I was surprised when a few fans told me they’d like to learn more about how to write a book review that’s helpful to the author. I’m a little hesitant to blog about this because I’m not a reviewer. But in speaking with reviewers, I’ve been finding ways to bridge the gap. And as an author, I can tell you from my point of view, what’s important to us in a review.
There is definitely an art to a good review. Anyone who says writing book reviews is easy, hasn’t put a lot of effort into them. I have mad love and respect for devoted readers who write beautiful reviews, post them all over the internet and their blog, and sometimes get hell from authors or other readers for it. They’re putting themselves out there just like the rest of us.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard about this the other way around – cruel reviewers that are mean to poor innocent authors just for the fun of it. And all authors have stories of nasty reviews or bloggers who’ve hurt them in some way but this time, I’m talking about the opposite problem.
It’s easy to picture book reviewers as sadistic women who circle typos with a red pen then laugh as they picture collecting each tear an author sheds while reading their review in a glass jar then keeping them in a closet full of other glass jars of other author’s tears.
The reviewers I know don’t collect tears in jars. It’s really gross and also a terrible use of closet space that could be filled with more books. The reviewers I know put a lot of thought into their reviews. They aren’t out there to throw metaphorical rotten tomatoes at metaphorical authors on metaphorical stages. They care about the authors they review. They are often devoted to them, even if they don’t like a book or two of theirs. The reviewers I know don’t aim to hurt writer’s feelings, but they’re passionate enough about books that they want to give an accurate description of the product and their opinion. It’s a tough balance.
So a few people have asked me what an author wants in a review. And now I’m finally getting around to answering. Remember, this is all my opinion. If I miss anything important, feel free to leave a comment below.
The first thing to remember is not to spoil the plot. Describing the conflict or basic plot of the story is a great thing. It gets readers interested in the story. But revealing a major twist or the happy ending isn’t fair to the reader or the author. I know for me, dropping an anvil over the reader’s head (metaphorically, of course) is one of the most fun parts of writing. I love shocking readers. I love reading books that have a surprise twist. I don’t want it ruined and neither do most readers.
If you have such a strong opinion about a part of the plot that you think might be a spoiler, an easy way to fix that is to write…
Then readers will know to skip that part if they want to be surprised. So instead of saying…
So the book was really good, the guy and girl fell in love right away and I thought they’d be married, but then on page 150, OMG!!!! The boyfriend died!!! I was so heartbroken I almost threw the book in the garbage. But I kept reading because someone told me there was a happy ending. But it turns out, on page 200, HE DIDN’T REALLY DIE!!! He was only abducted by aliens. And though he came back a little different, they still love each other and get married. Even his alien offspring are so cute!
You can write put the above spoiler alter just before that part so readers about to read the book can be just as shocked as you were.
This also goes for revealing the entire plot in a review. It’s true authors like you to summarize their book. It shows you read it, which is helpful. And as I said, it gives people an idea of if they’re interested in reading it. But writing a book report on it isn’t necessary, and it probably wastes your time too. Instead, try sticking to the main conflict and characters. Envision if you were writing a movie trailer for the book. What would Morgan Freeman narrate as scenes from the book played?
A couple things to remember. Most authors don’t set the price of their book, their publisher does. So giving a one star because you thought it was overpriced, isn’t helpful. They also don’t always control the length either. If an author writes a novella (a short length book), it’s usually on purpose. In a novella, the plot is often simpler and the characters somewhat less developed. Giving a low review because the book was too short isn’t fair. It was meant to be short. Pay attention when you buy a book to the cover or description. Does it say it’s a novella? Then it was supposed to be short. Expect it to feel different than a full length novel. If that’s not your thing, then please please don’t review it. And definitely avoid leaving a one star review because you didn’t like the length. Again, not always our fault..
Along the same lines: If a book is labelled “erotic” it’s probably gonna be dirty. If it’s in the fantasy category, there’s probably some sort of magic. If it’s a murder mystery, there’s violence. Get the point? Read what you’re comfortable with. Pay attention. If you tried something different and read a vampire romance but hate vampires, please do not give it a one star review because you hate vampire stories. It’s supposed to be a vampire story for vampire lovers.
Authors. Don’t piss off your reviewers! Again, they’re not evil monsters that feed upon your agony. They’re regular people. Most of them don’t even realize you read their reviews. Here’s how to stop yourself from being upset with reviewers. Ready? This is pure gold.
Don’t read your reviews!
No, really. It’s a guaranteed way to stop getting your feelings hurt.
Reviewers. Just say how the book made you feel. Why you loved it. What your favorites parts were (without spoilers). I love when readers put in their favorite lines. What touched you the most about the story or characters. Did you laugh or cry or sigh or wish you were there? Those are the things that make them memorable, that make readers want to pick up the book.
So if authors don’t read their reviews, and reviewers are careful with how and what they review, we can all just get along and be happy together! Build tree forts. Bake cookies. Sing songs in front of a fire while roasting marshmallows. Yes? Aw. See? Isn’t this nice?