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?

How to Discover the Expected Elements of Your Genre’s Book Endings

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” —Orson Welles

by Quozio
by Quozio

 In an earlier post, I talked about backloading sentences, paragraphs, and scenes. Meaningful words at the end of these leave the reader with what’s important. And backloading leads the reader to continue reading.

Tweetable

  • Do we need to backload a novel’s ending with specific elements?
    click to tweet

We want the reader to read our next book, right? But how do we discover what elements are expected in the ending of a novel in our genre?

Because I write inspirational romances, I researched that genre. I also took a look at non-inspirational legal thrillers. You can do the same for your genre.

Tweetable

  • How to Discover the Expected Elements of Book Endings for a Genre
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♥ I gathered 50 inspirational romances. These included: historical, suspense, contemporary, prairie, regency, and humorous romances. Forty-seven unique authors were represented. I used 10 novels by different authors for a quick look at inspirational legal thrillers.

♥ I read the last 2 pages of the last chapters—not of the epilogues, which many included. I considered epilogues extra explanations and not the ends of the romances. The last 2 pages proved sufficient in showing what the novels left us with in the backloading sense.

♥ I noted the repetitions of elements among the novels.

Inspirational Romances

id-10075211.jpgRepeated elements from 50 novels:

♥ 100% had happy endings. Almost always a given in this genre.

♥ 76% spoke of God. This ran from a mention of God to praising God. Overwhelmingly, though, the element was characters praising God for changes in their character, in their lives, or in the person they’ve grown to love.

♥ 56% had the hero and heroine share a real kiss.

♥ 40% included a marriage proposal or a wedding. Some couples are married from the beginning. Or the story continues after the wedding or the proposal. Or we’re left with the assurance the relationship will grow.

♥ 36% issued noble last words. Although several summarize realized growth in the last 2 pages, this percentage applies to the last few words. Words about how the character is prepared to face the future or about new beginnings.

♥ 32% had at least one character say, “I love you.” Several mulled over or spoke of love, but in this percentage, the actual “I love you” words were spoken.

♥ 18% worked the title of the novel into the ending.

Tweetable

  • Consider these elements for effective book endings in inspirational romances.
    click to tweet

Remember, though, how well we write these elements determines how good they are.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Non-inspirational Legal Thrillers

For my sample of 10 novels, the emerging elements were:

  • Discussion of the outcome. This could be wrap-up explanations or talk of appeals or of additional legal actions. (7)
  • Discussions with or about the victim, the guilty person, or the innocent defendant. (6)
  • Hope for the future or hint of spiritual recognition. (5)
  • Moments of the main character’s personal life. Opposed to his legal life. (4)
  • New action, post-case development, or a gotcha. (4)
  • Discussion of the verdict’s accuracy. (3)

Readers or writers, what elements do you expect in the last pages of your preferred genres?