A blog request from Ted, and one that I was very happy to fulfill.
In general, a blog review on a website is intended to fulfill multiple purposes. It should educate, answer questions, show the reader how to purchase the book, and hopefully entertain at the same time.
If you’re writing a book review for a site like Amazon or Goodreads, though, you have only one thing to do.
Answer the reader’s question of “should I read this book.”
I do not comb through goodreads just to learn more about the reviewers. I’m satisfying a need of my own to find books for me. It’s an entirely selfish thing. Rarely do I read a review simply for the pleasure of reading the review.
A Simple Question
Clearly, the question is anything but simple. I have loved books that have been HATED by my friends, and vice versa. You, reader who came before me, have no way of knowing whether I should read this book.
In order to help answer the question for me, you have to go into just enough detail to help me figure it out for myself.
A short review is often missing detail that I’d need. “OMG best book ever, you should totally read this!” doesn’t help me at all.
A LONG review is just too long. I’m glancing down the page in a hurry. I don’t have time for an essay. If your review is significantly longer than 500 words, it might be time for you to consider starting a blog post.
If you are biased (either for or against) anything about the book, mention it. “I loved this book dearly, but I freely admit that I love talking animals in stories.” or “I’m not a huge fan of this author’s other work, but I surprised myself by really enjoying this one.”
This personalizes your review. Whether the person reading the review agrees with you or not, you have made it much easier for them to determine if they want to read the book or not.
Specific Good Things
“It was amazing and breathtaking”
Does this mean :
- The prose was nearly poetic in voice, with beautiful drawn-out imagery.
- The adventure took my breath away, with death-defying maneuvers and hairsbreadth escapes.
It fits equally well with both, but you can see how the second one is more helpful to the reader trying to find their next “fix”. =]
Be careful with the bad things.
When reading reviews, I like to know what didn’t work. Knowing that a character was weak or that the book is written in first person present tense and you’re not a fan helps me decide if the GOOD things you mention outweigh the BAD, at least for me.
I do NOT like to read passionate diatrabes about how worthless the author and the text is.
Remember, you’re not writing hate mail to the author here, you’re reviewing a book.
If the characters were shallow and the plot ridiculous, don’t feel like you need to avoid saying those things simply to keep from being negative. Keep it professional, though. Imagine you have to say these things in front of the author themselves, in person. While you’re at it, go ahead and imagine that they genuinely want to know what you didn’t like about the book and that they are very nice people who love stories and kittens and warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven.
No, you’re not supposed to be writing these reviews for the authors. You’re writing them for readers. But sometimes imagining the person who just cut you off in traffic is a sweet sweet man who noticed what he did at the very last moment and now feels just awful about it can help you forgive and sometimes imagining that you have to deliver bad news to a nice person motivates you to soften the blow a little.
And sometimes I just can’t find anything nice to say, so I either don’t review it at all, or give it a low star rating and move on with my life.
Review the BOOK
Don’t review the author. Don’t review the shipping or the packaging or the cover art.
If you hated book 1 but this is book 2, focus on THAT. If you heard that the author said “X!” in an interview and you found that offensive, the book review is not the place to get your anger off your chest. The opposite is also true. If Rowling can do no wrong in your eyes, and you spend the entire review talking about her charity work … that’s nice, but it’s not about THIS book. Get a blog! *grin*
I am surely not the only one who is growing frustrated with one star “shipping sucked!” or “why can’t they write book X again?!” reviews.
My goodreads account has much of the Saucy Ink group friended, as well as a few others. I have their reviews batched into a single email and sent to me, and there are a few folks on the list who do FANTASTIC book reviews. (You may choose to include a link to your Goodreads page if you like, I just didn’t want to out you. You know who you are.)
Any Other Tips?
Any reviewers (or readers of reviews) out there who have something to add? What do you like to see, and what are you tired of seeing?