Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review Writing 101

So you've just read the most spectacular book EVER and you can't wait to tell the world about it. (Oh, just pulling a random example from mid-air, let's say it's one of The Green Bayou Novels.)  How do you go about doing this?  What if you do something wrong?  What if you don't know where to go to leave your review?  What if no one wants to read your opinion?  Relax!  Review writing can be incredibly simple and believe me, people will read it! 

Leaving a review is the best gift a reader can give an author. (Usually.  There are those pesky one and two stars that are bound to plague even the most talented author.  I'll discuss those later.)  Reviews don't need to be twenty well-versed paragraphs.  Plain and simple, it's just your opinion.  The good thing about opinions--there is no right or wrong.  It's yours and yours alone.  Loved a book that everyone else hated?  Let the world know and be proud of it.  Hate a book that everyone else loves?  Let that be known as well, but be gentle.  There's a human behind every written word and most are more fragile than you would think.  Regardless of whether your review is positive or negative, a good rule to follow is to write the review as if you were telling it to the author's face. (Remember that.  I'll be talking about it more in the negative review section.)

Here are some guidelines for positive reviews:  What initially drew you to the book?  Was the dialogue smooth and engaging?  Did you enjoy/establish a relationship with the characters?  Which character was your favorite?  Which character was your least favorite? Were there issues with editing/formatting/grammar/etc.?  Did you learn anything from the story?  Did the author pull any emotions from you?  What made this book unique?  Did anything in the work stand out to you?  Will you read future work of the author?  Are there other books similar to this work that you enjoyed? (Some readers will take your recommendations if they enjoyed it, as well.)  Some reviewers like to also include information such as the book blurb, a synopsis,  ISBN numbers, character profiles, etc.  Remember that these are just some general guidelines.  You do not have to answer all of the questions.  A very simple, "I really enjoyed this book." will often suffice.

Negative Reviews:  Bleck!  No author EVER enjoys them and in the age of anonymity and keyboard bullies, negative reviews run rampant.  Remember that part when I said to write your review as though you were saying it to the author's face.  This is where that part is most important.  There is nothing wrong with not enjoying a book.  It happens all of the time.  My sister and I often disagree about books.  We went to the same schools, were raised the same way, have similar lives; but very different tastes in movies, books, etc.  That's just life.  If you come across a book that just isn't your thing, here are some guidelines for writing your review.  Don't be that person who tries to get attention by writing the meanest comments.  Don't bash the author's personality, perceived IQ, family, looks, or assumed mental state.  Do clearly state why the said book didn't appeal to you, (i.e. I generally look for books with more action.  I prefer books with more romance.  I prefer more in-depth reads as opposed to quick, fun reads.  I prefer quick, fun reads as opposed to such in-depth reads.)  Do not say things like, I'd rather read the back of a cereal box.  (Yes, I got this as a review.  It's so funny.  Ha! Ha!  Now, how did that help me grow as an author?)  I sincerely doubt that person would have said that if we were face to face.  So why is it acceptable if he/she is hiding behind a computer screen?  Negative comments should be seen as a way to help the author with future projects.  Constructive criticism goes a long way and is much more helpful than a cruel comment.

Where to leave reviews:  Most places that you purchase your book from have the option for you to leave reviews.  Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, and Shelfari are a few places you can leave them.  The reviews do not have to have your name, and in cases like Barnes and Noble, all you need is an account to leave a review.  You don't have to actually purchase the book from them to leave your review.  This is good and bad.  Good because let's say you borrowed the book from the library.  You're able to leave your review for people who are interested in purchasing the story.  It's bad because people who haven't even picked up the book get to leave false reviews.  You would think people would have better things to do than to torment authors, but unfortunately, some do not.

So, long story short...  Please leave a review after each book you read because your opinion is important!  Be honest, yet kind.  A long review doesn't equal a good review.  Write your review as though you were standing right in front of the author. 

Remember these simple steps and you'll be well on your way to becoming a master reviewer and the highlight of many authors' day!  Mwah!!

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