What Is A Book Review For?
Pop Quiz Time!
What is a book review for?
A. To let everybody know what you thought of the book
B. To make the author feel good
C. To show off how cleverly snarky you can be
D. To get everybody to buy (or not buy) the book
Is there a correct answer? Sure, and maybe more than one. But the answer that should not be chosen is B. A review should not be written to make an author feel good. A review may praise the story, the writing or the characters, and that will probably make the author feel good, but that’s not the point of a review. And (this is really important) a book review should review the book, not the author. In my opinion, a review is for other readers, to help them decide if they want to spend the time and/or money on that book. One reader might write a scathing review because they hated the book. But if they aren’t specific about what they didn’t like and why, it’s not really helpful to other readers, is it?
For instance, if I am Reader Maddy and I’m scrolling through Amazon looking for a fun vampire romance to take with me on my Labor Day vacation, and I see a book that piques my interest I’m probably going to look at some reviews to help me decide if I want to read it. A review that says, “This was the worse 3 hours I ever spent! Save your money. ” tells me that reviewer hated the book, but not why. A review that says, “This book is awesome. Get this book and you won’t regret it!” tells me that reviewer loved the book but not why.
How could these two reviews be better? More info is needed. For example: “This is the worst 3 hours I ever spent! The heroine was a doormat. The hero was sexy, and I liked him, but I never figured out what he saw in the heroine. The writing was so disjointed I couldn’t follow the story, and I couldn’t stand all the typos. I quit reading after the halfway point. Save your money.” This tells me what this person didn’t like and why. “This book is awesome. The writing moved at a fast pace and I felt like I really got to know the hero and heroine as their relationship progressed. I loved the way she had to grow up to be able to keep his love, and the climax in the last few chapters had me biting my nails. Get this book and you won’t regret it!” This review lets me know that this reader felt very differently about this book and why. Is it possible that two readers can have opposite reactions to the same book? Certainly! And that’s okay.
What made me write this post? Well, sometimes reviews are snarky and an author makes the mistake of responding to the snark. Bad author! NO COOKIE! My advice to myself is to NEVER respond to a review. Why? Because a review of one of my books is not written for me. It is written for other people who are thinking about reading it and are looking to see what other people thought of it. It would be nice if reviewers were polite and balanced in their reviews, but 90% of the people on Amazon, Good Reads, etc, who leave reviews are not professional reviewers. They want to get their point across and sometimes can say hurtful things without meaning to hurt anyone. If they are trying to be hurtful, then shame on them. But twice the shame on the author or fan who snaps back. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Some readers find a mean review entertaining. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.
There has been, once again, an internet brouhaha between a well-known author and her fans, and reviewers. Boy, it makes a writer nervous! With the digital age we live in, the distance between authors and readers is very small. Authors need to remember when they are posting on Facebook, or Twitter, or on their blogs, that people are reading their posts not as if they were private people but as public authors. Mind you, authors are only human and we do a whole bunch of stupid things in public. Please be as kind as you can when we are idiots.
If you are a reader who would like to leave a review on Amazon or Good Reads, etc, but aren’t sure of what to say, I do have a suggested list of things to consider when leaving a review. Yes, these are only my suggestions! 🙂
1. Over all, how did you like the book?
2. Summerize the plot in two or three sentences. You can paraphrase the blurb. Try to not give spoilers.
3. How did you feel about the hero/heroine? Did you like their relationship? The love scenes?
4. How did you feel about the style of writing? Was it boring? Could you follow the action? Did it go too fast?
5. Was there something, perhaps a scene or a character, that stood out for you, good or bad? Why?
6. Is there at least one bad thing and one good thing you can honestly say about the book? Say it.
7. Be honest. If you didn’t like a book, say so. If an author gets her panties in a twist, that’s her problem. Don’t engage in bickering online.
8.. Would you recommend this book to a friend?
Authors, if you happen to read a review that hurts you, do not engage! We are professionals. People are giving us their time and money to read our work. Be polite. Not everybody is going to love what we write. Strange, I know, but I can’t stand brussel sprouts and everyone else in my family inhales the icky things like they are candy. *shudder* There’s no accounting for tastes.
The internet is a big sandbox. True, the romance community is a small corner of it, but there should be enough room for all of us to play without kicking sand into each others faces, right? So Let’s Play Nice.