Friday, August 15, 2014

5 Elements of a Good Review

Norton Road
Most of us probably won't take the time to leave a review for that book we just read. It's the same as with any other product or service -- we pick up the pen (or pull out the keyboard) when we feel cheated, or think a product or service was so bad we have to vent. In the old days, it usually meant writing a letter to the company, or calling customer service and giving them an earful.

How many times have you written a letter or made a phone call to tell someone how much you liked their product? It's easier now, because there are lots of places to write reviews online. Amazon will send you an email and ask you to review products you've purchased. They make it easy. Is it any wonder their customer service is so outstanding?

But is it important? You bet your boots it is. Reviews, both good and bad, let a company (or in my case, author) know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Businesses are very keen these days to monitor social media (especially Twitter) for mentions of their products. Sometimes it might not seem like it, but most businesses WANT to deliver a good product at a competitive price. Why? Because it makes them money.

Book reviews are critical to an author. When is the last time you purchased a book on Amazon without reading at least a sampling of reviews? And if you think your review won't matter, you are wrong. Sure, maybe a few of the top authors get so many reviews and sell so many books that they don't bother to read them anymore, but most authors, like myself, depend on them.

So how do you write an effective review?

1)  Be honest. Yes, the truth may hurt sometimes, but false praise not only misleads other potential readers, it misleads the author. That doesn't mean you should write a nasty review of a book you didn't like. No book will suit every reader. Explain why you didn't like the book. Be kind. On the flip side, if you liked a book, explain why. As much as I love reading that you liked my book, what I really want/need to know is why. What parts did you like most?

2)  Avoid spoilers.  Some reviewers get carried away and reveal too much of the story. Don't forget that most of the ones reading your review are trying to decide whether to read the book or not. A good rule of thumb is not to give away anything that surprised you, or caught you off guard. Read the author's description of the book and try not to reveal anything not in that description because it was probably left out for a reason.

3) Who are you?  Provide a brief mention of what kind of reader you are. If you typically read suspense and happen to be reviewing a fantasy book, mention it. Especially if your review tilts toward the lower star range. If you are an avid reader, or only read once in a while, say so.

4)  Mention other books you liked. If I read a review by someone who liked or disliked a book I've also read, their opinion carries more weight with me, because it shows we have similar tastes.

5)  Proofread. Okay, so you may not be a writer, but most readers are intelligent enough to write a review that is readable. It doesn't need to be formal, or perfect, but the author may want to use a portion (or all) of your review to post on Facebook or Twitter to attract other readers. I've had reviews that said wonderful things but were so full of errors that I couldn't use them (though I appreciated them every bit as much).

I would like to post a review of Norton Road that I found on Amazon this morning. It immediately brightened my day. The bold was added by me, to highlight the parts of the review that stood out to me.

I saw this book mentioned on Facebook by a trusted friend. I bought it on Amazon. I thought it was one of the best books I had ever read.the author made the people he wrote about come alive.I felt like I could relate to them even though they were so different than anyone I have ever known in my circle of family and friends. This author was in my opinion born to write. He is just that talented.I am an avid reader and always have at least one book going at all times.I am so critical of just authors who bore me with simple little stories that you know how it will advance and end after the first few chapters.Norton Road is not one of those books.I usually forget a book as soon as I finish it,but I find my self thinking about this story frequently even though it has been several months since I read it. This is so rare to find an Author with this gift.
First, the review mentions how she heard about the book. Word of mouth sells books.

Second, she said she felt like she could relate to the characters. As an author, I love hearing that because it means I achieved one of my primary goals. If you can relate to a character, you form an emotional bond.

Third, she mentioned being an avid reader. She knows something about books.

Fourth, and this part is what made me scream YES! (quietly, of course, so as not to gather strange looks) because that, to me, is the ultimate goal -- to create characters so real you'll catch yourself wondering what they are doing, as if they are real. In some small way, they are real.

And lastly, I highlighted this one because it just flat out made me feel good. We all like to feel appreciated .... that what we do matters.

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