How to Write a Helpful Review


Before I began writing on a daily basis, I read. I mean I devoured romance novels like I needed them for my very survival. When my kids were small, I frequented the library. I read exclusively romance, but the sub-genres varied from contemporary to suspense to historical. Honestly, it depended on what covers caught my eye and what I was in the mood for that day. I would leave with six or seven books and return less than a week later to get new books. I was a voracious reader.

I still am, although I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I should. Believe me, if I could read all day, I would. Unfortunately, my kids are older and much more active and my husband actually wants to spend time with me. Fancy that. *laughs*

There is one thing I never quite understood the importance of as a reader that now makes perfect sense as an author.

REVIEWS.

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Now that eBooks have taken off, reviews are much easier to access. I admit, I read them when I’m considering whether to purchase a book by a new-to-me author. I read the five stars, the one stars, and a few in-between. Honestly, I rarely find reviews to be helpful. Most of the time I end up downloading the free sample of the story to see if it hooks me. That normally provides me with enough insight into the quality of the story to make the decision whether or not to purchase the book.

As an author, reviews can be crucial to the success of a book. Amazon won’t even market my books until they have a certain number of reviews. Obviously people rely on them heavily to decide whether or not to buy my book. Reviews are important to authors and readers alike.

Now to the heart of it all, what makes for a HELPFUL review?

One and two star reviews, are they really helpful? I get it, you pick up a book that looks promising. You dive in with gusto, only to be disappointed. The characters are unlikable, unrelatable. The plot is predictable. There are elements you absolutely hated. It’s cliche. There’s too much sex. There’s not enough sex. The author obviously skipped the crucial step of editing or hiring a professional editor. The list of possibilities is endless.

But, does that deserve a one star review? Perhaps.

I get it. You’re pissed that the story fell short of your expectations. You wasted your time and your money. I can relate completely. But remember, be kind. Don’t say anything in your review that you wouldn’t say in person to the author’s face. What comes into play here is tact and constructive criticism. Offer valid points on what you liked and didn’t like about the story, or why you couldn’t finish the book. But for every criticism you have, you should balance it with something you liked.

A good author will appreciate your review if you provide both the good and the bad for consideration. If the book wasn’t to your personal tastes, please make that clear in the review. Some people like steamy romance. Some people don’t. I get it. But be kind with your words. Remember, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, you shouldn’t write it.

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I found this helpful chart from www.jpmfilmsworldwide.com that can help distinguish constructive criticism from destructive criticism. I’ve linked the photo to his blog post on this topic in order to give credit to the author and provide some helpful reading material for everyone. Because honestly, we all need a bit of help learning to give constructive criticism. But this adequately describes what we so desperately lack in reviews. JPM Films Worldwide Constructive Crit

I’m sure you’re wondering, “Well, what about good reviews? What if I want to give a three, four, or five star review?”

Let’s be honest with each other. There are always parts of even the best book that we find ourselves dissatisfied with. Most of these are personal preferences, I get that. But it’s still important that we provide constructive criticism in a positive review as well.

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The truth is authors are always growing and improving their craft. Constructive criticism is what helps us grow and learn. It teaches us humility and aids us in polishing our craft.

I once took a piece of my work to a writer’s group. Everyone praised it. Oh how wonderful it was, how descriptive…blah, blah, blah. One gentleman in the group gave me a sigh when it was his turn for feedback. He said, “Kirsten, your powers of description are amazing. I can almost visualize every detail. But honestly, the story has no conflict, your characters are two-dimensional, and it’s boring and predictable.”

OUCH! I won’t lie. That assessment hit me HARD. But it was that feedback that challenged me to grow as an author. I didn’t need placated or a “good job” pat on the back. I wanted honest, constructive criticism. It helped me get to where I am now. And I will always be thankful for those who challenge me to improve and hone my craft.

Whether the book was good or bad, the author deserves a review. Be honest, be kind, and balance the positives with the negatives. Writing a review shouldn’t be intimidating. It’s not rocket science.

A review is your way of telling the author how much you appreciate them and providing them with the tools they need to grow. So, go out and share the love.

Always remember:

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Your recommendation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions. As always, be kind.

May your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

 

 

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2 thoughts on “How to Write a Helpful Review

  1. Your remark about evaluating a book before you buy it is pretty accurate. The only way to really know is to read a few pages and see if the writer’s prose fits you. All the plot twists and irony in the word cannot save a book that is a chore to read…

    1. Thank you for your comment. 🙂 I totally agree. Life is too short to read books you aren’t enjoying. I love that I can download a sample and see if it hooks me first. I’ve found some great authors this way too.

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