Until the beginning of 2015, I had never written a book review anywhere. Not that I didn’t read books, but it never occurred to me to write a review. I did contact an author directly once to let him know the family loved his books, but that’s it. It wasn’t until recently I realized how important those reviews really were.
I began A Drop of Ink Reviews because of a group of writers I hang out with on Facebook. Their number one complaint was how readers wouldn't leave reviews for their books. I figured becoming a reviewer would be a good way to give back to the authors who spend endless hours honing their craft so I can have a few hours of enjoyment. I have found writing reviews to be quite enjoyable and it's fun to share my opinion with everyone. :-)
You might be looking at your screen right now telling me, “I don’t know how to review.” This is where I tell you, “It’s easy!” Think of it this way. You just read a terrific book and you want to tell your best friend that she (or he) needs to read it. That person will look at you and ask, “Why?” That’s exactly what the book buyer is asking. Why should they buy this book? Why should they spend their valuable time reading it? All you are doing is taking a few minutes to go out and say why someone should or should not read this book.
What are some things you can mention in a review?
Well, some good tips are to mention if there are a lot of errors in the book. This is especially important if the book is independently published. The standard is to ignore up to about 5 minor errors. After that, mention them.
Did you particularly love or hate a certain character? Were you upset when the book was over? Other readers LOVE to know your reaction to a book.
You don’t need to be long and gushy in a review, unless you really loved the book and want everyone to know. You don’t need to write an essay paper about a book you read in your spare time. A simple “I liked it because X, Y, and Z” is enough.
What you should NEVER do in a book review is leave spoilers! Don’t tell other readers how the book ends. That’s just cruel. They want to take that adventure on their own, so let them. My personal ‘rule’on this one is to only include details that can easily be read in the sample you can download from Amazon or approximately halfway through chapter 2. That way, you know for sure you’re not giving anything away. I have said I didn’t like an ending in a review before, but I didn't give away why I didn’t like the ending.
What if you didn’t like the book? Should you leave a review?
That’s entirely up to you. I have given a book a 2-star review once. I tend to speak directly with the author when I had a major problem with their book. I'll admit that option is easier for me since I'm asked specifically by the author to review the book. However, you can definitely tell others why you didn’t like it. It very well could be what you didn’t like is something another reader DOES like. Maybe a book had too many “scenes” you didn’t like or there was too much cursing or any other number of things that other readers might not be concerned with.
Authors don't mind bad reviews, as long as they contain constructive criticism about what it was exactly the reader didn't like. There's usually a concrete reason why we didn't like a book. So if you can pinpoint that reason and share it, then it's a 'good' negative review. Some reasons might include the number of errors being too much, there were too many plot holes, the characters just didn't engage you, etc. Any one of those reasons is perfectly legitimate and gives the author a good idea of what to look for in the future. Don't bash the author for no good reason. Those reviews don't help the author or another reader.
All of this applies to traditionally published books as well. During a ‘break’ from independent works, I dove into books I’ve read time and time again in the past. This year, I decided I’d finally review them. I was honestly shocked to find out this NYT bestselling author only had 65 reviews on one of her books and it had been out for years. Trust me, your review counts no matter who wrote the book or how it was published.
So take a deep breath and go review that book you just read. It’s not as hard as you think and won’t take you very long. Probably a lot less time than it took me to write this blog post. ;-)