Author of OUTBACK LOVE a contemporary romance novel set in Australia, JETTING AWAY a short story prequel to OUTBACK LOVE, MOON OVER MADNESS a paranormal romantic comedy and BAYOU BLUES AND OTHER SORROWS a collection of short stories and poems about life and love. All are available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel and Kobo. On Twitter @TeriHeyer

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Art of Reviewing

Wildflowers, not perfect but beautiful.
There is an art to reviewing. Think of it this way. In my yard there are numerous wildflowers. They are not perfect compared to the lilies, roses and other hybrid flowers bought from the store. But in their imperfections they are beautiful in their own right. That is what reviewing is all about.

We can all pretty much agree on the literary greats, Tolstoy, Hardy, James, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck. The list can go on and on. As readers we can all put together our own list of authors who outshine all others, the authors we put up there on a pedestal.

Reviewing books written by contemporary authors is not the same as reviewing literary classics. How could we ever compare say, Lisa in Love  (not a real book) with The Grapes of Wrath? As reader reviewers we don't want to do that. Most of us would admit that if the literary greats are 5-Star books then our books are somewhere in the zero or below. I'm not saying that contemporary writers don't write great books. We do. It's just that our short stories, novellas, novels, have yet to season and stand the test of time.

Does that mean we shouldn't review books by contemporary authors? Of course not. Authors need reviews for their books. Good reviews help authors promote their books and help readers find great books to enjoy.

Here's the deal, this is where the art of reviewing comes into play. If you're a professional reviewer, I ask for your patience here, you already know your craft and I'm not trying to tell you how to review. This is for the rest of us, we readers who love books and want others to know what we love.

The book you're reviewing is not a literary classic, so don't compare it to those honored tomes. You're comparing the book to others in the genre. You're weighing the book to see if it is what it claims to be. Lisa in Love is a romance novel, a bit steamy, with love at first sight, some misunderstandings and a happy ending. After you read Lisa in Love did you love it? Did it give you a warm tingly feeling? Did it make you think about the characters or the situation after you read the final page? Did it make you want to read more books by that same author?

A lot of books don't fit into any one genre. Let's look at Alexander's Demise (not a real book). It has elements of mystery, romance, time travel with some thrills thrown in. Be open minded when you read and review that kind of book. Don't write a bad review because it didn't have enough romance to your liking. Or perhaps you dislike time travel. Remember, every book stands alone. Every book is an individual entity. Please review the book for what it is and not denigrate it for being something different than what you expected. Books are insights into the heart, mind and soul of the author who wrote that book. Enjoy the read, savor it, relish the journey.

I am always awed when I read a book, knowing the author spent countless hours, days, weeks, months, years of their precious time writing that book. I feel privileged, honored to be offered the opportunity to read that book. What if all authors decided to hide their books, keep them hidden in boxes in their closets or under their beds, because they're afraid someone out there won't like their books? It would be a sad world if that happened. So please remember that you're reading an author's treasured words. Those words may not be the exact same ones you would use if you were writing that book. Please don't tell the author, "I could have written it better." You didn't write the book, the author did. Just remember, a positive, kind review means the world to an author.

This is what I'm talking about. Here are my suggestions for learning the art of reviewing.

1) This is not a time to spew hate. If you personally hate science fiction, romance, thrillers, paranormals, time-travels, historicals, this is not the time to attack a book for belonging to your hated category. Walk away and mutter that hatred to yourself. Don't put it into a review.

2) Did you like or love this book? Did it make you feel good? A review is the time to say just that. It doesn't have to be a long review, two or three sentences will do.

3) Would you recommend this book to others? Be sure to say just that. Other readers are going to see your review. They're looking for books that others liked, enjoyed, loved. It's as simple as that.

4) Were there some formatting errors, typos, misspellings, etc. in the book? Yes? Well, of course. Writers are  human and not perfect, so how can anyone expect their books to be perfect? Do you point all this out in your review? Hopefully not. Email the author and let him/her know your concerns. Don't denigrate a good book just because of a few errors. If the errors are overwhelming, maybe you should just walk away and not review the book. Email the author and let him/her know why you couldn't review the book.

5) In reviews, it's all about the stars. If you liked, enjoyed, loved a book and would recommend it to others, then you should give the book 4 or 5 stars. If the book caught your interest, but maybe was so-so, then that's probably a 3 star book. Personally, if I can't give a book 4 or 5 stars then I don't review it. Bad reviews hurt authors and I don't feel that it's my responsibility to do that to another author.

6) Be kind. This is so important. Authors are fragile beings who put their whole heart and soul into their books and then put them out there for others to read. So weigh your words and strive to be kind.

7) Remember that what you write in a review reflects upon you, the reviewer. If you spew hate, then it shows you as a person who hates. If you show kindness, others see that you are kind.

8) Write reviews. Authors need those reviews on their books. The reviews can be simple, only two or three sentences, or longer if you feel the desire to write more. Readers want to see  reviews. So let readers know why you liked/enjoyed/loved the book.

9) Where do you write those reviews? Since Amazon and Barnes&Noble tend to carry the market these days, be sure to write your reviews there. If you're on Goodreads, Facebook or other social media, write your reviews there too. If you have a blog, that's a wonderful place for your reviews. Though if you do write reviews on your blog, please remember to at least write a shortened review on Amazon and Barnes&Noble so that more readers can see that review.

10) Encourage the author to write more. If you liked/enjoyed/loved the book, then encourage the author to continue writing. It's so easy for authors to get down in the dumps. But if they know that readers love their books it boosts them up. A kind, positive review is inspiration for an author's soul.

11) Share the love. Tell the world about the books you loved. Tweet about it. Tell your family and friends.

Once again, thank you to all who read this post. I'm an author who is an avid reader. I love books, short and long, old and new, romantic and thrilling, contemporary and historical, funny and sad, mysterious and inspiring. I love them all. I hold all books in awe, in reverence for the written word. I hope other readers feel the same.

If I have one wish in writing this blog it's this, please share the love. That's all I ask.

I hope others will weigh in on this discussion and comment below. What are your tips for writing a good review? What do you hope to convey to readers? If you have blog posts about writing reviews, please include the links in your comments below. Your input is greatly appreciated.

2 comments:

  1. Well said, sister. This needed to be mentioned , to stop the senseless and irresponsible comments and/or reviews that plague the internet. All of a sudden everybody is an expert on something totally unrelated to their field and yet, somehow, they feel the need to opine, usually in not the most flattering form. I, for one, don't read reviews before reading a book or seeing a movie. After forming my own opinion I may read what others think and see whether I agree with them or not. Press on, Teri, write that next book!

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    Replies
    1. Regina, thanks for the comment. I agree, I rarely read reviews before deciding on a book. I really don't want the reviews to sway me one way or the other and would rather just make the determination on my own.

      It is unfortunate that some people feel compelled to slam a book rather than mention the good points. Bad reviews can really harm an author, particularly one who is just starting out. It's a tough business without others trying to tear them down.

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