As an author, I depend quite a bit on reviews. I go to Amazon at least once a week, type in my book, and look at that cute little number next to the stars. When that number has gone up, my heart goes pitter patter.
My personal point in writing books is to give the reader a great experience by building a cool world and giving them characters they want to hang out with. If I’m getting good reviews, then I know what I did worked. If not, well, there is always room to improve.
I don’t do it often, but once in a while I put a shout out to my social networks and ask anyone who has read my book, and preferably liked it, to leave a review.
Just leaving stars is good. Leaving an actual review is better!
Some people give me a slow blink and say, “How do I do that? I have no idea what to say.” They mumble a few things and go get a drink.
I understand, it can be intimidating. Some people go all out, giving the type of book, the audience, a four paragraph personalized recap of the story as well as what they liked and didn’t like about it. I have a hard enough time putting together that little blurb that goes onto the back of my books (seriously, those things are hard to write unless you practice) and I don’t usually try to do it for other people.
Don’t get me wrong, those reviews are wonderful, but as a reader, I don’t always read the really long ones. I scroll through and gather the highlights from the short ones, and then if I’m curious or there are conflicting opinions, I’ll delve into the longer ones.
So here’s what I would suggest for a review on either Amazon or Goodreads. Let’s say you’re going to review my book (hey, it’s my blog, play along)
Sixteen year old Wendy never knew the world before the Starvation. She’s learned to put her trust in her knives, and her confidence in her fighting ability. When the Skinnies attack her compound, she’s the lone survivor.
Injured and near death, Wendy is rescued and nursed back to health by mysterious strangers. Her saviors offer her a place among them, but trust has never been one of Wendy’s strengths, and suspicion soon leads to evidence that these people might be the group who killed her family.
The decision to get her revenge, and take the settlement down from the inside out is easy. Keeping her distance from those she must befriend in order to make it happen proves to be much more difficult.
1) What were you expecting from the book?
This is always a fun tidbit to include, because everyone judges a book by its cover, and then they go to the small blurb in the description, and by that point a reader should be able to tell, in a general sense, what kind of book this is going to be.
You don’t need to get carried away with it, just a sentence or two is nice for others to compare their initial thoughts with.
Fractured Memories expectations:
A kick butt, female character with a desire for revenge
Post apocalyptic world that’s been taken down by something called the Starvation
It might be a little dark.
The girl on the front looks like she really wants to punch someone (this was a comment I got at a signing…so perfect)
So you might say:
I started this book expecting a strong lead character, an intriguing world and a lot of action.
Fractured Memories promised to be a kick butt story about Wendy and her quest for revenge.
2) Did the book:
Fall short of your expectations
Fulfill your expectations
Rise above your expectations
Then simply answer the question: Why? Both good and bad.
If you had read Fractured Memories with the above expectations, and it turned out to be about a girl who cried a lot and spent half of the book talking about her feelings, I would say that the book fell short of expectations. (It’s not like that, I promise.)
If a book fulfills your expectations, say that as well. “…and this book delivered exactly as promised.”
If a book rises above expectations, for sure say that! “…this book gave me everything I was expecting, along with so much more!”
Other readers want to know. I’ve avoided books before because people said that the book in question looked funny, but wasn’t. Like those movie trailers that make a movie look hilarious, but when you see it, the only funny parts were the parts in the trailer? That’s the kind of information that will help other readers pick a book. And if the author is looking to improve their craft or marketing, they may benefit from that information as well.
So you might say:
This book did not disappoint. The dark world the author built left me with nightmares, and Wendy’s plight kept me on the edge of my seat.
And I LOVE this bit that someone left for Fractured Memories:
A terrifying cross between The Hunger Games and Night of the Living Dead that will haunt your dreams and make you think about what you eat
Yes! This makes me so happy.
3) What did you love the most?
Some of this gets covered in #2, but if there’s more, put it here.
I worked very hard on my characters in Fractured Memories. My beta readers pointed out that they were weak, so I beefed them before releasing the book. I love that someone left this in their review:
Really enjoyed this book! Loved the main character’s attitude and perseverance. I became quite attached to the secondary characters as well.
That’s like a dream come true. Attached to the secondary characters? This is perfect. Who doesn’t want to know that the characters in the book they are about to buy are awesome?
Maybe you really loved the way the action flowed in the book. I do have a black belt in Shaolin Kempo, so my fight scenes are pretty great. If you, as a reader, noticed that, put that in your review. Or if you loved the rich descriptions, or the beautiful writing, or the witty banter in a romance, or the fact you laughed out loud as you were reading a comedy, or the way the author always made you feel on edge…any of that. Just one or two will add a lot of value to your review.
4) If the book really fell short, say so here.
I hate leaving bad reviews. I try not to blast the author. However, if there is something that really rubbed me the wrong way, that hasn’t already been covered, here’s the place to do it.
I read one YA Dystopian book that seriously left me with whiplash. The story moved way to fast, the characters were all idiots (and never improved) and the world wasn’t fleshed out at all. It is okay to say all of that. Try not to be a jerk about it, but let others know.
5) If you plan to read more by this author (or have already read more by this author) say it.
Readers love finding authors they trust and reading everything they’ve ever written. If you feel that way after reading a book, let others know. Help them feel safe.
If you want to help an author out, compare their book with something popular that is like it, and then say why they are similar (haunt your dreams-the Hunger Games and Night of the Living Dead did that, and so did Fractured Memories). Amazon’s search engines gobble that up and it will help the book become more visible. Of course, make sure that the books are actually similar. Never lie in a review. Ever.
If the book is a romance, use romantic words in your description. If the book is action packed, use action words and phrases.
As a reviewer, you have the opportunity to guide a reader to a great book. Something you enjoyed and would like to share. A few lines in each of the above categories (except #4 if you don’t have any issues, which is always good) will help other readers. Your review does not need to be a page long, nor does it need to include a summary of the book. Longer, more involved reviews are fine, but not needed from everyone.
If you happen to know the author, do NOT put that in your review. Amazon will take it down because you are linked to the author. Sometimes Amazon will remove reviews if you like each other on Facebook or other social media outlets. It happens. It’s annoying. Don’t give them a reason to reject you.
It is much more likely that your review will stay up if you’ve bought a copy of the book, instead of say borrowing it or even reading it from the library. Amazon calls that a “verified purchase.” Goodreads doesn’t care, because they don’t sell books. Never let that stop you, but it is a thing.
Once a book gets a certain amount of reviews on Amazon (I think it’s 50, but don’t quote me), the mighty algorithms will begin to circulate that book in bigger categories and automatically give it more visibility. This is the reason reviews are so important for authors. For readers, they are important because the reader gets to test the waters before they buy the book. It’s a win-win.
Leaving a five-star review is never required, but they sure do help. Don’t be shy about being generous. However, if it’s only a three-star book, that’s okay. Another reader may use your review to avoid wasting time on a sub-par book.
So go forth, and leave reviews! Be the voice of temptation, or warning.