Writing Reviews

Reviews alone aren’t going to tell you how good or bad a book is… More importantly, they don’t tell you how you will feel about it, because what you want from a book might be very different from what a reviewer wants. Nevertheless, like theatre and movie reviews, they do provide some insights that can be useful.

From an author’s perspective, they also give an indication of how their book is being received. On the basis that tastes vary, there are bound to be some reviewers who don’t like what you’ve written, so that indication isn’t always accepted with a song in the heart. Nevertheless, as writers we can learn something from each review.

In this age where Amazon is (sadly) so fundamentally important to the sale of books, the number of reviews on their site is of value in purely commercial terms. The information provided about how this works is very vague and – knowing Amazon – will change on a weekly basis anyway. What is clear, though, is that the number of reviews a book has will affect the algorithms (I know, it’s heart-pumping stuff!) that dictate how well your book is promoted. In short, the more reviews there are, the more promotion it’ll get.

The opportunity to leave a review is more widespread than it’s ever been, whether that’s for a product purchased or a holiday. But not everyone is comfortable with the idea of writing one. What do you put in it, for a start? And how long should it be?

If you are thinking about leaving a review for any book and you aren’t sure where to start, here are a few tips:

  • Know where you can go to leave book reviews. If the book has been produced through a publisher, they will often have their own websites where a review can be left. The more commonly used sites for leaving reviews are Amazon and Goodreads. In some instances, you can leave reviews on Waterstones’ website as well, so that’s another option. (Do bear in mind that you don’t have to use just one site. Once you’ve written your review, you can cut and paste the same review to as many of the websites as you feel are appropriate for you.) For ease, I have provided links to all of the relevant sites for my books at the bottom of the page
  • No review has to be an epic, so if you feel like you can only say that you enjoyed the book, just do that. Even a one-liner should be gratefully received by an author.
  • If you feel like you can add more, please do. Anyone reading reviews to help them decide whether to buy or not, will appreciate some indications of your reading experience. Perhaps a starting point will be what it was you enjoyed the most about the book – e.g. plot, character(s), setting, genre. It might even have been a particular scene.
  • It may be that you want to say more but can’t recall anything specific – particularly if you’re planning to review a book you read some time ago. If that’s the case, there’s no harm in jogging your memory by reading other reviews that have been left. But that’s all you should get from reading them – still write down your own experience in your own words.
  • For additional guidance, I’ve included here a link to a book blogger’s website. She put together some useful templates to help get new reviewers started.

You’ll note I’ve not tended to focus on negative aspects of a book when giving a review. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t want them or that you shouldn’t do them, but it is my personal preference after reading a book. If it was that bad, I’d rather just not review it. There’s nothing to be gained by hurting the author’s feelings, and a lack of reviews will probably be telling enough to prospective readers.