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Monday, July 13, 2015

The Importance of Being a Reviewer

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. ;-)


Huntress said...

Getting reviews is monumentally difficult. I insert cards in my promo books asking for honest reviews but that is as far as I can bring myself to go. I feel extremely uncomfortable asking.

Between my three publications, I've sold thousands of books but had only 58 reviews total. And that isn't counting the free ones I've given out.
Very discouraging.

Huntress said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charity Bradford said...

Amen to Huntress' comment. Getting reviews is like sucking marrow from bone. I've begged, pleaded and swapped reads for reviews. It gets really uncomfortable when you can't review a book for one reason or another under those circumstances. Especially when they write a nice review for you.

*sigh* I gave away almost 1000 copies of my last novel and only have 20 reviews. Most of those came from swaps. It makes marketing and giving away free stuff so much more painful than it has to be.

Also, some of my best reviews were three star ones because they were honest and clear about what didn't work for them. It helps me know where I can improve as a writer.

Liz A. said...

Yes, I need to leave reviews. I know. I know!

Liza said...

I honestly haven't given reviewing a lot of thought. Now I will.

Tara Tyler R said...

i really appreciate this article and your endeavor to help indie authors - we definitely need more reviews! and good honest ones, like yours! great advice on encouraging others to review too - i never realized how important they were until i needed them either. nowadays everyone is looking for feedback (like on receipts at stores, complete this survey for free stuff...)


Angela said...

This is so true. This would have to be one of the main complaints I've heard from authors. Not enough reviews and I have to agree. Sure, there are some readers out there who don't pay attention to the reviews at all, but there are others who really do base their decision to purchase the book on the types of reviews the book received. So if you read a book and you loved it, leave a review. (But I definitely agree with no spoilers!)