Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Avid Reader’s Guide to Book Reviews

These days, if you’re an avid reader, or even a casual one, I am certain that at some point during a conversation, a reading, online or within shouting distance at a bookstore, an author has exhorted you to leave a “review” for their book. It might even have been me.

The currency of 21st century publishing is reviews and it is probably due the immense changes the industry has seen. (For a primer on that, see this article. If you’re really interested, this one, too.) There are many choices for an avid reader in 2016; traditional hardcover books, trade paperbacks, electronic devices like Kindles, Nooks, iPads. A reader doesn’t have to yearn too long for a new read. Libraries, bookstores, used bookstores, book fairs and the Internet provide new books at the touch of a button, the click of a mouse, the swipe of a credit card. In addition, the new publishing landscape has allowed thousands, maybe even tens of thousands more writers to become authors every year. For an author, one way to rise above that gargantuan pack is to hope that the people reading your book will help promote it by leaving a review online.

Because, of course reviews help, right? I read reviews when I’m buying nearly everything these days. Coffee filters, energy drinks, winter coats.  For books, reviews keep them in the running, particularly at Amazon. Success on Amazon helps push sales. This is true of most of the books you are reading. There is a magical algorithm that does it, but of course no one knows what that is. But not just Amazon; online reviews at Goodreads and Barnes & Noble - wherever your favorite online book community is, leaving a review for a book you like helps.

Personally, I am just as happy to recommend a reader go into an actual bookstore and speak to the owner or the staff; they will happily help you choose a book and have probably read most of them in order to do it. But just in case you’re hanging around the Internet and are interested in bolstering a few authors, I have some ideas for writing your next review. (My brother once told me I should use the term, “comment” instead of review because leaving a comment is not as intimidating as Writing a Review.)  So, without further ado. . . 

4 Easy Review Tips for Readers

1. Keep it Simple: A short paragraph or two will do; this isn’t high school English Composition and you’re not getting a grade. Take a deep breath--you can do it.

2. A Title by any other name will still sound just fine: Worried about making up a title? Of course you are; it's intimidating. Use this one: “A Great Read”. Or, “I Liked (Loved) This Book.” Or possibly, “I Recommend This Book.” Don’t be intimidated by other clever or snarky titles. A clear title helps other readers. Also, see #1 - Keep it Simple.

3. The Main Thing: What was the main thing you liked about this book? Begin your comment with, “I liked this book because...” and just go from there. Remember? No grades. The readers of your comments are looking for company in enjoying the book they are considering, so just be honest.

4. The Formula: Who, What, Where and Why? Who wrote the book--did you like the author? What did you like about the book? Was it really short? Did it have snappy dialogue? Lots of sex? No sex? Where does the book take place? In New York City? A hundred years ago? Solely in the author’s head? And Why did you like it? Why should anyone else read it? Why would you read another book by this author?

If you’ve gotten this far, I think you’re ready. Try your hand at it. Because, yes, reviews--I mean comments--help. But please know, even if you don’t ever write a word, I speak for hundreds of thousands of authors who are already grateful that you're even reading our work. Thank you.


  1. This is wonderful, Cindy. Thank you.

  2. I completely agree, Cindy! And once you write a short review, you can simply cut-and-paste to other sites: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes&Noble, and this has an impact on library orders as well. All of us in a community of writers should do this for each other!