[I published a post on this topic once before, but I decided it would be a good subject to revisit now that my second Endurance mystery, Marry in Haste, has just been launched.]
A common plea I’ve seen recently on websites and Facebook reader/writer sites involve authors asking readers, in the kindest way, to please go on GoodReads or Amazon (online) or Barnes and Noble (online) and write reviews of their books. And if you—the readers—like or even dislike their books, why not take a few minutes to share your feelings with other readers? Here are some reasons for the “why” of reviews, and then I’ll address some suggestions about the “how.”
Why Write Book Reviews
Potential buyers read reviews about vacuum cleaners, new laptops, recent vehicles, and … books. Reviews help sell all of those, and book reviews help potential readers decide if they want to read or buy a book. Book reviews may make the difference between a venue doing more advertising for that book (such as Amazon), or publishers picking up a series. I happen to be in the latter group since my current publisher is dropping all their mysteries. Every single one. This means I am looking for a publisher to pick up the Endurance series. Reviews help in that process.
What If I Hated a Book?
Every author I’ve known has received bad reviews at one time or another. As a writer, I never take bad reviews personally. A bad review often makes me think about what a reader has said and consider the possibility that the reader has a good point. One of the reviews for my mystery, Three May Keep a Secret, said my book seemed to be for an audience older than the reviewer’s twenty-something self, and so she didn’t care for my book. Two stars out of five. She was right: usually my audience is forty and older. That’s fine, and I understand why she felt that way. On the bright side, it also points out to other readers that they might like my book if they’re older than twenty-something. I’ve been fortunate in reviews for my first mystery, but I also realize not everyone likes a book they began reading with hope.
The How To
People often tell me they don’t write reviews because they have no idea what to write. I can help with that.
The first thing you might ask yourself is “What did I like or dislike about this book?” That is a good place to start, and a sentence or two will suffice. If that seems too vague, consider some of these possibilities, but you don’t have to write about all of them. Just pick one or two that seem pertinent.
The plot: How was the pace of the plot? Did it keep your interest? Did it sag in the middle (often a problem)? Did it confuse you? Did you stay up all night reading because you couldn’t put the book down? [We authors love to hear that last thought.]
The conflict: This goes along with the pacing of the plot. A good book has conflict(s) that move the story along. Often subplots with their own conflicts tie into main plots. Did the author seem to make this work well? Did the conflict keep you reading? Were the various subplots finished to your satisfaction? Did the book solve the main conflict?
The point of view: Did the writer choose the right person(s) to tell the story? Or did the story seem to hop from one person to another so you couldn’t tell who was talking? If the writer told the story from his/her own point of view, did that seem like the best way to do it?
The characters: What did you think of the characters, especially the main characters? Like them? Hate them? Feel sorry for them? Root for them? Did the characters seem like real people or more than just stereotypes? Were they well-rounded? Did the author dump a lot of character back story that slowed down the plot? What about the characters’ motives? Did you believe that Joe decided not to marry Sally because he wanted to go into the army instead?
The setting: Was it supposed to be real? Imaginary? Did it work with the story and was it described so you could almost see it, smell it and feel it? Did too much description slow down the plot?
What do you think? Is this enough to get you started? Just pick a question or two that makes sense with the book you read. The important thing is that you consider writing a review, however brief. Even going to a site and giving a book stars is helpful if you don’t want to write your thoughts. Use a different name if you want, like “lifetime reader” or “Simple Simon” or “Girl with a Book Tattoo.” The writer you save with your review may be the one you like best!