Book Reviews

Writing Reviews

I enjoy writing reviews on my personal blog. Whether it be for a book, movie, or TV show, writing reviews allows me to give my own opinion on a particular work to a wider audience, as well as helping me to seem more like an authority on the subject when the work in question happens to be in my main genre (namely horror). And there’s an added benefit to writing reviews: by identifying what works or what doesn’t work in a movie/TV show/book, you can learn from these examples and incorporate them into your own fiction to make your stories better.

I’ve been writing reviews on my blog almost as long as I’ve been blogging (for examples, click here), and I think knowing how to do it and doing it as often as possible actually works in your favor as an author. Below I’ve written down some tips to writing reviews, based on my own experience and things I’ve picked up from reading the reviews of others (especially those in Entertainment Weekly):

Review both good and bad works. Sometimes it’s tempting to only review the good stuff. After wasting perhaps several hours on a work that proved to be well below the bar, the last thing you want is to spend any more time on it. However, writing a review on something you disliked not only does a lot of much-needed venting on how you wasted money getting that ticket or buying that paperback, but it may help someone decide whether or not to check out said work, and perhaps avoid several hours of trying to get through a book that fails to please.

Opening, summary, thoughts, final rating, closing. This is the structure I usually use for my reviews. I give a little opening that gives my impressions of the movie, positive or negative. Then I give a short, hopefully spoiler-free summary of what the film is about, followed by a paragraph or two about what worked and what didn’t work. Finally I give a final rating (more on that below), and I write a final piece, usually something relating to any possible sequels or how this book was one of the best I’d read in a long time or some other third thing (you guys get the idea).

Use a rating system. You don’t have to use a rating system, but I find them helpful. Something simple, such as on a scale of 1-10, 1-5, out of 5 stars, a grade between A+ and F (though I wonder, if you’re a schoolteacher during your day job, is using that rating system too much like work?). I prefer using 1-5 with decimals. The last review I gave was a 2.6 out of 5, if I remember correctly. It’s simple and easy to understand, which is what I hope everyone thinks my reviews are.

Make sure to name all relevant people. Include the names of the author, or the name of the writer, director, and actors if this is a TV show or movie. Also, if you feel themake-up artists producers, and composers or anyone else should have their names mentioned, do it. Just make sure you explain why these names are mentioned.

Unless your blog is dedicated to reviews, don’t do them too often. It’s that whole thing about staying true to the theme of your blog and not wanting to deviate too much from that. Sure, a review every now and then is good, but don’t do it too much that you forget why you’re writing your blog in the first place.

If you want to find out more about reviews and writing them, you can check out mine through the link above (though you’ll also find reviews of my own books among them and a few other things, so you might have to wade through all that). You can also check out blogs dedicated to reviewing different movies/books/music/TV shows (too numerous to list here, I’m sure), any pop culture or entertainment magazines (People and Entertainment Weekly) and review aggregator sites (IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, etc.).

And readers, we want to hear from you. Do you write reviews? What do you get out of it? Do you have any tips for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you.

And if we get enough tips, I might post an article with your suggestions listed. So don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on reviews and reviewing. You might see them posted for all to see in a future article.

Categories: Blogs & Websites, Book Reviews, General Writing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Can And Should You Ask For Reviews?

Lately it came up in a writer’s discussion group I belong to on Facebook about whether or not it was considered acceptable to ask friends and family for reviews. One author, who was new to the group, had written a novelette and published it on Amazon, but he hadn’t received any reviews for it yet. He was considering asking for reviews from people he knew, but he was afraid it would come off as tacky or as rude to ask for a review.
The consensus of the group seemed to be that asking for reviews wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, several of us had already done so and had received reviews that way. What mattered, we believed, was how you went about asking for a review. Asking in a nice manner, such as saying, “If it’s not too much trouble, after you’ve finished reading my book would you write a review for it?” is perfectly acceptable and is much more likely to garner a positive response for both you and possibly your book than if you said something like “Give me a review or I won’t ever do anything nice for you!” Remember, people are taking time out of their hectic schedules to read your book, which they are under no obligation to read even if they know you. In a way, they are doing you a favor, and the review is like an extension of that.

However, if you’re still uncomfortable with asking people for reviews, try reviewing the works of authors you are friendly with. If you read their work and you write a review of it, positive or negative, they may want to reciprocate by reading your work and then writing a review of their own. I know a few authors who have received reviews or the promises of reviews that way.

And if you are still uncomfortable, think about it this way: most publishing houses actually pay magazines and newspapers to have their critics read their books and write a review of them. Compared to having to gather up the fees to pay a critic to read and review your work in even a small circulation magazine, asking for a review from some friends or family isn’t too difficult, is it?

Categories: Book Promotion, Book Reviews, The Reader, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Getting Reviews

I’m not an expert on how to get reviews, but I did track down two useful blog posts that I think are worth looking into:

Ten Crucial Tips To Help You Get Your Book Reviewed  by Shelli Johnson

and

Seeking Amazon Book Reviews?  Don’t Ask Your Friends (5 Suggestions of What *to* Do) by Chila Woychik

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Word of Mouth Will Always Be the Best Marketing Tool Out There

Now that I shared the links, I’m going to offer my opinion about reviews.  I don’t believe reviews are as important as we’ve been led to believe.  I think authors stress out way too much about getting them.  You want to know the single most important marketing technique you can use to gain readers?  Word of mouth by people who don’t know you.  But the problem is, that is something you can’t control.  That’s why it’s not a popular thing to talk about.  We talk about “luck”, but you know what luck is?  It’s people talking about your book and recommending them to friends.  It’s word of mouth.  That is the magic ingredient.  You can’t buy it.  You can’t spam for it.  You can write the best book possible and polish it up, but ultimately, it’s out of your control.

A Lot of Readers Don’t Review Books (And I Don’t Blame Them)

There are a lot of people who don’t review books, nor do they care to.  And who can blame them?  Reviews are questioned.  Sometimes they’re removed.  If it’s a positive review, it “must have come from a friend or the author himself”.  If it’s negative, it “must be a jealous author or there’s someone out there with a personal vendetta against you”.  If you review a book, you’re likely to get a slew of commenters arguing with you.  Since when should reviewers have to be questioned for leaving their opinion on a book?  There’s no reason why a reviewer should be attacked, but I see this behavior happening at an alarming rate.  So I don’t blame anyone who decides to not review a book.

Embrace a Variety of Reviews

And what kind of reviews do you want to get?  Would you be happy if you get a few 1-star reviews “warning” other people not to waste time on your book?  I think what authors mean when they say they want reviews, what they’re really saying is they want praise.  They want reviewers to build them up in hopes of other customers being so impressed that they will buy the book.  But do a slew of glowing reviews sell books?  No, they don’t.  They are not the magic ticket.  I’ve seen a lot of books with all glowing reviews or mostly glowing reviews that don’t sell well.  I’ve seen books that have a 3-star average that sell much better.  Sometimes when people don’t like your books, other people are attracted to it.  Yeah, it stings when you get reviews saying your book is bad and why.  But potential readers who aren’t in your target audience need to know what someone else doesn’t like about your book.  Why waste someone’s time if they aren’t going to be interested in the kind of book you write?  There is no one book that fits every reader.  The best reviews are the ones that state specifically why the person did or did not like your book.  There’s no sense in glowing praise or attack.  Just objectively stating the good and bad is best.  So embrace the good, indifferent, and bad reviews.  A balance will serve you better than 100% praise.

Let Reviews Come In At Their Own Time

I do see value in having book reviewers reviewing your books.  They have an established presence and are known for reviewing a variety of books.  So I think contacting them (and going by their guidelines) is a good idea.  But I wouldn’t stress trying to have X number of reviews within a month of publishing your book.  Let reviews build up naturally over time.  I think having them trickle in here and there will benefit you in the long run.  I know some people are in a hurry to sell books so they want as many reviews as possible in a short amount of time, but there’s value in being patient.  Building a business takes time.  While there are a couple of authors who become big successes within a year, realistically, the odds are stacked against you.  Slow and steady still pays off.

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Anyone else have tips to offer on getting reviews or ways to think of reviews?

Categories: Book Reviews

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