Over the last few months, I’ve been talking to fellow writers about reviews and what makes a good qualified review. It is something which has troubled many of us for some time. First though, I have to qualify this by saying… let’s not forget it takes time and trouble to read a book and write a review… however short, long, good or bad the review is.
I believe some people forget that the purpose of a review is not to caress the author’s ego or to put them down. A review is written so readers can ascertain the calibre of a book. By being given correct information and opinions on the book, readers can make their own decision on buying and reading that particular book.
So what should a reader look out for in a review? Everyone is different, but I’ve included my main criteria below.
I need to know the genre is one I want to read. I won’t read genre I hate, no matter how many 4 or 5 stars the book has. The only exception is when the book is remarkably different from others in its genre – then I might be tempted.
I like a brief description of the plot – just a few lines will hook me if it’s written well.
A description should state the level of expectation. For example if the book is based on murder or horror then it should say how blood thirsty the scenes are. Some people hate lurid passages, some adore plenty of gore. Other topics that should be mentioned in a review are whether there is religion, strong sex, politics or distasteful subjects such as child molesting.
To not include scenes like this might incur bad reviews from a purchaser. If I buy a book with good reviews then I want to know that I’m not going to be disappointed by reading some topics which are taboo for me. However, if some scenes such as I’ve mentioned do in fact further the plot then mention that fact too. As a reader or reviewer, everyone has different likes and opinions.
I believe a good review should include something which stands out in the novel and is not mentioned in either another review or from the synopsis/book description. Examples are the style of writing, gentle humour or a quirky character which adds to the story.
I’m pleased when I can recommend this book to certain people – adults who like horror, romance, or to certain age groups it will apply to for instance. On the other hand, something which will be hated by some people should be mentioned and why - without giving the whole plot and story away.
If the book is part of a series, then you can compare this volume with the others. Likewise if the writer has written other books, say how the characters and story flows (or not). Has the writer developed both characters and plot-line?
Am I going to be hooked from the start with a fast-paced book or if I’m going to be reeled in inch by inch? Am I going to be entertained, educated, amazed by the pace, action, drama, originality and can I relate to the story in any way? Is it believable? Or is it the writer’s own world and imagination which amazes me? (Both are perfectly valid.)
Conversely I both love and hate it when I have finished a book and I can’t get it out of my head. Share if this book has affected you. Either in a good or bad way - both are important.
And what do I hate to see in a review and believe adds nothing of value? All too often I see reviews written by people who believe the following points add something and yet I truly believe they do nothing.
Slagging off the author. Reviewers should be reviewing the book, not the author.
Using rude and inflammatory remarks. Without going into detail, we’ve all seen them and some are outrageous. If you think the book is bad then use a kind word; give a valid reason why you think the book is bad. Giving a reason/s is vital because some readers’ ideas may be very different from yours. This can help the author as giving reasons for dislike may help the writer improve future writing, but only if your logic is solid.
Sarcasm. So the reviewer thinks they’re clever? This adds nothing except show up the reviewer.
Spoilers and destroying the book’s ending. After reading a book and then writing a review because you enjoyed it, part of the purpose of that review is to help the author sell extra copies. Don’t tell future readers the whole plot. No one will buy the book if they already know the ending or all the exciting stuff!
When mentioning the negatives include at least one positive comment in the review. There’s usually at least one likable thing in any story and someone might buy the book, purely due to that one positive comment you’ve made.
I think many reviewers forget they’re not trying to persuade readers to read or not read the book; instead they should be telling them what they thought of the book. This means a reader can make their own informed personal decision to buy or not buy. There is a big difference.
And if a hate a book? This is dead easy. If I really think a book is appalling then I simply don’t review it.
If it’s that terrible, whatever I write will not serve the purpose a review is intended to serve. Readers don’t care if I hated the book; they want to know if they will hate it too. Essentially that’s what your review will tell them. It is better to ‘walk’ away and forget about it.
Like all writers I receive reviews good and bad. It hurts if a review clearly indicates the reader has missed the point entirely or hasn’t read beyond the first few pages. Or states I don’t know what I’m talking about – weeks are spent in research or taken from first-knowledge –honest!
The biggest pall is when I read a review from someone who can’t even spell let alone write!! Then I have to laugh – I am human after all! But a new 4 or 5 star? Wow! That really makes my day!
So, please whether you’re a reader or writer, remember you are reviewing a book not the writer, and your job is to tell future readers what you thought of the book!
Finally, I’m looking for good honest reviews for some of my books. These include:
The Surgeon’s Blade (full length mystery suspense).
On Devil’s Brae (full length mystery suspense).
Children of the Plantation (full length mystery suspense).
The Seeds of Time (romance with adventure and suspense)
Harvest ( romance with adventure with suspense)
I’m happy to send a FREE Kindle version of one of the above books, if in return you’d like to read and review. Simply drop me a line by email with the book you’re interested in reading. You can either request a copy by using the contact form on this website or send me an email – to firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course if there’s another book you’re curious about then do let me know!
Happy reading everyone! And thanks for dropping in once again. Take care