Whether you’re a reader posting a review on a site like Amazon, or an author reviewing someone else’s work, here are a few tips that will make it a lot easier to write an informative review.
Reviewing the work of others is a good way for a writer to keep their name in front of a variety of potential readers.
Many of the book reviews these days are written not written by professional reviewers, but by readers of online blogs, websites or bookstores like Amazon, Barnes and Noble or BooksAMillion. Although there are still a large number of professional reviews, the reader reviews have become an increasingly important factor when a reader decides whether to buy a book or not.
Writing a review doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It really is possible to read for enjoyment and still write the review. Here are a few simple hints:
Have a pencil or pen and sticky notes handy.
As you read, if something strikes you as noteworthy, mark it with a sticky note. It’s helpful to have two types. The narrow ones so you can just bookmark a section and maybe add a one or two word prompt to help you remember why you marked it, and the standard ones. Use the standard size to make notes to yourself detailing something you think you might want to comment on in your review.
Assemble your notes.
This can be done one of two ways. Make a list of the larger notes or simply stick them on a large sheet of paper, sorting as you go. Be sure you’ve included the page number as a reference. This is an easy way to draw comparisons. Leave the little notes marking passages in place, but add their location and significance to your review in progress.
Check through the assembled notes or list.
Look for something on one page that might relate to an event or person on another page. Did you find contradictions? This sometimes happens in spite of the most astute edits. Think about what you want your review to communicate.
- Did you enjoy, hate or feel ambivalent about the book. Why?
- What were favorite things that drew you in or passages that put you off?
- Were you enthralled or bored?
- Would you recommend the book and why?
Work from the notes, not the book.
Everything that compelled you to write the review should be in your notes. Instead of thumbing through the book trying to put something together, using the notes as your outline, give a brief overview of what you read without giving away surprise endings, pertinent clues, or important arcs in the story that are designed to challenge the reader. Speak in plain language so your review communicates exactly what you would like the potential reader to know. Try not to make it longer than a page. In most cases about 300 to 400 words should do it. In some cases, only one or two paragraphs.
Unless this is directly on a site that sells the book, be sure to give the title, author’s name, ISBN # (the number that identifies the book for booksellers, generally found in the square on the back cover that contains the barcode), and the price. If you know where the book can be purchased, that is also helpful. If it is written for an online site, try to include a hyperlink to the author’s website.
Remember why you are writing the review.
The review is either a recommendation, condemnation or overall impression you had while reading the book. If you only read romance books, and this is an action adventure book or science fiction sans romance, don’t give a bad review because you would have liked to see romance. Evaluate the book on its legitimate merits. If there were definite glitches you spotted, like excessive use of similes or clichés, it’s fine to say so. If the writing doesn’t seem dimensional, and no matter what type of book the reader is into, it still would seem flat, it’s okay to say so.
If it was so beautifully written you couldn’t wait to share your impression, not only is it fine to say that, but the author will be delighted. I once had a reader review that said there was too much action to follow and she couldn’t stay with it. This confused me because I’d never gotten a review like that. I contacted the reviewer out of pure curiosity and found that she liked the book but has ADD and is bi-polar. That was why it was hard for her to follow because it is tightly written and moves fast, but people who read the review had no way of knowing why it affected her that way. So, be fair to the author with your critiques.
Happy reading and reviewing.
For more info: Morgan St. James and her appearances: www.morganstjames-author.com
Monday’s special column Books to movie – Eat, Pray, Love
Every Tuesday: Spotlight shines on people, organizations or events involved in the Las Vegas writers community as well as literary visitors to our city. Recent Spotlights -Megan Edwards – author, editor, traveler, and survivor, Introduction to First Chapter Plus and two new books, Sabrina Sumscion helps spread the word, Highlighting some previous Spotlight columns; Las Vegas author Brian Rouff’s journey
Next weeks Spotlight: Highlights of some past Spotlights
Every Thursday: Writers – Tricks of the Trade – Last week -Opening up your choices Part III – Using Imagination and Secondary Characters, Opening up your choices Part II – using dreams and delays; This Thursday – Tips for writing a book review
For a free subscription, click the button above. Comments are always appreciated in the box below. Just scroll downto enter one. Complete listing of articles by Morgan St. James: http://bit.ly/MorgansColumn