Why should a reader leave a review? Leaving a review comes down to the generosity on the part of a reader toward the author. Reviewing books you’ve read has more value than simply boosting — or crushing — the author’s ego. Sure, reviews are a great way to keep track of your personal library, but they also have the power to help other readers find books they might like.
Authors appreciate that you’ve bought the book, so the reader doesn’t ‘owe’ the author anything more. However, readers have an author’s sincere thanks when they leave a review. Reviews aren’t just about helping authors; they’re about readers helping other readers. I’m sure all of us have bought a book at one point or another based on the reviews left by other readers. As a reader, I truly appreciate each review and I can honestly say it makes a difference in whether or not I spend my money on that book.
So why don’t more readers leave reviews? Possibly because readers think reviews don’t matter. Or their busy lives get in the way. Or maybe, just maybe, a reader is intimidated at the idea of putting pen to paper — or, in this case, fingers to keyboard — and having anyone in the world read their words. If you relate to that, here are a few tips to help you craft quick, honest and helpful reviews.
1. DON’T post spoilers! The first rule of reviews is to never ever ever leave spoilers, such as “I can’t believe the hero died in the end!” Be vague about twists in stories, as those are meant to be a surprise. “I loved the twist at the end” is good; “I loved that the heroine turned out to be an alien at the end” is not. Even if you indicate ‘spoiler alert’, please don’t write it. Readers can’t help but be curious and it changes their reading experience.
2. DO relax! Imagine you’re talking to your best friend. What would you tell her about this book in a few sentences?
3. DO: Keep it short. Three to five sentences is plenty of space to share your feelings on just about any book read. Readers have most likely checked out the blurb for the book already; there’s no need to restate it in your review. What was your opinion of the story? How did it make you feel?
4. DO: Remember, when reviewing on Amazon, you have five whole stars to choose from. One stars should be reserved for books that are completely unreadable. If you enjoyed a book, even a little, start at two stars and work your way up from there.
5. DO BE CONSIDERATE. If you feel compelled to leave a negative review, imagine the author is standing in front of you asking for your honest opinion. Don’t insult her (“I hope this author dies in a fiery car crash!”); be constructive (“The characters lacked depth”). A lot of people seem to take joy in being unnecessarily cruel. It’s fine if you don’t like a book, but tell potential readers why the writing affected you.
Finally, if a book has errors, take the time to email the author or send a Facebook message. Most authors truly appreciate hearing from you and want to correct the errors. Even with an editor, proofreader, and beta readers, errors slip through the cracks and are missed. Each one of us is human and compassion goes a long way. Give the author the opportunity to correct the mistake and their gratitude will go a long way. Be a friend, even if you don’t know the author personally. It’s how each one of us would want to be treated.
In the end, a simple “This book really touched me because I could relate to the heroine” works just fine. Reviews don’t need to be Pulitzer-worthy to not only help others find the right books for them, but to hopefully make an author’s day. Every person deserves to hear ‘job well done’ by those that support their talents. A review is an electronic smile and pat on the back that each reader can give if we only take the time.
* A special thank you to the authors who contributed to this article. You know who you are.