How to Review a Book

This post exists just because so many of my close family and friends have been asking about reviewing a specific book *cough, wink*. I figured I’d write something about reviewing, since I’m part of the indie writer community and so many of my friends have books coming out soon too.

Most people don’t believe me when I say a single review can make a huge difference for a new author, even if it’s just to keep up their morale or teach them what they’re doing wrong. The most important thing about it, though, is that reviews connect like-minded readers with authors they may never have heard of before.

Before we get started, none of the sites or services mentioned have sponsored this post. All of this is based on my personal opinions and experiences.

Where do your review?

Typically on the site of purchase. If you bought the book from Amazon, review it on Amazon.

If you bought the book from a physical store, you can still review on Amazon or other online stores, but the review won’t show the ‘verified purchase’ badge. It’s better then, IMO, to review on a site like Goodreads, on your own blog, or on social media.

Goodreads is a wonderful site where you can list what you’re reading, what you’ve read, what you want to read, and others.

Listing, apparently, really helps with those pesky algorithms authors are always on about. It just means that readers who like the same kinds of books as you might have a bigger chance of seeing recommendations for those books you’ve listed. So, if for example you’re planning to read a book and have a Goodreads account (it’s free, BTW) it only takes a moment to list a book as ‘want to read’.

When you’ve tracked your reading progress and marked a book as read, they automatically take you to the review page. You can choose to only give the book a star-rating, or you can leave a review too–it’s up to you.

A moment of your time might make it easier for an author you like to survive as an author.

So, how do you review?

Honestly. Do remember that a review is an opinion piece, and you’re allowed to have and voice opinions. This doesn’t mean you must dissect the book and criticise it, nor does it mean you must heap on praise.

Every person alive seems to have their own criteria for how many stars they give. Personally, I don’t assign stars to books I really, really hated, and probably did not finish, but if I had to, I’d give them one star. I give two stars to books I think have potential, but didn’t like (and I’ve done this only once). Three stars for a good book. Four stars for a great book. Five stars for an epic book.

When I review something, I always try to highlight what I liked. If there’s something I really didn’t like, I mention that too, but I always try to word it in such a way that it’s clear it’s my opinion–as in “In my opinion” or “IMO” or “I thought”.

I mention characters, setting, story arcs or plot, and so on.

If you’re going to spoil something in the review, it’s considered good etiquette to place a spoiler warning. Most review sites will allow you to hide the review due to spoilers, which means the spoiler warning will appear at the top of your review, and the folks who want to read it will have to click to show what you wrote.

It’s totally okay to include spoilers in your review. If you want to freak out (in a good or bad way) or open a discussion–fabulous. Especially on the discussion front, since getting people talking about stuff usually means the algorithms of the review site will pick up traffic to the book, which will give the author a bump in stats.

If you’re reviewing on social media, do try to mention the book’s title and author’s name in the post. Also include a hashtag with the author’s name or the name of the book so other readers might find it. Some people even tag the author in the post.

Now, if literally every review the book has gotten is a glowing 5-star review, I’m usually a little distrustful, especially if it’s just the rating minus the review. Bought reviews are the worst.

Similarly, if a book has only 2-stars or lower, that means it needs a lot of work and is a hard pass from me.

What about critique?

These days, it’s considered cool to criticise everything, sometimes even before the thing comes out or without having actually read/watched the thing. That’s not helpful.

I personally try to avoid reviewing works I didn’t like, but recently found myself in a situation where I was gifted a review copy of a book, and felt I had to put out the review even when I didn’t like the actual book (it was a part of the review agreement, after all). So I tried to make it clear throughout that this book wasn’t my usual preferred genre, and other people might love it.

That’s the bottom line. There will always be someone who likes a book, even when I don’t. Likewise, books I adore will without a doubt make someone else cringe. That’s how this stuff works.

If you feel you have to review something but really didn’t like it, just try to deliver your feedback with that in mind.

If you want to review something with the sole goal of ripping the author a new one, don’t review it. This should be obvious, but some people forget how to be human when they’re anonymous on the web. Don’t be an arsehole.

Okay, why do you review?

The whole idea behind a review is to let other readers know what you liked or didn’t like about a specific book. If you feel like giving a book a glowing, fangirl-level, 5-star review, awesome.

But let me tell you a secret, many people don’t actually read the 5-star reviews. Nor do they read those really negative 1-star ratings.

People want the middle-range reviews, the ones that are more balanced and thoughtful, and typically give a better feel about the book.

I’ve found so many books and authors I love just based on the mid-level reviews.

And, as the author of something that had to be unpublished because it was so unpolished, these kinds of reviews really helped me grow as a writer. Thoughtful reviews point out what worked as well as what needs work, and are often delivered in a kind way that won’t send an author into a panic.

Should you comment on reviews?

Why not? If you agree with another reviewer, found their feedback helpful, or just want to say they wrote a good review, go for it.

Though, and this is a big though, don’t comment on reviews if the reviewer has a different opinion than yours and you want only to argue with them. As in, don’t be a troll.

If a reviewer (or author, for that matter) is constantly commenting on reviews other people wrote to school them on why they’re wrong, that reviewer loses credibility. I won’t take that person seriously, and will sometimes even ignore the book on the whole if the fanbase is made up of mean, argumentative people–which does the author no favours.

Reviews, as I said above somewhere, are opinions and opinions will always differ. That’s okay. Someone is going to love a book, someone will hate it, and in the middle will be someone who thought it was okay but not completely for them.

And that’s it from me.

Just a reminder that A Study of Ash & Smoke is out on Monday! Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I’m not freaking out, you’re freaking out! Okay, it’s me. But ssh, don’t tell anyone.

Yolandie

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