Authors and Reviewers – can’t we all just get along? by Leia Shaw

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.

tearsThe 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…

***Spoiler alert***

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?

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About Susan Hanniford Crowley

Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Author
This entry was posted in romance and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Authors and Reviewers – can’t we all just get along? by Leia Shaw

  1. Lina Sacher says:

    I want to build a fort. I’ve never built a fort. I’ll bring the marshmallows. But don’t expect me to sing. That is never gonna happen.

  2. Pingback: Authors and Reviewers – can’t we all just get along? by Leia Shaw | collettecameron

  3. LOL! Love this. I have massive respect for reviewers. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, writing-wise, and it always filled me with anxiety while I wrote them.

  4. Miriam Smith says:

    I recently started reviewing books regularly for Entangled Publishing. Let me tell you, when you have to review a book for someone, it really makes you think about what you’re writing in the review. You don’t want to go on a bash-fest. It looks bad on you as the reviewer and can seriously damage the author’s reputation. No worries, lol. I don’t bash when I review. I do try to craft a thorough review, one that points out the good and bad about the characters, the plot, the pace, and the ending. And I always include a small note to the author that highlights their writing style and storytelling ability.

    Reviews aren’t easy to write. But when done right, reviews can do things two things:
    1. Generate a greater audience for the author, and
    2. Generate credibility for the reviewer

  5. Stacey says:

    I love writing reviews…I am a picky reviewer upon giving 5 stars…most things I read get 3 or 4. I never share spoilers…that’s sometimes the best thing in a book! why ruin it for someone?!?!

    I do like to share what I find relatable/likable/etc about the characters. That to me makes a story go over the top. When I can fall in love with the characters you create and laugh or cry with them, then I am hooked forever. so Most of my reviews focus on characters and an overall why i loved it. I usually don’t summarize because authors put a lot of work into theirs, there isn’t a need for me to restate that!

    I have come across some authors that are bitchy about the reviews I leave…and some that even tho I reviewed a book i couldn’t finish (giving a sad 1 star), left a very nice comment appreciating my time and thoughts. No spoilers, no bashing the author. it just wasn’t for me. There is never cause to be mean or nasty about it ~ there is a level of professionalism that is important!

    I think we all should be able to get along, because we all want the same thing 🙂 Happy reading time! LOL

    Great thoughts Leia, it’s nice to know what an author likes to see ~ if they actually read them! It’s hard as a reviewer because you want to share your love with others, but it’s sometimes fan-girlish and you want the author to see that if you did or didn’t enjoy it and why…and sometimes, I think reviewers feel like red-headed step children because we never know if what we put out there is appreciated as more than a way to sell more books. And that is so not meant to be snarky! ~ Sometimes I hate these discussions online! LOL

    But, I will shut up now and go write another review 😉

  6. Nona Raines says:

    This was a great post. As an author, I try not to read my reviews. Well, okay, if they’re good I read them. If I see less than three stars, I run away and hide. I do think that most reviewers try to be fair and even when a review has been less than stellar I can sometimes see the reviewer’s point.

    I have a question for reviewers, though, if anyone would care to answer it. Sometimes we authors get bummed by less than four stars (or hearts, or whatever). Is a three star review just a “meh” or a pretty good read but not outstanding or what?

  7. dougmeeks says:

    Well I stumbled into this blog via a Facebook post but since I spent a good part of the last 2-3 years building my reviewing skills to the point where I finally broke into the Top 500 club on Amazon and the Top 1% on Goodreads, this article caught my eye.

    I make posts for authors to use to appeal to reviewers (and hopefully the reading public) in the hope to help them avoid pitfalls I see many times.

    Let me say that while many reviewers do not agree with me on this one I NEVER knowingly use spoilers in my reviews. I just hate it when I want to read a book and in looking over the reviews spot some huge spoiler (warning or not sometimes you cannot help seeing a bit of it).

    Tell people what you liked or hated, them them WHY you liked/hated it.

    Common things that drive me nuts:

    -Pages of what people wear/drink/eat/etc once or twice is enough unless it really is important.

    -Sex sells – too much sex just bores “most” people (if you write for a niche then go for it), I see pages upon pages of what I refer to as “filler sex” meaning it uses pages and adds nothing to the story. If you eliminate half the sex in your book and the story falls apart, you might want to work on your story.

    -Edit, edit , EDIT since you can’t have enough editing/beta readers. (a personal peeve of mine is your/you’re used interchangeably)

    – NOTE: Exception to above, if your story is good enough reviewers tend to not notice small errors unless they are OCD (and it seems many are)

    -and to all reviewers – long and good are not synonyms – Some of my best reviews were only a paragraph, even the best reviews if too long just don’t get read by most people looking for a book to read. There is no standard, just keep it as short as possible while getting your thoughts across and DON’T repeat the synopsis if possible, they already read that before your review (this is for Amazon/Goodreads type reviews where the synopsis is already at the top of the page).

    I have more but I am in danger of breaking my own rule about too long 🙂

    Feel free to pick mine apart in the comments but don’t vote Not Helpful, took too long to get here 🙂

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A3NVB6HKMUH2NM/

  8. Stacey says:

    Nona ~

    Every reviewer seems to have their own judgement of the rating systems. Which I know makes it difficult!!

    To me a 3 is “meh” It’s not a bad book. Just didn’t hit the right notes for me. If someone was interested in something like it, I would tell them about it. A lot of times I can’t pinpoint why it’s a 3…but usually it’s because the characters or situations didn’t make me feel invested in the story and so I probably skimmed through it and was left just feeling nothing extraordinary.

  9. Nona Raines says:

    Thanks for answering, Stacey. I guess so much of reviewing is subjective, maybe we authors shouldn’t take a less than stellar review too much to heart.

    Leia–congratualtions on the awesome review! 🙂

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