Earlier, I posted a blog about professional book reviews. While professional reviews cover certain topics such as genre, central themes, characters, conflicts etc., readers, people like you and me—are more likely to discuss how the book made us feel and what we liked about the book.
Professional reviews tend to be more objective while reader reviews are more subjective. Still, many people choose to read a book or not based on reader reviews, especially if written well. How can the average reader write an effective book review that helps other readers?
Storyline, Characters, and Genre
Any reader who wants to include this in his review should be careful not to spoil anything or give away any secrets that might ruin the plot. And when I say be careful, I mean it—many reader reviews are giving away too much of the storyline. One of the top reviews on a favorite of mine, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, summarizes the plot in a series of questions: “What if you could go through a rabbit hole to the past? Would you try to change history for the better?” This is a great method to share with other readers what topic the book tackles. Just be careful not to give too much away.
Next: Your Thoughts
A reader review should share honest reactions to the book. If the book is interesting, memorable, or worthy of recommendation, mention it. Discuss how the book’s message and story affected you. Has this book changed the way you think about something?
Let’s look at this review for Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, written by a reader. The review begins with “Angela’s Ashes is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read.” Right off the bat, other readers know what the book’s main emotion will be. The reviewer uses words such as “entrancing” to convey the thoughts and feelings he experienced while reading the book.
Be Honest…But Don’t Be Mean
Be honest. Be truthful, but respectful. Don’t attack the author and claim they can’t write or you would never read anything they’d written. If there was something about the book that you didn’t like, share it, and explain why. If you cannot explain why maybe you should leave it out. Remember, there’s a chance that the author or publisher could read your review—be nice. Also, your review will influence others as to whether they take the time to try the book or not. Always be fair.
Reader reviews can be anywhere from a few words to 500 words—given that most reader reviews are online (like at Amazon or Goodreads). However, there isn’t a set standard and reader reviews range from very short to very long.
With the boom of online publishing and the sheer volume of published books available more and more readers rely on online reviews to help guide them to their next book selection. While, I don’t make my book selections based only on reviews, many people do. Personally, book covers, titles, and blurbs influence me—they are crucial to my book choices.
How often do you write or read reviews? How do you choose your next read?
Book reviews are everywhere: on television, in newspapers, in magazines, and especially online. In fact, there are hundreds of blogs dedicated to book reviews. In the world of book reviews, there are two major types, professional reviews and reader reviews.
Although authors hope to get as many reviews as possible, they also hope to see the differences between the professional review and the reader reviews.
Professional reviewers more often take an objective approach while readers are more subjective. And while reader reviews often focus on the book’s emotions and how it made them feel, professional reviews are much more rigid, focusing on the craft elements of writing, the subject, scope, and genre.
Here’s what a professional review covers:
The Basics: Talk About Subject, Scope, and Genre of Book
A professional review will always cover the basics. It will identify the book’s title and author, and if the book is fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, etc. Describe the context—the setting, and the general problem or conflict in the book (for example, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the reviewer might say that a group begins a journey to destroy a ring that could ruin the world). Talk about the key characters. Review the plot line without giving away any secrets.
Next: Thoughts & Critiques
Next comes their reaction to the book. Did they find it interesting, memorable, worthy of recommendation? Here, the professional reviewer will discuss central issues the book raises and how the book’s message and story affect the reader. Has this book changed the way the reader thinks about something? Right here, the quality of the story and the writing itself will be under the reviewers magnifier—was the storyline original, was the quality of writing good, or in need of editing and development?
If the review is going on a blog, the reviewer will provide links so readers can easily purchase the book, or so they can learn more about the author, the genre, or topic. These links serve as springboards so readers can explore more of the literary world.
The worst type of book reviews are ones that feel forced or, even worse, paid for. When book reviews sound less like an honest critique and more like a paid advertisement, you’ll lose your readers—fast. Unfortunately, we all know that not every book is good. Any professional reviewer has to approach reviewing a bad book tactfully and without being hurtful. After all, there’s always the chance that the publisher or author will read the review. A professional reviewer should be respectful but truthful.
A professional review should never be wholly negative. The reviewer should provide constructive criticism. If they didn’t like the book, their job is to explain why. In addition, their review will highlight the book’s successes alongside its failures, and explain why these failures might have occurred and how they could have been improved. For example, if the reviewer couldn’t engage with the character or if the heroine annoyed them, he should explain how it could have been better. A professional reviewer will never attack the author personally.
Most professional book reviews tend to be about 500 to 1,000 words, depending on where the review is posted. Blog and online media usually opt for longer reviews, while print media like newspapers or magazines usually want shorter reviews.
A successfully written book review will inspire conversation and feedback, and keep readers coming back for more advice on which books to read and which ones to skip. An honest and clear review will inspire any reader.
The next time you read a review look for these qualities.
My next week’s blog will tackle what a reader should cover in their book review.
The holidays are over. The groundhog has had its day, but for the single woman, there is one more hiccup in the year's road: Valentine's Day, the day that reminds you that Cupid's arrow has once again buzzed by your heart to hit... Well just about everyone else.
Don't look at the upcoming dreaded red day with fear or envy. Get ready to face it head-on. Don't be afraid. You’re not alone. This is your guide to help you survive Valentine's Day.
The first thing you need to know is that you are awesome. Really. It might not feel like it, but you are.
So on Valentine's Day, dress in something red. Bright red. That's right, you are going to flaunt it. Be daring. You will not let this day get you down. It could be a red sweater or red scarf.
No red clothes? Do your nails in red, fingers & toes. Wear flaming red lipstick.
If red isn't your color, pink will also work. But forget green, gray, black, blah. Be bold and be noticeable.
Next, Valentine's cards. Remember when you were in elementary school and everyone exchanged those cheesy, little boxed Valentine's cards with one big one for your teacher? Turns out, adults like them too. So buy a box and give one to your boss and all of your co-workers, even the people you don't like. Everybody gets one. It's a small gesture that goes a long way to making someone's day—including yours.
Now for lunch. Invite some of your girlfriends to go out for lunch to celebrate Valentine's Day. But there are rules. Everyone must tell at least one joke. For example, why didn't the teddy bear want anything to eat? Because he was stuffed. Or prepare jokes ahead of time on individual pieces of paper. Have each person at your lunch draw their joke out of a bag. Then each person has to deliver the joke and try to get the rest of the table to laugh. You could have a contest: the winner doesn't have to pitch in for the tip for lunch.
You get the idea, make it fun.
Give your lunch friends an extra treat. Give each person a chocolate kiss or other Valentine treat. You could even buy tiny gift bags and fill them with candy.
Now it's after work—the the hardest part of the day. Some of your friends will be heading out for a romantic evening. And you will head home—alone.
But, don't think of it like that. Tonight is your night. You are going to do something wonderful just for you. Go home and get into your most comfy jammies. Watch your favorite movie. Curl up and read a good book. Spend time in the kitchen trying out a new recipe. Turn the lights down low. Put on music. Dance. Sing. Whatever it is that you do to relax, whatever it is that you never have time to do, tonight is your night. Indulge and enjoy!
And lastly, before you go to bed, fill your tub with warm water and scented oil. Light some candles. Get a glass of wine. Slip into the tub and relax. Lean back, close your eyes. Feel the warmth of the water and inhale the luscious scent.
Then think about your day. You bravely wore red; You gave all your co-workers valentines; You had a fun lunch with lots of laughter; and you took time to indulge yourself.
And when you think about it, remember you really are awesome. Because only an awesome woman could have a day like this.
You might find you don’t need a valentine to enjoy Valentine’s Day!
I’m back at it after a long and relaxing holiday. Shame on me—when I started this blog, I excitedly promised myself that I would post on a regular basis, letting my readers know what I’ve been up to… Well, that failed miserably.
I could come up with a million excuses why I haven’t kept up with my blogging, but I’ll give you the real reason: I’ve been battling some deep-rooted issues regarding marketing, social media and writing. I’ve realized that the more time I spend marketing, writing blogs, interacting with fans on social media, and so on, the less time it gives me to finish writing the Pinnacle trilogy.
With my writing taking a back seat for the past year while I focused on marketing and building my social media platforms, book two of the Pinnacle trilogy is far behind where it should be.
When January 1st rolled around and I realized I was months behind where I should be, I had a panicked moment. Will I finish in time? Will my editors be able to fit me in their schedules? Will my writing feel rushed in order to meet my deadline? These questions swirled around in my head, creating a heavy feeling of stress on my shoulders.
I said it before and I’ll say it again—shame on me.
So, I took a break from marketing, unplugged from social media, and wrote for this past month. After all, what’s more important to my readers—blogs or the next book in the series?
I’m happy to say that I’m almost back on track for the completion of the next book in the Pinnacle trilogy, and am currently shopping for editors to help me publish as quickly as possible, making the next installment available to you!
Now that I’m back on track, I’ll focus a bit more on blogging and social networking, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson: writing my books should always be a priority. I’m sure all of you will appreciate that!
And as David Bowie put it "I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring."