Friday, January 19, 2018

How to Write a Review (as an Author)

If you're an avid reader, you're aware of the nature of reviews. Good or bad, they can persuade you to either agree or disagree or, at times, prevent you from purchasing a book altogether. But let's take that a step further and talk about how fellow authors write reviews for fellow authors. Now, if the story's delicious, solid plot, characters that pull you in and take you on the journey with them, writing a rave review is easy, am I right?

Of course.

But then you've got this friend. And that friend writes, too. And whether you're friends in real life or exclusively on social media, well, doesn't make a difference. Because our social media friends are legit; no one can convince me differently, either, so stop typing that comment to explain all the reasons why you think they're not, because they are and that's final.

Now. You've got this friend who writes, too, and they're published, too, like you (yay!) and they shoot you a text or PM: "Hey! You know I just released my newest novel and would LOVE it if you read and posted a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads (preferably both!)! THANK YOU SO MUCH!" And, holy cow, you really don't have time to add another book to the three you're already reading (Kindle, iBooks, paperback on the night stand...Oh, is that just me? Say it ain't so...), but you say, "Yes, of course!" because you know you're gonna want them to reciprocate when your new release hits.

You read the book.

You put it down.

Remember you want them to read yours, too, when it comes out.

Pick the book back up. Cringe through grammar, characters, plot -- because, let's be honest, that really does happen. Don't lie. We're all friends here. Safe place and all that.

Finally finish and, now, it's time for the moment of truth. The Review. What to say? How to be truthful? A fellow author, God love her, once told me, "Sometimes you just gotta say, 'Nice Margins,' and, naturally, she was joking, but then I'm unsure if she was.

Here's what I've learned over the handful of years I've been doing this as a profession: There's a way to be kind and constructive, honest yet upbeat, all at once. Using Thumper's mama's words of wisdom, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

1. Think about what you say before you say it and WHO may be reading. Seems pretty simple, right? Here's the thing: sometimes when I'm reading reviews and I stumble upon one from a person who didn't enjoy the book, I click on that person's name. What other reviews have they left? Do they only leave bad reviews? What if you find out that person is actually an author? Does it make you want to read their work more or less? Artists can hold grudges. Heck, people in general hold grudges! But I certainly don't want another author mad at me for dissing on their book, especially when all they have to do is reciprocate.

2. If you can't say something nice...Yeah, you know the rest. Sometimes, oftentimes silence is golden. Because, if you're an author, you're also a bit of businessperson, which means you also have to think about your brand. Meaning...What do YOU want to put out there as an artist? This doesn't just mean what you bind between a cover and send out there into the world. I'm talking about reviews, social media, blogs. Think about Stephen King's tweets. Would you honestly expect any different from the Master of Horror Fiction? And that's perfectly ok! But for Alyssia the Romance Writer, I want to make sure people feel positivity and kindness from me as much as possible.

3. Offer a nuanced opinion. Don't dig into the author personally. Maybe this simply wasn't your kind of read. You can still can offer a subjective look at the book that will benefit future readers. Be specific yet delicate and, remember, if you dare to type something that could be construed as even remotely negative, strive to back it up with positive, encouraging words. Remember: there is no need to pitch  a book off the side of a cliff simply because it wasn't what you expected. Last year, I read a debut YA novel that was HIGHLY anticipated. Joined the bandwagon in following the author on all social media avenues and even liked her--a lot! Still do! But when my beautiful hardback arrived in the mail and I began to read, it was honestly all I could do to finish. And, once I did, I said aloud, "Really? This was what we've been waiting for all this time?" Nice margins, right? I chose not to review simply because SO many other readers enjoyed it and I'm only one person. Plus, this chick's trying to make a career out of this, just like I am, and we've gotta support one another, right?

Do you leave bad reviews? If so, do you have a few rules or do you just let it all out?


1 comment

Andrew Leon said...

Have you seen Old School?
There's this scene near the beginning where Luke Wilson's character, after catching his wife cheating on him, says to her, "Tell me the truth. Tell me this is the first time you've done this."
She says, "Do you want me to tell you the truth, or do you want me to tell you this is the first time I've done this?"

That's what giving reviews is like for me. Everyone wants an "honest" review, but they want that review to be that you loved their work. I've rarely found those two things to coincide which is why I stopped taking requests, on the whole, for reviews. Being someone with a rep for being honest and objective with my reviews spawned a lot of requests for a while, all of which left the authors upset when I did what they requested.

Which is not to say that I was mean. I have always been very clear to point out the things that didn't work for -me- and to explain that I am a very picky reader with high standards.
That's the best I can do.

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