©2019 Kari Carlisle
We love Valentine’s Day. No longer for just your romantic love, it’s an excuse to buy gifts and treats for your family, your friends and co-workers, your pets, and anyone else you want to express your love and appreciation for. Your favorite authors could use some love and appreciation, too. It won’t cost you a dime and will take less time than a run to the store. Write an author a love letter.
Okay, so when I say love letter, I mean a review of one of their books. Keep reading! Don’t run away in panic. I’m not asking for a 10-page essay. I’m going to make this really easy for you and give you five simple steps and some extra tips. Don’t worry. This will be fun!
Step 1. Think about a book you recently read or are currently reading. See? Easy!
Step 2. Jot down some notes. What do you like about the book? Here are some questions to jog your thought process:
Is there something about the story that made you feel a certain way?
Who is your favorite character and why? How can you relate to him/her?
Do you find the writing flows well?
Did you learn what you expected or even more?
Were you able to apply what you learned? How?
Was it easy to follow?
Step 3. Jot down anything you didn’t like. Don’t worry. You can decide in the next step whether it’s important enough to include in your review.
Step 4. Write your review in 1-2 short paragraphs. That’s all. You’re not in your 9th grade English class writing a book report. You don’t have to concern yourself with story arcs, themes, symbolism, or character development. This is simply a short, honest review that says, “I enjoyed reading this book because….”
As you write your review, remember who is going to read it, and write it as if you are saying it to their face. Likely, the author will read it, unless s/he’s a best-selling author with more reviews than could be read in a month. But the true goal of your review is to let potential readers know why they should read this book. If someone is going to spend money to buy a book and take time to read it, they want some assurance that it will be worth their investment.
If you decide to include something in your review that you did not like about the book, be diplomatic. That is, be nice. It’s completely fine to offer some constructive feedback.
Step 5. Post your review. This may be the hardest part because you need to add your rating (number of stars) and a headline. While determining the number of stars to give, pay no attention to the book’s ratings by other reviewers. This is YOUR review that should not be influenced by consensus. As for headline, pick the one thing you liked most about the book such as “Believable Characters!” or “Inspirational!” I’ll let you decide whether to include an exclamation point. I’m hopelessly addicted to them!
Now that your review is posted, doesn’t that feel good? It was a simple process and a nice thing to do. Make it a habit to review every book you read, and you’ll become a better reader, too! You’ll learn what to look for and get more out of your reading.
Here are a few more tips for writing reviews:
Avoid spoilers. Try not to reveal key plot moments in your review. It’s like knowing the end of a movie before you watch it. I remember standing in line to see Return of the Jedi for the first time. Some idiot came out of the previous show and said something to his companions about Princess Leia being Luke’s sister. You can’t unhear that.
Be fair. Sometimes, you have to read a book that just isn’t your thing. Maybe it was a gift, or “everyone’s” reading it. If you review such a book, don’t necessarily give it a bad review because it wasn’t what you typically like to read. Review it on its own terms. You can say this isn’t usually the type of book you like to read, but… it had interesting characters, unique story line, well written, or other nice things. This book may be right up someone else’s alley.
Be balanced. Your rating should reflect your review. Absolutely loved it and couldn’t put it down? 5 stars. Really enjoyed it and would recommend it? 4 stars. Had some things going for it, but a thing or two troubled you? 3 stars. Had some serious problems but one or two redeeming qualities? 2 stars. Cannot recommend without major revisions? 1 star. I’ve seen too many 3-star reviews with nothing but praise in the body of the review. It’s confusing. If you score below a 4 or 5, you need to include some reason why.
Review only the book. Maybe you’re a big fan of the author or the movie based on the book. You can’t help yourself, and you go on about how great the author or movie are. That is no help to the potential reader. This is also not the place to complain about other books, independent publishing, Amazon or other sites, shipping problems, your reading app, how the book compares to the movie, or anything else that isn’t a true and honest review of this book on its own merits.
Reviewing bad books. There are some stinkers out there. Independent publishing has opened the door for millions of would be, shouldn’t be, authors who publish, I’ll just say it, crap. You owe it to those authors and their potential readers to provide an honest review.
First, understand what’s going on here. Is the author intentionally throwing marshmallowy content out there hoping to make a few bucks? Call him/her on it. You can give 1 star and say the book was too short, gave fluff content, and offered no entertainment/learning value. Then add what you would have liked to have read. What would have made it worth the money and time you spent?
Perhaps the author gave the book everything they had, putting forth genuine effort to get their story out to the world, and the book is poorly written, demonstrates ignorance, is plagued with poor spelling, punctuation, and grammar, or is badly formatted. Go ahead and give it 1-3 stars and explain what the problems are and that perhaps it could be a good book if the author invests in a good editor.
There is nothing worse for an author than to put his/her heart and soul into their work and… crickets. Please don’t pick up another a book without taking 5 minutes to post a helpful review of the last one you read.