Good Sunday afternoon/morning/evening to readers of Kev’s blog with my monthly editor’s post. As promised, it’s the hot topic of reviews and stars.
I started writing (professional ie paid-for) reviews on my first newspaper.
The local Am-Dram, school plays, concerts, musicals, as well as books.
The most important point, was that the review had to be interesting. Don’t retell the story, whether it was Midsummer Night’s Dream or Showboat.
Say what was good, what was poor and why you liked it/didn’t like it. Preferably with a large spoonful of tact thrown in, as every person under the sun, and their families and friends, would be reading the review.
And, I pretty much follow those principles many years later when writing book reviews.
I see no point in giving a summary of the story when there is, or should be, an adequate one on the Goodreads or Amazon or Smashwords etc page. Even on my blog reviews, I’ll just add a short sentence/par saying what the book is about.
Book reviews are not an exercise in how to précis someone’s work.
Types of reviews
- Although gracing them with the title ‘reviews’ is somewhat inaccurate, there are the ‘I hated/I loved this’ type of posts that we see on Amazon. Nuff said.
- Following on from that, we have the ones who tell us why they loved/hated it. Far, far better.
- Analytical reviews, that focus on writing craft.
- Ones that mix 2 and 3.
- Bought reviews, eg Kirkus, which technically aren’t allowed as a review on GR/Am, but can be added to the author’s page.
There are some cracking reviews on GR where people clearly spend some time writing a balanced and thoughtful review. Here are some suggested tips from one forum.
I review/assess for Awesome Indies, and we have a set of guidelines about what to look for. They tend to be on the objective side, so that we are assessing the writing rather than giving our personal opinion.
So, any reviews I write for AI are objective. On my blog, they are more personal. My favourite book of 2015 was a non-fiction one – Bridges of Paris. Because it was a photography book, I could make a super blog post out of it using photos from the book.
Reviews on our blogs give us the chance to be more expressive and creative, if we choose.
But the stars, those elusive stars *****
It doesn’t help that Amazon and GR have different ways of ranking the stars. Basically, if you don’t know, GR is tougher. So a four star on Am would be three on GR. Crazy given they are the same company. In case any readers of KC’s aren’t aware of what GR and Am suggest, here you go:
5 Stars: Amazon: ‘I love it’
4 Stars: Amazon: ‘I like it’
3 Stars: Amazon: ‘It’s okay’
2 Stars: Amazon: ‘I don’t like it’
1 Star: Amazon: ‘I hate it’
5 Stars: Goodreads: ‘it was amazing’
4 Stars: Goodreads: ‘really like it”
3 Stars: Goodreads: ‘liked it’
2 Stars: Goodreads: ‘it was ok’
1 Star: Goodreads: ‘did not like it’
The big question most frequently asked is: Should a reviewer write anything less than a four or five star review. Or, horrors! A two star one – which if you look at GR means the reviewer thought the book was OK.
Nobody working in the indie industry wants to knock authors unnecessarily. But faced with an appalling cover, poor writing, miserable editing/proofreading – what does the reviewer do?
- Do nothing
- Send a polite email saying the book needs a little attention
- Write an honest review
I’ve done all of those.
Do nothing looks as though you are ignoring the author if it has been a review request.
The polite email resulted in replies such as ‘I’m just practising, I need to learn how to write [well, yes] and I can’t afford an editor’.
A two star review produced ‘Why do you HATE my novel?’ Um, no, it just wasn’t any good. And in my review I pointed out why.
One of the saddest aspects of book reviewing is the abuse some people receive. If you haven’t read about some recent poor behaviour, here are two posts, one by Susan M Toy, and another by Rosie Amber.
People are writing honest opinions, for free, and receiving criticism from authors who are dissatisfied with the reviews. Unreasonable.
I’ve recently taken part in a book discussion group on GR. We’ve all given the author three stars. At no time has he been critical but has accepted the comments with grace and entered into the discussion generously and has tried to learn from the comments. How much better than endless crying and moaning about ‘I didn’t get five stars’?
And, remember that some readers will focus on the three and two star reviews rather than the gushing four star ones. They often say more.
There is no one perfect review. Just as there is no perfect reviewer. What authors and reviewers alike can do, is read around, and learn, from the different types of reviews.
But should you ever challenge a review? Well clearly one author challenged mine (you HATED it). Others have said they worried when I read their books. And were pleased with my four, or, occasionally, five star reviews.
Indie publishing needs to move on and become more professional. And that means accepting all types of reviews.
Thanks for reading, any comments welcome, regarding your thoughts about reviews.
(I have done some links above to other sites but they may not be clear.)
Next month’s post will be about basic editing.