You’ve just finished that last book you picked up from the library, and wow, it was a good one. The story was riveting, the language poetic and the characters so well-developed you feel as though you want to go meet them for tea.
What’s the first thing you do? Why, you go back to the library, the bookstore or online to see what other books this author has written. If you’re lucky, you’ll find another… maybe even a bunch of others. A series, even.
But what’s missing from this picture? You’re forgetting one very important step that keeps bringing those books within your reach, which is, leaving a book review.
I know, I know. Back in school, book reviews were homework. We all hated them. They were assignments. Boring, tedious, painful.
You’re all grown up now, though, and surely, you realize that book reviews are extremely useful in helping you find the books you love. Didn’t you read – either online, on the jacket flap or in your newspaper – the reviews of the title before you chose it?
Book reviews are not only important to readers, but they are critically important to authors. As a novelist, I can tell you that I depend heavily on reviews from my readers.
They not only help others to find my books (i.e., sales), but more importantly, they help me to improve my craft so the next book I write will be even better.
A fan will often come up to me at a signing and exclaim, “I just loved your last book! When’s the next one coming out?”
After thanking him or her, I ask, “Did you leave a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads?” Sheepishly, they avert their eyes and shake their heads. “I’m no writer. I don’t know what to write.”
Well I am here to urge you, dear readers, to leave book reviews. Moreover, I’m going to show you how. It doesn’t have to be a homework assignment you will dread doing. The review will not be graded. It won’t even take you very long, if you don’t want it to. The best part? I beseech you to be honest.
It doesn’t matter whether you purchased the book (print, eBook or audiobook) or if you borrowed it from the library or from a friend. Online book retailers such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble – as long as you have an account – will allow you to leave a review anyway. The same is true for Goodreads.
Let me clarify something important: there is a difference between rating a book and reviewing it. All three websites mentioned above use a 5-star rating system, where you can give a book five stars if you loved it or only one, if you hated it.
These ratings are great, but they don’t really impart any useful information to other readers – or to the author – about why you did or didn’t like the book.
Go one step further. Leave a review.
It doesn’t have to be very long, and it doesn’t have to include a synopsis of the book – this is redundant, as the information is available on the product description page or on the back cover.
What readers want to know is what you thought of the book, and why you gave it only three stars instead of four or five. Or what was so terrible about it that you only gave it one star.
We, authors, want to know as well.
An ideal review highlights what the reader found pleasing about the book, and perhaps something that he or she felt the author could have done better.
Here are some fictitious reviews which do not reflect on the works of this author.
“This mystery novel had an interesting plot with many unexpected twists that kept me turning the pages. I could not, however, relate to the main character at all, and felt she did a few things I considered naïve.”
Some readers are so enthusiastic about a book that they gush a little…
“This author takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride! The characters are so real… even though the events are paranormal. I’m hoping every book I’ve read from this author becomes a movie, and this one is no exception! Looking forward to reading the next book!”
Sometimes, though, begging for honesty can be painful:
“I only finished this book because I was hoping it would get better… Alas, that never happened. The plot was predictable, the characters flat and cardboard. Don’t waste your time.”
Yikes. But – at least we have one, very critical reviewer’s opinion. Also, they did specify why they didn’t like the book.
Then there are the reviewers who are more reserved:
“An interesting read. Different, but interesting.”
Hmm. Not very helpful to the next prospective reader – or to the author – in understanding why the three-star rating. At least they took the time to leave a review.
One thing you don’t want to do is give away the ending, unless you clearly mark it as such right at the beginning:
“Warning! Spoiler Alert!
I loved this book right up until the very end. The plot was fast-paced and the characters compelling. Lots of interesting twists and turns. But I never expected the heroine to die. That ruined it for me, so if you’re into happy endings, this book isn’t for you.”
A narrator can make or break an audiobook. When browsing for my next ‘read,’ I find it very helpful if the reviewers have left a note about how well they liked the narration.
If you found the narrator’s voice annoying, unclear or undifferentiated between characters, say so. If the narrator made a good book great, state that as well.
So you see, writing a review isn’t much different than discussing the book over tea with a friend. It can be as verbose, or as brief, as you choose to make it. You should be honest, and say what you liked and what you didn’t like. This helps readers and authors alike.
The only difference between a chat over tea and leaving a review is that you have to spend ten minutes typing it out. What I do is leave my review on Goodreads, then copy and paste it into the Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble’s website.
This way, no matter what platform a reader uses to search for their next great read, they will be able to access my opinion, along with all the others who took the few minutes to pen a review.
If you enjoy finding more books like the one you just loved, you must leave reviews! Help other readers find new titles and authors. Help us, the authors, to write more of the stories you want to read.
Do you leave book reviews? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to also ask questions. If there is anything I can do to help you feel more comfortable about leaving reviews, I’d love to help. Join the conversation!