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How to write book reviews (& why you should)

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Book reviews, do you or don’t you?

I do. Why? Not sure, I’ve always kept a log of the books I’ve read from a simple list to a detailed reading journal and now mostly on Goodreads. I think it’s because if I’ve enjoyed a book I’d like other people to read it and enjoy it too. Of course, it’s all done online these days (how old do I sound??) which makes it even easier and yet most people just don’t bother. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I think it’s either your ‘thing’ or not but I would like the opportunity to change your mind.

Being the curious creature that I am (OK, nosey) I recently ran a poll – who doesn’t love a good poll – across social media. I have very different audiences I believe so I thought it would give me a diverse snapshot of opinions, and it did, mostly though the results were depressing.

Facebookers very rarely leave reviews, they don’t think about, don’t see why or simply can’t be bothered. Nothing wrong with that, no judgement here. 

Linkedin users sometimes left reviews but not always (it was evenly split between the 2 options)

Twitter was equally split as sometimes but not always, which surprised me actually as I thought I had more readers in my little community. 

Don’t ask about Instagram, no one responded!

OK, it wasn’t the most technical poll ever done but it served its purpose.

As an author, I’ve quickly learnt how important those reviews are to authors, whether you’re established as a Sunday Times Bestseller or a self-published rebel. Yes, it helps with sales and makes it easier to market to new audiences but there’s another reason.

As I’ve gone through the process of sending out review copies to selected readers I’ve read every review with great interest – not to boost my fragile ego but because I want to learn. I’ve spent years learning my craft in what is often a solitary pursuit. I write the books that I would like to read, and I’m always looking for a satisfying ending where all the plotlines join together and I’m left with a sense of having accomplished something in a world that I would never enter. It would be crime, but I also read a lot of historical fiction – neither world I am ever about to enter.

So having spent years writing, hoping and praying that I’ve written something that people will get that same sense of satisfaction is hugely important to me. I also want to know where I went wrong. I want the 3-star reviews but I want to be told why. Was it the plot? The characters? The ending? The setting? Where can I improve? What can I do differently next time to make it more satisfying?

Another frequent comment I heard was that people were unsure how to, or felt that it had to be akin to something that you would have written in your English Literature class. Not at all. Just your thoughts, your own opinion. You don’t have to delve deep, 2 or 3 sentences about the plot, a couple more about what you thought of the characters and how the book left you feeling. Here’s an example of a couple I have recently written on Goodreads;

Clare Mackintosh – I Let you Go (5 stars)
I know I’m late to the party with this one but having discovered Clare Mackintosh I am now an avid fan. I enjoyed the second part of the book more than first, and I figured the plot out within the first couple of chapters but that didn’t stop me from staying up late to finish it! I love how descriptive Clare is of time and place, putting you right there in the scene with the protagonist, which makes it all seem believable and realistic. I found the pace a little slow towards the end of part one, but it comes back at an accelerated rate in part 2. You barely have time to catch your breath with all the plot twists and turns. Thoroughly enjoyed it and I have now gone on to buy everything Clare has written!

Stuart McBride – The Missing and The Dead (3 stars)
Massive fan of Stuart MacBride and love the characters with all their traits and flaws but unfortunately this book didn’t do it for me 🙁 I felt the storyline was confusing and overly long. Definitely won’t put me off reading more about Logan McRae but this wasn’t for me. 

See? Took me about 5 minutes to write each of them. I tend to take my Kindle or paperback to The Shed with me so I remember to write a review, or in bed on my iPad. I wait until I have a few then go through and blitz them all. It works for me, and also acts as a good reminder as to what I’ve read!

But what if the book is desperately bad, littered with spelling mistakes and poor grammar? 
Don’t go public with it. Contact the author directly, most can be found on Twitter or have their own websites. Personally I’d prefer that to public shaming. Imagine if your boss posted how crap you were at your job all over Facebook without speaking to you first?

I read a book recently where the dialogue was appalling, out-of-touch, inappropriate for the circumstances (a woman was being murdered in a gruesome way but somehow managed to discuss the protagonist’s school days with the killer – no, no, no). I could have left a bad review but instead, I contacted the author and shared my thoughts and it turned out that it was a challenging area for them, and I wasn’t the first to mention it. They said they were super grateful and thanked me profusely.

The reader is an authors boss, it’s YOU that decides our fate, our failure and successes but on an open platform, in the public eye. Please be gentle with us, but please be honest too.

So would you consider writing reviews now? Even if it’s just a few sentences? It really does go a long way.

Connect with me on Goodreads

Read some of the reviews for The Lie She Told

1 thought on “How to write book reviews (& why you should)”

  1. I think I would now, since I’ve started studying again and keeping learning journals can’t see why I can’t do the same for the books I read. Thank you

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