Do’s and Don’t of Book Reviews

 

woman reading book

Write a review it takes only a few minutes.

I last posted a how-to article on submitting book reviews on Amazon. Today I thought I’d do a refresher on the concept of a review—specifically reviews on Amazon and other book sale sites. In these reviews, don’t think you must retell the story. The book ad has a blurb describing the content. So, our job as the reviewer is to express to potential readers what we liked or didn’t like about a book.

Our review can be as simple as one line.

“I could not put this book down.”

“I read it in one day.”

“Not my cup of tea.”

None of these one-liners mention the story’s content. But, it’s their honest review. A friend asks you, “Did you see such and such a movie?” Your response might be. “It was cool.” Now if you know this person and you have similar tastes you’ll go see it.

A book review needs a bit more information because many strangers will be reading your comments. Two of the one-liners above tell me the book kept the reader’s attention and the third it didn’t. Add a line or two telling why.

Describe what you loved about it. “I loved not figuring out who done it before it was revealed at the end of the book.” If I am looking for a mystery this is a comment that gets my interest.

“Not sappy. Strong female characters. Interesting twists. More than a simple romance.” I love a romance with more than two people making eyes at each other.  So, this review has my interest.

“I learned so much about life during the Civil War. Well-researched.” I like historicals that are fact filled. I’d consider reading this novel.

Some reviewers copy exact quotes from the book. That is so cool. Tells me the writer is a great wordsmith if the reader is captured by the words enough to quote them.

glasses on paper-2

What not to review

I read a review of a thriller that I found odd. “Too creepy.” She said. The reviewer added she didn’t like being scared. Not sure why she read a thriller when the whole point is to scare the reader at least a little.

Don’t bother to review a book you haven’t finished. If you do, admit you couldn’t finish it and say why.

Don’t review a book from genre you never read unless you loved it. It’s not fair to the writer. You can’t give an honest review of a genre you don’t like. There are specific ingredients that make up each genre. If you only like pie then cake may never satisfy you even if it has won a blue ribbon.

There are rare occasions when I’m asked to review a book way out of my wheelhouse. And if I am surprised that the content interested me, I mention that in the review. But often, I’ll suggest the author find someone who loves their genre to review it.

Please don’t review a book you have never read because your friend told you it was terrible and ask you to help get the word out. The flip side is true too. Don’t give a 5-star rating to a book your friend loved but you never read it. Honestly, I’ve meant people who are lemmings when it comes to reviews. This is not fair to prospective readers.

Longer reviews

There are those who write wonderful long reviews that compare the book to others in the genre or other titles the author has written. This is helpful to many who follow a specific author.  These longer reviews can often capture the attention of a new readers. If the review of an up and coming Romance novelist is compared to Nicholas Sparks or Debbie Macomber their fans will probably buy the book.

Be kind

But you don’t have to wax poet or long. Just be honest. While you’re at it, be kind. Snarky lines only give you grief. I did that only once. The feedback from the irate author and his fake friends (he wrote more criticisms of me under various names.) was not worth the time it took me to be snarky. We are not Sisko and Ebert getting big bucks to be brash, so keep your criticism mellow.

Misspelling and confusion

Be sure if you mention a character that you have the name right. Someone praised my heroine using the wrong name. It’s easy to do. We get involved in the story and then the names get jumbled in our heads later. Try to have no typos, especially the authors name. Yes, I’ve done that too. I’ve caught myself misspelling a name. Yay for the edit button.

Recap

Be honest.

Be clear.

Be kind.

Be accurate.

Don’t give a bad review for a genre you don’t read.

Don’t review a book you’ve never read.

Don’t retell the story.

Final thought

Please, please, please don’t give spoilers. As much as you want to, don’t tell me the twist details.  Save those comments for your book club.

What are you favorite kinds of reviews when you are considering buying a book?

If you’ve read Secrets & Charades I hope you’ve posted a review. If you haven’t read it yet check it out. There’s a buy link below.

secret-charades-front-cover

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.

Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage

Click here to order

Connect with Cindy:

Facebook Author Page: https ://www.facebook.com/author.huff11/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff

Pinterest: yes

Google+:https://plus.google.com/u/0/117599590227912410637

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8029703-cindy-ervin-huff

Twitter: https:// twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff

How Do I Place A Review On Amazon?

As a new author I often asked those who purchase my novel to please post a review on Amazon. Many will say I don’t know how. And if they are like me they need a visual. This post is for all of us who need very specific instruction to complete a task. In this case post a review.

  1. Write your review in Word. Spell check it then save it. The save part is in case something happens after you write it and before you post it and you lose your review.
  2. Copy review.
  3. Go to amazon.com and type the title of the book you want to review in the search panel.    InkedSecrets Charades Cindy Ervin Huff 9781946016140 Amazon.com Books(1)_LI
  4. Click on the title so you are on the order page.
  5. Scroll to the review area. InkedSecrets Charades Cindy Ervin Huff 9781946016140 Amazon.com Books_LI
  6. Near the review stars you will see a write customer review button.
  7. Click write a customer review and paste your review in the box provided
  8. Choose star rating
  9. Add a snappy title and click submit button.
  10. Tell all your friends on FB that you posted a review.

Now you know. 😊 The next time someone asks you to do a review you can do so with confidence.

Where is your favorite place to post reviews?

Hey, if you’ve read Secrets & Charades and haven’t posted a review please do. If you haven’t read it yet here is the link.secret-charades-front-cover

 

 

 

Six Tips to Keep Your Reviews on Amazon

reading-booksHave you had a review pulled from Amazon and wondered why? I mean grandma should be allowed to give a review. Let me share the rules Amazon has that could get your review pulled and a few tips to help writers inform their reviewers.

  1. No reviewers can use associate links. These are links to your blog, website or publisher’s page. That is considered compensation. If someone checks out your site and buys your books, then you got paid for doing a review. Don’t use Amazon book reviews to promote your own books or other products.

 

  1. Reviewers must have purchased $50 or more in products from Amazon to post any kind of review. (Amazon is a business. This is their way of ensuring you’re not just posting a review for a friend or are a paid reviewer.) Might be wise to ask your reviewers if they do business with Amazon to avoid their review being pulled.

 

  1. You can receive an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) for review. However, near the end of your review, you must mention it’s an ARC and you were given no compensation for your unbiased, honest review. Never use the word FREE. A free copy denotes payment.

Let’s recap.

Encourage your reviewers not to add links. They must be customers of Amazon. And carefully word a reference to receiving an ARC copy without using the word free.

Consider this

  1. What email address are they using? If George, Mary and Junior Jones use the same email or same Amazon account, those will be deleted. This appears as if the same person posted multiple reviews.

No influencing allowed

  1. Don’t expect your chosen reviewers to give you a 5-star rating. That’s called influence. Influencing their opinion in any way is forbidden. Asking them to please post a review if they enjoyed your book is fine. Someone can enjoy your book and still give it a 3-star rating for formatting issues or cover design for example.

 

No duplicating

  1. Be sure the reviewer uses their own words. Don’t provide a template. Also, too many “I liked it” or “It was good” with 5 stars rating sounds fake. Coaching them to mention what they like about your book will help them write something unique.

“The setting was breathtaking.”

“I learn so much about myself.”

The reviews don’t have to be long or fancy—just truthful.

 

Final thoughts about content.

Encourage your reviewers to double check their wording and their star reviews. Leaving out words can make the review sound odd. Misspelled words are not good. Ten dollar words are even worse. No one will understand if the reviewer truly enjoyed your book. Their verbiage might disguise their true feelings. I looked up some unfamiliar words I found in a review of a book I was considering. They weren’t flattering. Another important tip: sometimes the star rating function doesn’t end where you want it. A friend of mine had an awesome review of her book, but it had a 1-star rating. Check and double check before posting.

 

10 Tips for writing book reviews and how it hones your writing craft

These are some of the books I've reviews in 2014. I have many more on my Kindle.

These are some of the books I’ve reviews in 2014. I have many more on my Kindle.

I began writing book reviews first because I love books and second because I wanted to help other authors promote their books. In the small secret place in my heart where true motives lie, I hope others would return the favor for my future books. In the process of writing 100 reviews I discovered it hones lots of writing tools writers use often.

Writing book reviews helps improve your writing overall and can help improve queries and proposals. If you want to try your hand at reviews whether for a paying market or retail sale sites such as Amazon or websites like Goodreads I hope you find value in these tips.

Tip # 1 When writing a novel review don’t give a spoiler. Whether you loved the book or hated it don’t give away the end. Don’t reveal who done it or the dramatic plot twist. This isn’t fair to the author or future readers.

Tip # 2 A review is not a book report. You don’t have to take paragraphs to retell the story in your own words. A brief sentence or two about the plot is fine. Your goal is sharing your take on the work as a whole. Retelling the whole story before adding your opinion makes it overly long and may cause readers to skip or skim it. Publishers don’t take the time to read overlong query letters either.

Tip# 3 A book review is a great way to practice writing tight. Try to give your review using the least amount of words to make your point. Flowery adjective can distract. Hundred dollar words that require a dictionary (unless this is an academic book for an academic audience) are also not recommended. Keep it simple but intriguing. Publishers want plot summaries for your book in various lengths to use for marketing. Writing other people’s novel summaries gives you good practice.

Tip # 4 Point out what you like about the story, how it spoke to you. As a writer I notice clever phrasing and creative use of time and place. As a reader I notice if I am drawn into the story or not moved by their dilemma. Tell the reader if you related to the hero or whether the setting was well-written. Publisher’s want to know how you feel audiences will relate to your book.

Tip # 5 If you didn’t care for the book be gracious. There are some authors who will be so offended by a bad review they will continue to argue with you in the comments. Being snarky may be fun but it creates nothing but bad feelings. Trust me, season your criticism with the salt of grace.

Tip # 6 Non-fiction reviews need to speak to the theme of the book and its value to the reader. Why was the devotional encouraging? How is it different? Why would you recommend it? Is the subject matter in a dog training book different or the same as those already in publication? The ability to compare and contrast is needed when writing a book proposal. The publisher wants to know how your book compares to others in the same genre. How is your subject matter different?

Tip # 7 On Amazon your review appears at the point of sale. So you don’t have to mention the name of the book and author in the first sentence of your review. The author’s blurb is handy too so you can focus on your opinion of the work rather than rehashing the story line.

Tip # 8 Use a catchy title to draw attention. Writing attention-grabbing titles is another great thing to add to a writer’s toolbox. A catchy title is the key to draw readers to your articles and blog posts/

Tip # 9 Magazines and e-zines have specific format that need to be followed. Look through your favorite periodicals. There is usual a book review section. Read the reviews for style and above all read the guidelines. Most of these reviews require the basics: book title, publisher and author information in the first few sentences. Send a query explaining the slant of your review and why you are a good fit to write it. For example if you are a baseball coach reviewing a book about coaching little league would be a good fit.

Having some knowledge of a field gives you the opportunity to write a book review for a specific audience. If you are an expert in fishing let’s say. You can approach Field and Stream about doing a review on some new fishing book. Or even a classic you feel has value. If you are not an expert but have an interest in the subject matter you can still do a review. Your book propels will need to tell the publisher why you are qualified to write your non-fiction book.

Tip # 10 Take your time and approach your review whether paid or unpaid like any other article. Be sure there are no typos or grammar errors. Present your best work. A publisher may see your review and it might open doors for future work so be sure it’s your best.

Do you have any tips about writing reviews or questions for me comment below.   One of my commenters will receive a $10 amazon gift e-card.