Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to write a review? Don't I just say I liked it?

Reviews.  I have many, many feelings about reviews.  Schmexy Girls posted an interesting question on their Facebook page recently:

"Do you feel only bad reviews are honest? Do you think the negative reviews hold more weight than positive? Why?"

Honestly, I like all reviews, positive and negative.  As long as they are well-written, to the point reviews. Reviews need to cover all the essential points.  Now, you'll scoff as this is probably going to be a hugely verbose post, but my blog my post rules.  Let's cover my biggest pet peeve first before I get into the type of reviews I'll read.  Pet Peeve: 


Got that part off my chest.  I absolutely hate reviews that go over the entire story in nine long paragraphs.  Okay, that's great you want to cover the part of review writing for fiction point 1: What was the story about?  Bully for you. But, I'd really like to read the book for myself.  So, thanks for all the spoilers and how we got to the HEA.  However, now you just took the $ .99-$9.99 I was going to give the author.  

What type of reviews do I like? The ones that follow the basic questions for both fiction and nonfiction:

  • What: did the book accomplish (non-fiction) or story about (fiction)?
  • Was the book well defined? Ideas clear and flowed? 
  • Could you relate to the material? Did you learn/grow from it? 
  • Did you like or dislike the book? Why?
  • Favorite part? Any unfavorite part? 
  • Recommended it? If yes, to whom? 
And please cover this in 3-4 concisely written paragraphs.  I am a busy person. I want to get lost in the book, not your review.  

Now, there are those of you who will argue. You like the lengthy ones that give you an indepth summary.  Not arguing your personal preference.  Just like movie reviewers, not all book reviewers will hit the right chord with the audience.  And of course, the short ones "I liked it" aren't exactly helpful.  Tell me why you liked it - two or three sentences.  That at least gives me a clue you read it and really enjoyed the story if you are willing to put forth the effort.  Oops, I guess I should put up or shut up then. 

In January this year, I was encouraged to start publicly sharing my reviews on books.  Money where my mouth is. I have 'Rules' for reviews I read and now I have to write one?   It was much harder than I thought.  I am a very wordy person.  I set out to learn how to write a review.  I found an awesome article that I use to help me  - Writing World: How to write a book review.  This is the best advice in the article on repeat, " Note: You don't have to answer every question - they're suggestions!"  Amen!  My first reviews are not great, but with each one I write, I am learning my voice. 

Next piece of advice to write reviews that 'JQ Public/Average Joe Reader' will read. To accomplish this task, find a reviewer you like, and start following them on Goodreads or wherever you can find them.  Read all their reviews.  Not necessarily buy what they buy, but mostly likely a review will be in the genre you enjoy.  I equate book reviewers to movie reviewers.  Align yourself with similar tastes and they will most likely 80% of the time be a good suggestion.  Now, analyze their review.  What appeals to you in how they write? What is the flow and style that appeals to you?  If they are funny and you are not, don't try comedy.  It's not for the timid. However, learning to be cheeky is a good goal.  

So, I've given you all my thoughts on reviews - go start writing ones.  The authors appreciate your positive ones.  The really good ones will love your negative parts.  Makes them think about the audience.  And maybe your reading doppleganger is out there and be so happy to find a new book that you suggest.

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