Book reviews are what all authors expect once we are published. Whether good or bad, a review is part of our job. Some of us write reviews of the books we’ve read, and have developed a set of rules as to how this is done. It’s pretty basic. We provide a short synopsis of the book separate from the blurb and then give our opinion of several things. A good review might include a line by line analysis of the book, or it might be an overall “it was good/great/so-so” followed by points on why the reviewer felt these things applied. Of course, if you post your review to Amazon or Goodreads, you need to decide how many of five stars to apply to this review.
Most authors hold their breath, hoping for the 5 star review. To people looking at your book, it means this is one you should try. This author wrote a fabulous story. You, the reader, will be enthralled from beginning to end. In theory, this is true. In fact?
Let’s just say the 5 star review as an indicator of a fabulous book is a little overrated…
Lately, a system of giving five stars despite blatant misspellings, grammatical errors, and an overall lack of plot development has taken over the way reviews are written. In some cases, it’s the author’s family and friends supporting their endeavor, but in other cases, the reasons vary.
Without pointing fingers at why assessments of our books are rated as they are, let’s go into how to formulate a professional looking review.
One should always open with a short, 2-3 sentence, overview of the book. It can be as simple as “Teen boy has to overcome the obstacles of his first year of high school while also evading the school bully. Oh, did I mention that he also has an older brother not above playing a few humiliating pranks?” Or you can get a little complicated and go into the relationships within the characters as a driving factor in their motivations. However you open your review, keep it short, snappy, and tantalizing.
Next, the reviewer needs to inform the reader why they did or didn’t like the book. Your thoughts can be as simple as “It was great.” To “I found the book to be a compelling tale about bullying, showing that finding a solution isn’t as simple as most people make it out to be.” Here, you are even allowed to insert a few examples from the book, as long as you don’t reveal any relevant or vital plot point, also called spoilers. Between 3 and 5 sentences is enough to explain your like and dislike for the book.
One important point to remember—if you dislike the book enough to give it a 1 star rating, please think before you bash the book, the author, and anyone connected with it. This is especially important if you are reading a new genre, which you discover quickly you don’t like. What you see as wrong or difficult to understand may, in fact, be how the genre is treated in literature.
Finally, you have reached the point where you explain what you feel about the errors you found in the book. A good way to do this is to mention that some of the sentences were fragments, or there more than a few misspellings. This isn’t the place to bash the author, their other works, or anyone associated with the making of the book. Your review should always be honest. However, there is honesty, and then there is honestly. To slam an author simply because you didn’t like the genre, or felt cheated by the ending, or even are having a bad hair day is not right.
The final element of a good review is to add a line at the bottom of the page, a short statement as to whether or not you recommend the book. And then you post your review to the proper sales venues and Goodreads.
One last thing to remember for everyone staring at those one and two star reviews—never, ever engage the reviewer in the comments section. That never turns out well.