Readers…write reviews!

20140719-BatteryParkCityNY-LunchWithErinAndrew (56Edit)You don’t have to be a writer or be really good with words to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. In fact, even if you never came close to clinching the English student of the year award, you can still leave reviews. Leaving a review will make book sites, authors, and even other readers LOVE you!

Have you ever thought about purchasing a book, yet you’re not quite sure whether it’s a right fit for you or not. What do you do?

I go straight to reviews and start skimming to get an idea of whether I want to buy the book. Books with few reviews get skipped over, even if there’s nothing wrong with them. That’s why EVERY review is important, whether it’s short or long, super funny or basic.

A friend recently admitted she didn’t think she should write reviews because she didn’t know what to say. She thought only writers left reviews. When I told her that wasn’t the case, and that ‘normal reader’ reviews give a better taste of what books are really like, she wanted advice on where to start. So here are my tips for normal readers on…

How to Review a Book

1. Get on Amazon and Goodreads

These are the 2 biggest book review sites. Create an account and username. If you don’t want to use your real name for privacy reasons, make up an alias. You can be ILikeChocolate or BooksRMe. My Amazon review name is CharInBoise. Log on and type your review.

2. Rate the book

Most review sites have a 1-5 scale. I usually rate higher on Amazon than Goodreads because of how the ratings are worded:

  •      Amazon   /   Goodreads
  • 5 – Love it!   /   Amazing!
  • 4 – Like It   /  Really liked
  • 3 – It’s okay  / Liked
  • 2 – Don’t like it  / Okay
  • 1 – Hate it   /   Did not like

3. Keep Notes

You may want to jot down notes. On my computer, I keep track of the book(s) I’m reading and occasionally make notes on whether the story drags, if there are typos, character flaws, or an awesome quote to remember. If you do this, you have something to start with instead of wrinkling your brow and wondering what to write when you’re finished.

4. Be yourself

Don’t try to copy other reviewers and say what they say. Some write complex reviews that critique elements of writing, but most readers don’t care about that stuff (just other writers). So write like a reader, since that’s what you are. We all have different personalities, so let yours shine through.

5. Categorize

DSC07240-BYou don’t have to be a librarian to do this. Create a category for your book based on when it happens, where it happens, and who it’s about. “This is for young children and has magic” works, or “Alien planet in the future” or “Modern-day romance with a plumber and movie star.” A short description helps people know at a glance whether they want to read on or not. This can also be your title on your Amazon review.

6. Write emotion

What did the book make you feel? Were you annoyed with certain characters? Did you wish you could meet them in real life to eat lunch with them or box their ears? Did you go through a whole container of tissue? Did you fall asleep every chapter and have to force your way through to the end? Tell what the story did to you. Did it change your life? If it didn’t do much, then write that.

7. Give Enlightening details

Tell readers what you wish you knew before reading the book. Are there graphic scenes, tons of swear words, icky characters that gave you the heebie-jeebies, sex scenes, crude remarks, etc? Since I love romance, I always search reviews to see if a book has sex scenes. I don’t want to read these, so I’m grateful when someone says something like, “This was a great story and I loved the characters, but there are intimate scenes, so beware.” Some people will buy it after reading that; others, like me, will steer clear. Either way, the review helps others make informed decisions. Authors want the right people to read their books. If there are bedroom scenes, they don’t want someone like me to read it because I’ll give them a low rating. So write pertinent info and warnings (if needed), and never feel embarrassed about being truthful or looking like a prude. People skimming reviews are looking for these types of details.

file34612996112068. Generalize without Spoilers

The author’s blurb gives pertinent story details, so you don’t have to rehash the plot in your review. This isn’t like those junior high book reviews where you tell the whole plot. I put basic points about the characters and setting in mine, but try to keep to general facts so you don’t ruin the story for others. Nobody likes a rotten egg who gives away the plot twist or tells who the girl ends up with in the end or who the killer is. Keep it generic, such as, “This book has awesome twists” or “This was predictable.”

9. Don’t get personal

Just because authors may read reviews doesn’t mean you should write to them in yours. Also, if you happen to know the author from high school or you’re the author’s mom, please don’t share that information. That makes most readers discount your review, no matter how glowing or ranting it may be.

10. Have fun

Unlike in school, you’re not getting graded or judged…so have fun and don’t stress. Writing a review should be comfortable if you write what YOU liked or didn’t like about the book. If you’re short on time, just leave a basic one. If you’re feeling creative, explore the magic of words until you feel the urge to pat yourself on the back for your genius review.

Here are examples of my Goodreads reviews—from very simple to over the top creative.

**just picked off library shelf when studying 1st person perspective; ended up being trashy teen book; wouldn’t recommend.

**Ick! Boring and terrible ending.

I liked the beginning and the end. The 400 pages or so in between…not so much. Way too boring and no plot…just more info on whaling than I ever wanted to know. The language is amazing, but I got bored because I felt it was taking me nowhere (except across 400 pages).

Note: 1 and 2 star reviews are NOT GOOD. They hurt authors, but sometimes, a book deserves them. The only thing I would change about these is to start with something positive, even if it’s as simple as “there are no typos” and then elaborate on what didn’t work. Bad reviews, if written with the intent to inform instead of hurt, can help authors write better books in the future.

This wasn’t my favorite Hawkes story…but it was fun. Her writing style has a nice flow and there were no distracting errors. The characters, Matt and Taya, were easy to like. The only weakness was there wasn’t as much tension as I would have liked. There were bad characters, but they didn’t come into play much and never pushed the characters to test them fully. The setting in the desert of Colorado was fun.The ending was a little contrived and didn’t match the characters I’d come to know. They both acted a little stupid, purposely misunderstanding each other. I would have preferred the bad guys to push them into action and reveal their love that way. Still…an enjoyable, clean read. –The Sage After Rain by Hawkes

Wow! What a crazy story! I can’t believe what a messed up life this girl led. Her parents were wacko…yet she still helps you understand and love them even in this memoir. More than colorful language in most of it; the father swears terribly (no F-bombs though), but she paints a very descriptive picture of what life in extreme poverty and shiftlessness is like. –Glass Castles by Walls

See! Though short, this still gave a solid opinion. You don’t always have to write long-winded reviews.

I’ve read all of Amy Harmon’s books, so when I started this one, I forced myself to go slow and savor her words. I didn’t want to rush through it and be sad it ended. I’ve done that too much because she creates such amazing, heart-wrenching, soul-inspiring stories (yes, all those adjectives fit. Read one of her books and you’ll agree). But once I reached Part 2, I stayed up after everyone else hit the sack and almost finished. Then I forced myself to bed at a happy part and wouldn’t let myself look at my kindle until the next night. And what a treat awaited me! I didn’t see the twist coming she threw in, and that thrilled me to be genuinely surprised. This novel has everything—deeply troubled and completely charming characters in Moses and Georgia, amazing prose that inspires highlighting, a plot that keeps the reader guessing, emotion out the yin-yang, a touching motif (in the 5 greats), and new concepts to learn about (equine therapy for one, and crack babies for another). I will definitely be rereading this.  –Law of Moses by Harmon

4 & 5 Star reviews are great! If a book rates a 5, it changed me for the better. Therefore, I put a little more thought into these reviews than others.

Warning: This book is bad for your cuticles and REM cycle. Just had to put that out there because this suspenseful (yet witty) romance has nonstop action. Have you ever watched the series 24 with Jack Bauer? This is kind of like that. The action never stops and the odds keep stacking against our heroes until you don’t think they’ll ever get out of it; but you know somehow they will…but you wonder how…which makes you crave brownies. Seriously! A pan of brownies would have been nice while reading this book; maybe then I wouldn’t have bitten off all my nails (and don’t tell me I already had bitten them off, because I know you’re right…but I still tried to bite whatever was left hanging on for dear life of my cuticles and the result isn’t pretty).

I’m still glad I read this book though—ugly remaining cuticles and all. I did miss out on a night of REM sleep, so if I cut you off on the freeway today, I’m sorry…but I blame it all on this intense book. You see, I was worried so much about the crazy characters I just barely met that I stayed awake all night trying to figure out how Rachel and Dawson would get away from the terrorists (I mean, Rachel is only a small town girl from Montana. How is she going to survive New York City, let alone some insane terrorists who are chasing her down to get their bomb back they planted in her suitcase?). Anyway, lesson learned. Next time, I’ll stay up until 2 or 3 and finish the dang book instead of lying in bed trying to determine the ending and lose a night’s worth of precious sleep.

If you still want to read this book (which I strongly encourage), just remember to make a pan of brownies before you start; this will lower the chances of eliminating your nails, cuticles and REM sleep like I did.–Baggage Claim by Tru

DSCN0680That last one is over the top, but I was in a creative mood that night and had fun doing it (usually, I’m not). Whichever type of review you have time to leave (short or long, creative or basic), I thank you as both an author and reader for leaving one! Every review is important. Authors love reviews because they help us sell more books. And readers love reviews because they help us pick the right kind of books we’ll enjoy. So when you read, make it a point to always review. Thanks in advance!

Char Signature

11 thoughts on “Readers…write reviews!

  1. Great post. I think many people worry they have to leave a long, detailed review and so they shy away from it. But a few sentences are all that are needed. I keep many of my reviews that short. Saves time for both the reviewer and those who are reading the reviews.

  2. What a great post on leaving reviews! As a writer, I appreciate even the low star review because it means someone read my work and besides, even the best writers have their books trashed by reviewers!
    As a reader, I post my reviews on Goodreads. It provides a record of what I’ve read. If it’s too bad for whatever reason to finish then I don’t, and don’t post a review either. For this reason most of my reviews are 3 stars and higher.

    • I agree. Usually if a book is bad enough to rate a 1 or 2, I don’t finish it and don’t leave a review. I have a few rare 1s and 2s from long ago, but find that as a writer, I appreciate some books I didn’t earlier in life.

  3. I confess. I don’t write enough reviews. I always think I have to write a complete, well-thought-out review and I’m so daunted by that I don’t write any at all. Thanks for the reminder that it doesn’t have to be a salon or new yorker review.

    • Every review counts, whether we put 20 minutes into writing it, or 20 seconds to say “I loved this! Couldn’t put it down!” May the force be with your reviews, Faith (ha ha).

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