The Saturday Series, On Reviews #2 with Guest Post from Lauren Royal

Today is the second week talking about reviews.  Last week in this post we covered the basics  and defined a book review, giving 3 examples of type and briefly discussed what a book review can do for an author.   This week will be a little more complex, as we will discuss what I feel are two key points to reviewing:  Who can review and  What do you need to know to review.

There’s been a ton of discussions about reviews of late: in fact this week there was a day-long discussion hosted by Evolved Publishing on their Street Team pages where everyone was able to ask questions, get feedback and discuss reviews, thoughts on reviews and provide insight from reader, author and blogger perspectives.  Having a respectful and thoughtful discussion with several perspectives gives everyone a better insight.  Bits from that day’s discussion will also be incorporated into this series, to give perspective from other readers, bloggers and viewpoints.


Who can review?  Anyone – if you can read – you can review.  You only have to be aware of some simple concepts

  • Did you like the book?
  • Did it keep you interested in reading more?
  • Would you (or have you) read another book by this author?
  • What didn’t you like about the book – too many characters, too much information, got boring in parts?

Then – you compare the good to the bad – and decide on a rating.  Now, some sites (like Goodreads ) do NOT require you to use a star rating.  Many other sites, including sale sites do require the rating.

When I first started reviewing books, choosing a star rating was the hardest thing to do.  So, when you start out, this is what I suggest.  Decide what each star rating means TO YOU.  There is no right or wrong – but if you have more good than bad things to say about the book – your star rating should be higher.   A good balance when you start is that if you have only 1 bad thing (or less) for every good thing you liked about the book – then it is worth the 5 stars to you.   Similarly – if your good to bad ratio is close to equal 2 to 1 or 1 to 1 –  then it’s a middle rating book or worth 3 stars to you.  I tend not to leave reviews for books on sales sites that are less than 3 stars, but a 2 star book should be more bad than good – in a ratio that approximates 2 or 3 bad things for every 1 good thing.  And a one star book – that’s one that you couldn’t finish, or didn’t want to finish.

Notice that ALL of the information here is talking about the book – and only about the book.  That is an important distinction: book reviews are only about the book. They are not about the author, or what your friend’s think or say, or even about your friendship with the author.  Which reminds me, there is a specific line (or lines) that you should use to disclose your personal connection to the author.  For example:  If I review for friends or co-workers – I will make that notation in the review in a phrasing similar to this:

I work with the author/ I edited this book / I was a beta reader for this title / and received the book for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.  

Likewise, because I am a reviewer, I will also make note of titles that I have personally purchased or received as a contest win:

I purchased this title for my own personal library / I won this title through a giveaway . I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Disclosures are simple phrases that help distinguish your review from the pack.


What do you need to know to review ? 

Honestly, having the ability and willingness to review is the most important part.  Knowing what you like to read or see in a book (and what you don’t) and understanding that not all stories are for every reader will go a long way.  You don’t need to have a degree in literature, or even be able to spell.  You do need to be able to say what you liked and why, and what you didn’t and why.  And tell people.

Reviews are not book reports: you don’t need to summarize the plot,  you don’t want to spoil the story for someone else. What you liked or didn’t about the book, told simply and honestly will help other readers make a choice. So be honest, be positive and above all, have fun with it.




Why Authors Appreciate Online Reviews ~ Lauren Royal

     Have you ever wondered why authors appreciate reviews so much? By “reviews,” I don’t mean the professional reviews that are printed in the New York Times or Romantic Times Magazine. I’m talking about READER reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, or Kobo. In our new digital age, reader reviews are way more important than “official” reviews, and here’s why…

     When a reader searches an ebook store to find a new book to read, books with more reader reviews are much more likely to be shown in the search results. The length of the review, the star rating of the review—those things don’t help with search engine optimization. Only the NUMBER of reviews counts! So a book with fifty reviews averaging 2 stars will be seen by many more potential buyers than a book with twenty-five reviews averaging 5 stars. It’s crazy, I know, but that’s the way it works.

     And that’s why we so appreciate any review at all, even if it’s only two words. There is no need for readers to feel pressured to write a long review. “Loved it!” is a perfect review, as far as I’m concerned. Do your favorite author a huge favor by taking a minute to post a review for her. You’ll be helping other readers find good books, too!

About Lauren Royal

I decided to become a writer in the third grade (or, as my Canadian friends call it, grade three), after winning a Why My Mother is the Greatest essay contest and having my entry published in a major newspaper. Seeing my words in print was a thrill! But everyone told me it's too hard for novelists to get published, so after college I spent fourteen years as the CEO of my own jewelry store chain before writing my first book. A mistake? Maybe…but my first heroine, Amethyst, was a jeweler, so at least I took advantage of that wise old saying, Write what you know. And I learned a good lesson: Don't let other people tell you what you can or can't do!

I write humorous historical romance mostly set in England and Scotland in the 17th and 19th centuries (Restoration and Regency periods). I've been oh-so-lucky to see my books hit bestseller lists all over the world and win awards including the Golden Quill and Booklist's Top 10 Romance of the Year, making this second career a real dream come true. I live in Southern California with my husband, our three young adult children, and one constantly shedding cat, and I still think my mother is the greatest!

Next week – I’ll talk about genre preferences, and how to find your own personal preferences when writing a review. 

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