What An Author Expects From A Book Reviewer

After yesterday’s post about a mediocre review I received for my book Stealing Wishes, I promised to post today about what an author expects from a book reviewer.

Sure, we’d love to have 5 Star glowing reviews praising our work, but we can probably swindle most of our family and friends into posting those for us, right?  So, I’m talking about what I call “blind” or “cold” reviews that I wasn’t even expecting, from reviewers I don’t even know who took a chance on my work and bought my book and read it, and now they are taking the time to write a review of it.

Sure, I can’t really expect anything from those reviews.  I can’t even expect to get these reviews, can I?  So, this post is just food for thought in case you are considering posting a review the author might see.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  First and foremost, you don’t have to impress the author.  You don’t really have to impress anyone.  But if you are posting your reviews publicly, say, at places like Amazon.com where I like to post reviews then your review should at least be informative and provide feedback on why you liked or disliked the book. 

The moral majority of authors who also read and review books don’t usually post negative reviews to persuade people not to write a book – it’s just poor taste.  But that doesn’t mean that others out there aren’t ranting about the books they hate.  So, please consider my advice no matter what kind of review (positive, mediocre, or negative) that you are considering posting.

First and most importantly validate your review. This means proove to the reader that you actually read the book you are reviewing and that you aren’t just trying to boost your reviewer rank at Amazon.com or whatnot.  This can easily be done by the use of character names or specific plotlines or conflicts you liked or disliked in the book. Heck, throw in a quote that you liked straight from the book.  And this should NOT be information that anyone could just get from the book description or from the blurbs on the back of the book.  Give yourself confirmation so that the reader who is reading your review knows they can trust you.

Tell us what you liked.  If this was a good read, then what did you like about it?  What do you think other readers would like about it? Be specific!  Talk about characters, plotlines, suspense, writing style…And in doing so, you’ll also help validate your review.

What did you dislike?  Even if you just read a good book and you are posting a positive review, maybe there was still something in the book that you didn’t like or it could have been better. Don’t be afraid to be critical. Authors appreciate good criticism.

Did you have an emotional connection or what are you taking away from the book after having read it?  The point here is be personal!  Did the book remind you of something in your life from your past or something you want to approve upon?  Tell us about it! Did you love it so much you are going to suggest it to all of your friends?  Tell us why!

And now for a few don’ts…

Don’t be vague.  “I liked this book so much.  It was great.” What are you?  A First Grader?  If so, then okay.  I’ll cut you some slack.  Otherwise, these are pretty dry statements.  We already know you liked the book if you are giving it four or five stars, and even taking the time to review it.  So be specific!

Don’t have a hidden agenda! Let’s say you hate the author and you are just dying to post a bad review, or you didn’t even finish reading the book and you think you just know no one else will want to read it either.  Don’t bother posting a review! Beat the book up on your blog or in a forum, but no one likes bad press.  If you are going to post a negative review (and yes, I’ve posted my share.)  then at least be honest and upfront about what you didn’t like about the book. Your review will be appreciated by both the author and by other readers or book lovers if you are honest and informative, no matter how many stars you are giving it.

So, there you have it!  Notice I didn’t mention how long a review should be.  I’ve been known to go on for too long in reviews I’ve written, but I’ve also had some honest sincere reviews that were only a few sentences.  I appreciate reviews no matter how long they are.  And that’s my rant about what makes up a good book review, IMHO.

Fellow authors or book reviewers, what do you look for or include in a good review?

2 comments

  1. In every book review I do, I always, no matter what the score, include what worked for me and what didn’t work for me. I’ve never met a book I liked 100%, and I’ve never met a book I hated equally. I also try to balance my subjective opinion with the objective technical stuff, and lastly, just because something didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for other readers. I am more character inclined than action inclined. So just because I might find an action adventure story thin on character substance simply means just that and nothing more. Readers who favour action based stories over literary character based stories will no doubt love what I don’t. So I always try to imagine what type of reader would love the book I am reading and what type of reader wouldn’t. I also like to express how the book affected me. What meaning did I glean from it, if any, and what themes were being argued if they seemed apparent to me. In other words, what was the author’s intent for the story, and did they pull it off? It’s also important to talk about voice and style and technique, but sadly, the majority of readers do not know enough about the craft of writing to discuss the mechanics with any authority, so that should be left to the professional reviewers who do.

    • Thanks, Cheryl! So true! I think you and I are on definitely on the same level. I’ve been ridiculed for not having a “bad” review over at LLBR but that’s my point. I may not have liked a story and couldn’t relate to it, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t. So, I always try to appeal to those readers who would enjoy the book. Therefore, it may seem like I don’t write bad reviews and it’s because I don’t. Sure, I’ll call an author out on bad editing or formatting, but I’ll still find good things to say as well. It’s a fine balance, but one that most authors appreciate and expect from serious reviewers.

      -Shannon

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