Book Reviews - Tips for Readers and Authors
I once wrote a blog about how a book review is the second best gift to give an author. The first, in my humble opinion, is a word-of-mouth recommendation. And the third is, of course, to buy the book. Why put that third? Because, although a reader buying a book is the only action that puts money in my pocket, reviews and recommendations enlarge my audience of readers faster than the purchase of one copy, and of course, that’s what the publishing game is all about.
Most readers don’t realize how important reviews are to authors, especially new authors. The number of reviews affect rankings on bookseller sites, whether or not we can get ads for our books, and just general visibility. Without reviews (or a lot of paid advertising), readers will most likely never find a new book, because they simply won’t see it.
I write reviews for all the books I enjoy on BookBub.com and on Amazon.com. Note that I said “all the books I enjoy.” I don’t continue to read books that I don’t like or find boring, so I don’t leave reviews for those. Fiction is personal; we don’t all enjoy the same topics or characters. I’m not going to diss a book that someone else may love. If I like a story but find some element of it disturbing, I may include a mention of that in my review, such as “…this story includes a lot of detailed descriptions of weapons that military fans may enjoy” or “…I had to skip over the scenes of wounded animals,” etc.—you get the idea.
I know authors who constantly read the online reviews for their books. I have published more than a dozen books, so checking in on each of them could well prevent me from writing the next one. But I do peruse the reviews once in a long while, and the gems really warm my heart, and I use the best in advertisements now and then. The “best” reviews are not statements like “Best book ever!” or “Great read!”
So, what makes a good review for the author? You should never tell the whole story—it’s not a book report and you don't want to spoil the suspense for a reader, but you should write something that indicates that you actually know the story.
For example, two of my favorite reviews for The Only Witness, a book about a signing gorilla (Neema) that witnesses a baby’s kidnapping, are:
"Wading into controversial themes, this rollicking thriller touches on human trafficking, teen pregnancy, and the role of animals in the lives of people." - Publishers Weekly "Neema knows how to negotiate for a banana and steal your heart while doing it...a marvel of story-telling" - GRAND PRIZE WINNER - Chanticleer Book Reviews Blue Ribbon Contest
It’s also great to compare an author to a more famous one, and that may help readers to believe they’ll like the new author, but make a comparison only if you’re truly being honest. I just stumbled across this review for Undercurrents, my third Sam Westin wilderness novel, and I am so honored be considered in this company:
“Beason is terrific - Nevada Barr/CJ Box/Donna Ball rolled into one, with the lyricism of Louise Penny” – Love to Read (Amazon review)
Whoa! That’s a lot to live up to.
For Backcountry, the 4th in my Sam Westin wilderness series:
“Her descriptions make me feel like I'm there” – Office Girl (Amazon review)
I’m not going to bore you with more. You see what I’m getting at. Reviews don’t need to be eloquent, but it’s best if you actually say something about the story other than “I liked it.”
A word to Authors: if you want to encourage readers to write reviews, tell them so and then make it easy for them. Nobody likes being assigned a task they have to figure out how to do. Provide instructions, or in your Amazon ebooks or an electronic newsletter, a link. For example, if I wanted to encourage my readers to leave a review for Borderland, the 4th in my Sam Westin series, I’ll give them a link like this that will take them directly to the spot to write a review:
To write a review for Borderland on Amazon, click this link: https://www.amazon.com/review/create-review/?ie=UTF8&channel=glance-detail&asin=B07YMWHKBH
So, if you want to support authors, especially indie authors and new authors, take the time to write a review on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBooks, Goodreads. BookBub, or wherever you get books. And tell your friends about the book. The bestsellers don’t need your help, so if a book has thousands of reviews, there’s no need to bother.
But for the rest of us, your opinion really counts!