Most authors learn pretty quickly to take reviews of their books with a grain of salt. And most authors can tell which reviews are serious and genuine and which ones are fluff (and I would imagine most readers can too). Personally, I enjoy reading reviews of my books, both the positive and negative, but there are some (both positive and negative) that just cause me to roll my eyes.
Reviews are powerful things, though, that carry the weight to sway a potential reader to either go ahead and make the purchase or not to and to give the author useful information that she can use to improve her writing. Therefore, when writing a review, care should be taken to do it properly and in the right spirit.
Here are 6 suggestions, in my estimation as an author, for writing fair, accurate reviews that will help a reader decide whether the book is right for him or her and will help the author become a better writer.
- First and foremost, actually read the book you’re reviewing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a review of one of my books and scratched my head, wondering if the reviewer even read it. It was so full of erroneous information.
- Be honest but be fair. As I’ve stated at other times, flattery does no one any good, but harsh criticism doesn’t either. If you enjoyed the book, say so, if you hated it, say so, but be tactful about it. And be polite. My wife and I are currently watching back episodes of BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford about two towns in late 19th-century England. I’m always amazed at how politely the folks then could disagree and even insult each other. Somewhere along the line we’ve lost that art. A book review is a good place to find it again. Know that others will be reading your review and that it is a reflection of you.
- Save the vitriol. There is no place for hatred in a book review if it is to be taken seriously. If, of course, you have no intention of being taken seriously, well, that’s another matter. A review is not the place to level insults, to mock, to embarrass, or to tear down. If you truly feel the need to confront an author, take the time to track down a personal email and do it in private. Be careful not to the let the anonymity of the internet empower you into doing something brash and harmful.
- Remember that writing is an art and the interpretation of it is therefore subjective. What you hate, another may love. Your review is your opinion. Keep that in mind and remember your place in all of this.
- A review is not the place to show off your intricate knowledge of English grammar. Authors make mistakes, editors sometimes miss those mistakes. It happens. Avoid nitpicking in your review. I’m sorry, but I doubt many readers really care if the author has a tendency to leave participles dangling. Realize that there is a difference between a critique and a review. If you’re a professional and you’ve been asked to provide a professional critique, that’s another story and a different topic entirely.
- Lastly, keep the review to the story itself. There’s no need to mention that the shipping and handling was too expensive or the shipping delayed or that the book came damaged in the mail. None of that is the author’s fault. And unless the editing is especially atrocious or the cover especially amateur there is no need to mention those things either. For the most part, both are out of the author’s control.
The bottom line here is to be honest, be fair, be civil, and give other readers and the author something useful to read.
Do you have an other suggestions for what makes a good book review? Things you like to see in a review? Things you think have no place in a review?
(If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to join me on my other blog as well: www.michaelkingbooks.wordpress.com).