We all live by unspoken rules and manners. No passing gas in a restaurant. No joking about someone coming in tenth in a competition. No correcting your grandmother in public. We learn these manners from our elders. From those who’ve gone before us, and supposedly schooled us correctly. Same goes for when we enter a profession. However, what happens when we attempt a task and don’t have a mentor to teach us properly?
Book reviews, for instance. To many of us, a review is simply clicking the number of stars and giving a one-liner of whether we liked it or not. Fine if you are a reader. Not cool if you are an author. Why? Because whatever you write online, inckuding a book review, reflects on your writing abilities.
Let’s talk about what you DO when you offer to write a book review.
1) You post on Amazon or Goodreads. Frankly, unless you write for some mighty big organizations like Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, or Foreword, or have a social media or blog with followers in the thousands, the most important reviews you can write are on Amazon and Goodreads. A lot of decisions are made by agents, publishers, bookstore owners, and places like BookBub based upon those Amazon and Goodreads reviews. If you read those reviews, then thousands of others do, too.
2) You review promptly. Don’t request a review copy unless you are ready to be part of the team to get the news out timely. That usually means within two to four weeks of receipt.
3) You follow-through and do the review. Someone paid for those books and that postage in hopes you are going to follow through with your promise. Often $8 to $15. Put that book on the top of your to-be-read stack. Don’t think, “They won’t miss it.” Not true. Every review matters.
4) Write a meaty review. What did you love about it and what rubbed you wrong. Show that you actually read the book. A simple “I liked it” will not convince anyone to purchase or not purchase the book. The reason you were chosen to review the book was to post an honest analysis.
5) Avoid writing spoilers. Would you buy a book after reading a review that gives away the twists and plot?
When I bring up the topic of reviews in chats, on Facebook, or at conferences, writers grumble. They grumble BIG time. Therefore, as a writer, you have a responsibility to review professionally. You know what it feels like.
When books are sent out for review, there’s an unspoken time constraint. They are attempting to boost notice of the release, boost sales, and measure the success of the book. If you are given a gratuitous book, jump on the review. Only if you buy the book on your own do you buy the right to take your time. But regardless, write the review intelligently . . . write it well. Make people WANT you to review their next book.