Stars – I love it.
     4 Stars – I like it.
     3 Stars – It’s okay.
     2 Stars – I don’t like it
     1 Star –  I hate it
     So, your first step is to decide which of these describe how you felt about the book. Now you may even have your first line of your review. If you gave it 5 stars you could say, “I loved this book!” Let’s stop for a minute to discuss whether you should write a one star review. If you hated the book, then yes you should write the review and explain your reasons. These reasons may help potential readers decide if it is the right book for them. Remember that something that would cause you to hate a book may be something I love in a book. Even best-selling authors get 1 star reviews. The hard part about these reviews is writing them without emotion. I suggest giving yourself a couple of days before writing any one star review. By that point you may even realize you don’t hate the book, you merely hated one small aspect of the book. For me, the 3 star reviews are hardest to write because I need to explain the parts of the book I liked and what prevented me from liking the book overall.
     Next, you need to decide why you had this reaction. Did you like the characters? Did the story move at a good pace? Did you feel engaged? How did you feel about the dialogue? If you wanted, you could even make a form with the questions you want to answer about every book you read, and then use those answers to write your reviews. Remember each of us find different things important in a good book. Below are some common words and phrases used in reviews: Feel free to use any of them word for word when writing your own review.

     The last piece of the review is the title. Okay, I’m an author so I can spend forever trying to come up with something clever. This is not necessary and don’t skip writing reviews because you can’t come up with a fun title. You can even title it “My Review of XYZ Book,” and you won’t be the only one who has done that. The content of your review is what is most important.
     What should you avoid in your review? Don’t promote other books in the review. Avoid using profanity, even if the book does. Don’t insult the author. Don’t insult other readers. I have seen reviews that said only an idiot would enjoy a book.
     Finally, if the author gave you a copy of their book in exchange for reading it and writing a review, this should be disclosed in your review. You don’t need to disclose winning a book in a contest.
     How long does your review need to be? Amazon used to require reviews to have 20 words. I have recently seen one word reviews which are not terribly useful, but if your point is just to post a star rating, it can be done. Here is a sample of a very simple review.

     I really liked this book. It started off slow, but pulled me into the story later. The romance between Jack and Leah made me laugh and cry. I can’t wait to see what happens with them in the next book.

     Too simple? Absolutely not. Remember that your review isn’t going to be graded and doesn’t have to be long.
     Hopefully this has helped give you guidance in the review writing process. Now, go out and make you opinions known! Remember that the best way to tell an author you care is to write a review.

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