It’s tough being a reader these days – that is, if you buy your books on Amazon. You can’t just read the book, enjoy it and go on to the next one. No, siree!
Not only have you got the author asking you (very nicely, of course) to post a review on Amazon for them, and they may even explain why it’s so important and they’ll be your BFF if you do, but you then have Amazon itself emailing you to ask, ‘What did you think of the book? Would you like to leave a review?’
I don’t always read a book as soon as I buy it. It often has to wait patiently in the queue while I finish the books ahead of it – usually those I’ve borrowed from the library, as they get a little antsy if my books are overdue. So I often get a reminder email from Amazon about posting a review before I’ve even read the book.
I almost always post a review on Amazon on the books I’ve bought there. This is because
(a) I enjoy writing book reviews and
(b) as an author myself, I appreciate the importance for authors of getting as many reviews as possible.
If you don’t know why, this is it in a nutshell – the number of reviews affects your visibility on Amazon - the more reviews your novels get, the greater your visibility on Amazon, and potentially the higher your sales.
But I do appreciate that many readers either hate writing reviews, couldn’t be bothered, forget and a myriad other reasons. Research shows that only about 2% of book buyers leave a review, so I’m always very appreciative when a reader makes the effort to post a review. Amazon has made it even easier for reviewers now, in that it gives you the option of four multiple choice questions to complete:
Then there’s a box below the questions for you to write a review in your own words, perhaps to expound on the questions you’ve answered, or bring up other aspects of the book. I don’t know what happens if you just answer the questions without writing anything in the review box– I did that a couple of days ago as an experiment for one of the books I’d bought and didn’t see my answers posted on Amazon.
So if you would like to write a review, but don’t know where to start here are my tips:
Often that’s the hardest part, so leave it until you’ve written the review and it may come to you in a flash of inspiration. You could write a headline that summarises your review, such as:
Lots of twists and turns with a surprise ending.
Entertaining story with lots of laughs.
I couldn’t go to sleep until I‘d finished this book.
Or you can make it a recommendation:
Fans of hot romance will love this book.
If you love crime with plenty of action, you'll enjoy this book.
As with any piece of writing, your headline will often determine whether people read your review, and a well-written review will help other readers decide whether to buy the book.
You don’t necessarily have to answer them, but use them as springboards for your comments. If you can write a sentence or two each on plot, characters and style of writing, it would be more than adequate. It doesn’t have to be to the standard of the New York Times Book Review, just write conversationally as if describing the book to a friend.
One sentence is fine. Two words even. Two recent reviews for my novel How Not To Commit Murder were ‘Good read’ and Very funny.’ I’m happy with that – I would rather have them than not, particularly as they were both 5 star ratings.
If you’re reviewing a non-fiction book, your review format will be different. You could mention:
And a headline that sums up your opinion:
Helpful Resource for Nude Bungee Jumpers.
The Only Book on Bull Castration You’ll Ever Need.
Should I post a review if I hated the book?
Authors have varying opinions on this. When requesting reviews, particularly from book bloggers, some authors will ask them not to make the review public if it’s negative, as negative reviews bring the average star rating down. Some book bloggers will comply with that request and some have it as part of their policy. Others warn that they will post the review regardless – that’s the risk the author takes when they request a review. And of course it’s completely up to the reader – the author can’t stop anyone from posting a bad review.
I’m of the opinion that any author who tries to put an embargo on negative reviews is being a bit of a diva. (Unless they're the victim of a campaign to discredit them by posting negative reviews, in which case Amazon will take action, once alerted). When you release a book into the Amazon wilderness, there will always be people who don’t like it for any number of reasons and you just have to learn to suck it up. Even Harry Potter has had one star reviews – every literary work in history has had its detractors.
But what I would recommend is that if you genuinely don’t like the book, don’t just launch into a diatribe about its awfulness:
This book is so bad I wouldn’t use it to line the kitty litter tray.
Give specific reasons:
The plot was full of holes/ The characters were clichéd/ The pace was too slow and I lost interest.
(Or all of the above). That way, you’re giving other readers an indication of why they might/might not like the book.
It can also be useful feedback for the author. No-one can deny that negative reviews hurt (any author who does is lying) and if it’s just the occasional one, you read it and try to forget it. Unless it happens to be one of many, all saying the same thing. If you’re getting a ton of reviews saying that your plot drags or your characters are dull, you'd need to give serious consideration to the fact they could be right.
There’s one proviso to this:
Don’t read a book in a genre that you’re not a fan of and then post a review saying how much you hated it. You just end up showing your ignorance. As in:
The Billionaire’s Marriage Tryst is lame. There’s way too much emphasis on unrequited love and Arabella and Brandon end up in each other’s arms at the end - so predictable!
Or Vampires on Mars is a crap book. Such a weird concept, full of way out creatures and places, and things that couldn’t possibly happen in real life.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on reviews. Do you write reviews of books you’ve bought? Do other readers’ reviews influence your decision to buy a book? Chime in below.
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.