Writing reviews that help readers find books

As an author, I understand the value of reviews. I need them to help readers find out if other readers enjoyed my book. I often read through reviews of other books I'm interested in. Am I swayed by bad reviews or good reviews? Not really. My mind will be made up by the book description, and sometimes, though not always, by the number of reviews.

Readers are consumers. Writers are consumers. As a reader I need to know that I'm going to invest my time wisely. As a writer, I need to know you feel comfortable telling me that you enjoyed it without having to feel the need to write an essay.

So I'm going to dispel a few myths about what writers are looking for in a review.

Myth number one:

A review is a critique.

BUSTED: I don't want a reader to have to agonize over whether the author captured the notion of belonging, or the character arc, or the three act structure was followed. If you have time to write a critical review, then by all means do so. But if this is what is preventing you from giving a review of a book, then one line or one paragraph is perfectly adequate. it's more than adequate. Anything you have to say is so helpful for authors and readers. Your review doesn't have to be an essay.

This is an actual review received via email from a fan for my spy adventure novel Feedback:

....i thought feedback was so good such an interesting concept and i have to say something i have actually thought about fantastic read fantastic !!!!


Myth number two:

3 or 4 stars is a good rating.

CONFIRMED: If you check the Goodreads ranking scale, 3 stars means you liked it, 4 stars means you really liked it and 5 stars means it was amazing.

We all want 5 star reviews. But with so many 5 star reviews being handed out they are losing their value. Next we'll need to introduce a 6 or 7 star system so we can rate the books we really do love higher than 5.

I'll give an example. My favourite books are The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Robocalypse by Daniel H Wilson, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. these are the books which all books must now be compared to. So why would I give a book I thought was good, or worse just okay, a 5 star rating?

It isn't necessary to pander to an author's ego. In fact, pandering to my ego and telling me everything is great is counter-productive. I received 3.5 stars for The Bird With The Broken Wing from Night Owl Reviews and it's an honest review. I'm over the moon about an honest review, so please feel free to give them, even if the author is your friend.

Myth number three:

A review is your opportunity to take your angst out on the world.

BUSTED: If you hated a book, then you should still make your review professional. If you can't do that then a simple, "I did not like this book and I will not be reading anything else this author writes" will suffice. I have read a few nasty reviews on Amazon, (none or any of my books, thankfully) and I only end up thinking that whoever wrote that review is a tool. Be professional.

Some examples of well-written 1 star reviews:

Could not get into this book.
Very slow and repetitive.

Example of reviews not to write:

I didn't even read it wanted to try another book so skipped to the end of the book thank you

I'm staggered to understand why someone would even leave a review for a book they didn't read. Didn't finish, perhaps, but didn't read???

These are just a few myths busted. If I think of anymore I shall be sure to let you know. How do you go at writing reviews? do you give them verbally to your friends, or do you write them on Goodreads and Amazon and other online sites.

About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.
You can check out her more about books at her website www.dlrichardson.com


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