I am in no way an expert on the subject of reviews, but I know what I like. That’s the first step in writing a review that is honest and informative. There is a difference between a rating and a review, and while both are helpful, I tend to concentrate more on the written review.
Simply put, a review is a written description of what you like about a story, and yes, sometimes even what you don’t. I am going to share with you three rules I keep in mind when doing reviews, the most recent of which can be seen on Goodreads under my Author page.
Not all reviews need to include a 5-star rating
– I will be the first to say that there are some incredible (and little known) books out there, and while they are fabulous, they don’t always warrant a 5-star rating. In a perfect world, we would be able to give star ratings with decimals. This would allow us the flexibility of giving a book a 4.5 rating for something well-written and witty, that wasn’t in the same literary category as a beloved classic. So far, we only have 1 to 5-star ratings at our disposal, but in my opinion, what you say about the book is much more important than the rating you give it. A rating of 3 or 4, backed up with a thoughtful and telling review, can be more powerful, and believable, than a 5-star rating alone. In all honesty, it is what I would rather see as an author since I am always looking for constructive feedback. It allows me to see how the readers are connecting to the characters I develop and the situations I place them in.
A short review is better than no review
– I do tend to write wordy reviews, however, there are times when I am unable to give the review proper attention, based on schedule conflicts, deadlines, etc. Sometimes one line can be very intriguing and powerful, interesting a reader enough to check out a particular author. For instance, my review of Seven Years by Dannika Dark included the simple statement, “Loved it! Never knew an explosion could be so romantic!”
There is always something positive to say
– I feel pretty strongly about this rule, especially considering how hard it is to complete a novel and bare your soul to the world (in a literary sense of course). In every book I have read, I have found things that I connected to or liked. In reviews, I feel it is important to focus on those things, as well as the things that you felt were missing. If a novel is poorly written, lacks editing, or has been improperly advertised, it is up to you if you feel the author should be contacted directly via email with a list of things that require attention. It could give them the opportunity to correct the issues and learn what doesn’t work moving forward, should they be open to suggestions. However, I don’t always recommend this since some books have print runs and can’t be changed, much as the author would love to do so. It could also be a book that the author wrote years before, which is not a reflection of their current work. Oftentimes in a situation where I’ve purchased a book I can’t finish, or that wasn’t what I thought it would be, I go back to the old adage – if you don’t have anything nice to say… well, you know the rest.
Well-written reviews can be helpful not only to other readers but also to the authors whose stories have made their way into your life. Taking the time to post a review, or at the very least a rating is appreciated more than you know by the writing community. Thank you to everyone who makes it a regular part of their reading experience.
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