So far I’ve covered what a review is, what you need to know to review, what reviews can mean to authors, and just what sort of effort you should invest when you are looking for a reviewer to help you make choices when buying a book. Today I want to talk about how you (yes- you, anyone really) can write a review. There is no magic potion, and there are no ‘must follow’ rules. But, I do have some hints that will help you start to find your own voice when writing reviews: whether you want to review full time, part time or just when the mood strikes.
Reviewing, like any sort of writing, improves with practice. My first reviews – were, from a technical standpoint, HORRIBLE. But, as I continued working at them, being sure to learn what people want to know about, and how to get the important points for me about a book into a review that wasn’t too long, the reviews improved too.
And that is the key: you want to always keep learning from and reading other reviewers. I am, in no way, suggesting that you copy another reviewer, but you can see how someone else formats their reviews, or makes it useful. I do not (and will not) address the use of *gif files or photos in a review : words should be ALL that you need or use in a review. Want to do that on your own site, your own blog – go for it. But a review site should be words, not flashing photos and distractions.
So – let’s get started. What is important to you when you read a book? Here’s the list of ‘important points’ that I try to address in all of my reviews
Did I believe it
Did I understand it
Was the narration clear and easy to follow
Did it feel ‘real” or possible
Did I hate putting it down
Could I understand them
Did they make sense – were they whole people or just a filler
Did their conversations make sense
Would I want to know them
Is the writing clear and error free (grammar, spelling)
Is the author overly reliant on ‘tricks’
Is there something ‘unique’ to the characters – does the story feel fresh
Does the story drag or seem to lose a point
if the story is one of a series – were you able to understand it if you hadn’t read any others in the series
is the book formatted properly or are there large formatting issues
Is there a cliffhanger (note – cliffhanger is when the major story conflict is NOT resolved but stops just before a must know answer to make the book feel like there was resolution. NOT to be confused with leaving room open for additional story, character development, growth)
Does the sex / action / murder feel as it if belongs, or was it just stuffed in there to solve a loose end
Did you enjoy the story after you finished it, would you read another by the same author
You have to work out what your most important elements of a book are, and how you want to present that. Once you know what things you want to know about a book before you start writing a review – you are more than halfway complete. Really – you are.
• typos/misspellings (I’ve seen them in hardcover bestsellers and I had a team of 8 readers go over one of my books and we all missed the same 5 typos including my favorite: her hand covered his fish….yup should have been fist.
• Grammar errors – well…I will take another look but I, as many writers do, run it thru 2 grammar checkers…often the vernacular is the way to go. And I was labeled the “Queen of the Sentence Fragment” by my editors at Dell & Pocket Books – but they never fixed any of them.
• A sentence that makes no sense – I’m not sure readers know that an ebook goes from a .doc file to a mobi file or an html file or an epub file and sometimes there are glitches and sometimes something can get lost in ‘translation.’ So I will always go back and check to see if the ‘scrambler’ hit.
What I don’t think is appropriate and to me is just bullying:
• I hate your cover and I didn’t read the book so I gave it 1 star
• I hate this type of genre, so I never read the book, and I gave it 1 star
• Any type of review that states: I never read it; I never finished it; I never …….
• Attacking the author just because you can – it’s a power trip in the age of instants – anyone can instantly write a review and tweet it out and post it all over social media. On one site – a group of reviewers created lists like: authors who should be raped; authors who should go to prison; authors who should be hung…..really!
• And for heaven’s sake if you don’t like a certain genre – then don’t buy the book and give it a nasty review that starts out with: “I hate romance so I hated this book.”
I, like almost every author I know, strive to create characters that are so real, readers think they can look them up on 411 and give them a call. To give a reader great dialogue, compelling descriptions, emotions that grab and won’t let go.
If you remember my characters and my book long after you read it – then I’ve done my job.
I don’t mind reading reviews that say: “I wish it was longer” or “I wanted to know more about the other characters” and that’s why I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5.
I’m a reader as well as an author – and I’ve read my share of OMG how is this a bestseller novel? But I have never left that as a review.
As readers we all have our likes and dislikes but that shouldn’t be the end all – if the book is not your cuppa – then just don’t leave a review!
Next week: actually writing a review including some tips for writing negative reviews