Writing Reviews: Dos and Don’ts

I don’t know about you, but writing a review terrifies me. I always worry I’m going to say something stupid or hurt the author by posting my review of their book. But reviews are an important part of the reading process. I like to view reviews as a love letter showing both the things I loved and didn’t love about the book. 

But there are specific do’s and don’ts for writing a review and posting it online.

Reviews aren’t typically for the authors. (Even though they can help them improve their craft, but that’s a different discussion.) They’re for other readers who are considering adding the book to their TBR pile. But that doesn’t mean they won’t help authors in other ways.

If you’re writing a positive, encouraging review for a book you enjoyed, then the author may want to be included in the celebration. Tagging authors in a positive review may give them a boost of encouragement. But remember, if you didn’t enjoy the book or plan on giving it a less-than-favorable review, please do not tag the author in it. They have enough on their plate without that added stress. If in doubt, don’t tag the author in the review.

Me personally? I love being tagged in a positive review of my books, but I hate being tagged in a negative one. It’s taken me a long time to realize that my books aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. We all love different things, and that’s what makes our experiences unique. But please, for my sanity as well as other authors’ sanity, don’t tag them in anything negative. Life’s too short for negativity.

A well-written review is a fantastic way to support the authors you love by giving a written recommendation for other readers to find in their search for their next book! So if you read a book you enjoyed, sometimes a few lines and a star rating are the perfect way to show other readers what to expect from that book.

Honestly, I rarely read reviews when looking to purchase a book. 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 decide whether to purchase the book. Some readers love to read reviews before making a purchase. So it’s definitely a personal preference.

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 to buy my book. Honest reviews are important to authors and readers alike.

Not every book you read will be 4 or 5 stars. In fact, a 3-star review still means you enjoyed the book. This is my standard when I write a review. I’ve included some tips to help you learn to write a helpful review for both authors and readers. But first…

What makes for a HELPFUL review? And can one or two-star reviews really be helpful?

We’ve all been there. Picked up a book that looked promising and jumped into it with gusto, only to be disappointed. The characters are unlikable and unrelatable. The plot is predictable. There are elements that absolutely did not work. 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 rage-filled, 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. Say nothing 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, try to balance it with something you liked.

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 in a review.

Let’s be honest. 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 context in the review so that other readers can decide if this is something that will affect their reading experience.

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

I’d like to share one of my favorite reviewers. She has a way of capturing the important details of the story without giving spoilers or ruining the story. She’s honest and engaged. Yes, she’s read quite a few of my books and given feedback ranging from 3 to 5 stars. But I value her thoughtfulness and creativity. Her reviews HOOK me as a reader.

Buffyanna provides a great example of an enticing review here:

Here are some things to remember while writing a book review:

1. Keep it simple.

2. What did you like?

3. What didn’t work for you?

4. Don’t recap the whole book play-by-play. 

5. Please don’t give spoilers for major plot points, twists, or reveals.

6. Include quotes you love. (I adore this!)

7. Have fun with it.

Your recommendation is the most sincere form of flattery, so thank you for your love and support. xoxo May your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so. Happy reading and reviewing!

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