How to Write Easy & Honest Book Reviews to Help Other Readers

“Nowadays, I only review books I really like. It’s cowardly, I know, but I figure it’s not my job to make people unhappy. I’ll leave that to the professionals.” — Meg Rosoff

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m talking about reviews on bookstore sites, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Now that Calculated Risk is out, I see how important reviews are to both readers and authors. So how can readers overcome obstacles and write reviews helpful to readers and fair to authors? 

As book reviewers, we want to be helpful to readers and fair to authors, right? Click to tweet.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Obstacles and Solutions

Obstacle 1: Readers haven’t visited booksellers’ sites to buy books, much less to review books. So here’s basic steps:

  • Google the bookstore. Or here’s a couple to click on:
  • In the search bar, type “[Title] by [Author’s Name]” as these appear on the book cover.
  • When the book comes up, click on the title.
  • Scroll down to headings like Write a customer Rreview (Amazon) or Customer Reviews (B&N). Click to open a review box if one’s not there. (Amazon).
  • Hover over the stars for their definitions and click on the number that meets your opinion.
  • Enter your review inside the box. (See suggestions in Obstacle 6.)
  • Submit

Obstacle 2: Readers enjoyed the stories but wonder how they can give them 4 or 5 stars when many typos and editing errors existed.

  • Try rating the story, not the editing errors, which the author might have little control over. If a significant number occurred, mention the version (e-book or print) and that fact.

Obstacle 3: Readers know the authors and hesitate to give 4 or less stars in a 5-star system.

  • I asked several authors if I thought their book warranted 4 or 3 stars would they want me to review their book. Responses divided equally into:
    • Yes
    • They wanted honest reviews whatever the number of stars.

Obstacle 4: Readers think they have to write synopses. Overwhelming.

  • A story blurb is usually supplied and sufficient. What readers think about the story and why is what’s helpful to other readers.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Obstacle 5: Readers dislike the book’s genre.

  • Readers are right to skip reviewing the book. Readers’ preferences are unhelpful to other readers.

Obstacle 6: Readers don’t know what to include in a review.

  • Book reviews can be 3-5 sentences of what you thought—not long or fancy. Click to tweet.
  • Suggested sentences (4 and 5 are optional but often helpful):
  1. What you thought about the story. (fun, touching, hard to get into) Include why.
  2. What you thought about the characters. (believable, unlikeable, you identified with)
  3. How the story impacted you. (depressed you, understood what you’ve gone through, gave a satisfactory ending)
  4. What you thought about the writing. (Well-written, had to often reread confusing paragraphs, flows well)
  5. Who you’d recommend the book to. (Adults only, women who enjoy humorous romances, people who like suspense with a romance thread)

Besides the short-of-time problem, what other obstacles keep you from writing reviews?