Writing Book Reviews: An Author & Reader's Viewpoint
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Most authors are obsessed with getting book reviews. Supposedly, getting a certain number of reviews on Amazon will give your book more exposure. This may be true, but that should not be the number one reason an author should ask a reader to review their book.
First, let’s back up and talk about reviews themselves for a moment. Reviews are not a book report. Let me say that again for the kids in the back: A BOOK REVIEW IS NOT A BOOK REPORT. Yes, your elementary school teacher was not teaching you how to review a book, but how to read for understanding. You had to write all those paragraphs about plots and characters so she knew that you not only read it, but understood what was actually going on in the book. It was proof you read the damn thing.
That being said, I read reviews for a book (which I do) to see what others thought about it. I’m looking for opinions on the writing style, the characters, the ending, etc. I am NOT looking for a summary of the story. I mean, why do sites like Goodreads or Barnes & Noble bother having the summary right there for the interested buyer to read when the reviewers are just going to summarize the thing anyway? Yeah, exactly. If someone asks me if I liked a movie, I don’t go on a ten minute monologue about the entire plot of the movie. I tell them if I liked it or if I didn’t and why. This is what a book review should be. An opinion on the book.
Doesn’t that make writing a book review so much simpler? Now that you know it doesn’t need to be eight paragraphs long, six of them the summary, you should breathe easier knowing you can write more reviews for your favorite books. I write a review for every indie book I read because as a writer, I understand the true value of these reviews.
Now back to why they are so important. A review is a way for the reader to give feedback to the author. Sure, you could stalk them on social media, send them creepy instant messages, dig up their home address and stand outside their house in the rain, holding a sign about your undying love, but methinks that is not a good idea. (But do let me know if this is you, so I can let my friends in law enforcement know.) A review is a way to gush to the author about how much you enjoyed the story and why. It is also a way to tell them what you didn’t like about it and why.
A good review can make my day. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, my brain is constantly telling me that I suck at this and should throw in the towel. Getting a positive review about one of my books can pull me out of a slump and give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Words are that powerful, people.
Honestly, I no longer cringe when I get less-than-satisfied reviews these days. In truth, I’m happy to know if I have any serious errors that somehow got past beta readers and editors. I want to know if the content was too grotesque or someone hated a certain character. I want to know if my writing style is not your cup of tea. I need this feedback. Readers, this is seriously helpful information for a writer. It tells us not only what we are doing wrong but what we are doing right. If I’m writing a series and every reviewer hates one of the main characters in the first book, maybe I need to find a way for that character to redeem themselves down the road. Or maybe I wanted that character to be hated. Either way, it’s helpful information.
So, a review is not a book summary, but it is also not an opportunity to trash-talk a writer. You hated the book, okay. Instead of stating that the writer shouldn’t quit their day job or typing out thinly veiled death threats, how about give the author some constructive criticism. Seriously, act your age, reviewers. I have read some reviews in my time that made me shake my head and wonder if that person was spanked enough as a kid.
My friend had a reader buy a paperback of her book, burn it in a fire-pit, write a review about how horrible it was and how they couldn’t believe it was even published, and then upload a picture of them burning the book to Amazon. Wow, that is dedication and says a lot about that person. I mean, you hated it so much you bought a paperback, which is more expensive than an e-book? You took the time to not only burn it but take a picture of the fire and upload it? At least my friend gets to pocket some of that money they spent so, good job, random dude. A review is not meant to hurt a writer, but to help them. If you have so much anger inside you that you have to take it out on a stranger who is only doing their best to entertain the world, maybe you should get some help.
In conclusion, reviews are important to an author. It could literally be one sentence long and still make an impact. We don’t need a book summary, but an opinion. Because readers’ opinions do matter to us. Your words help us grow as writers.