I've talked about reader reviews on Amazon before, but I'm going to take a little time and do it again.
When people email me, I frequently nudge them to write reviews of the books they like. Some don't need a lot of nudging, but many do. I recently exchanged emails with a very solid supporter who admitted she was shy about reviewing because she didn't feel her reviews were elegant.
As both an author and a reader, here's my position about reviews.
If you are able to write elegant reviews, great. I've had some amazingly elegant reviews of some of my novels, telling me things I didn't know. These reviews are deeply appreciated.
But I'll tell you right now -- that's not a skill I have. I couldn't have written those reviews.
So -- please -- don't worry if you're elegant in how you write a review. That doesn't matter. If you liked my books, then pop over to Amazon, click on the 4 or 5 stars, and then find something to say about it. I'll give you some ideas.
- I really enjoy everything this author writes, and this novel is no exception.
- I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
- I will continue to buy more books by this author.
- I couldn't put it down
Comments like this help other readers. They say, "This person enjoyed the book." That's more than silence.
Now, if you want to step it up a little bit...
- This book made me think.
- This book made me happy / feel good.
- I cried.
- I liked the way the author (insert something)
- This book really drew me in
You get the idea.
Now, when I read reviews, I don't like to see spoilers. Exception: if you feel the blurb is misleading, that's a different issue. (If you believe one of my blurbs is misleading, please let me know so I have the chance to fix it. I admit I'm not the best blurb-writer.) You don't need to rehash the plot. In fact, both as an author and a reader, I don't want reviews that rehash the plot.
You can, however, talk about the things I did especially well. If I made you fall in love with a character, feel free to say so.
Think of it this way: if you were going to recommend my book to a friend, what would you tell her?
What if you disliked a book? Well, if you dislike a book because it hit a pet peeve or wasn't what you were looking for then I might suggest you shouldn't leave a review. Negative reviews directly affect an author's livelihood, and you really have to decide if it's fair to have that impact.
But if it's a bad book -- for whatever reason -- that's something different. Then it's fair to leave a 1-, 2- or 3-star review. In my opinion, a book has to be truly miserable to be worth 1 star. 1 star basically means, "This author is horrible". I have very, very occasionally left 1-star reviews, and in nearly every case, the author didn't know how to write a sentence. Even a few books I could not finish got 2-stars from me, if it was just a "I didn't like it" problem.
But let's say one of my books just didn't do it for you. Well, you could just drop me a quiet note. But if I'm asking for positive reviews, I have to be willing to accept negative reviews. After all, not every one of my books is going to be worth 5 stars. So what sorts of things could you say?
- I usually like this author, but this book didn't do it for me
- I thought this novel was just a regurgitation of (some other novel)
- I thought the blurb was horribly misleading, and I wouldn't have bought the book because I don't like reading books about (whatever this book is about)
- This book contains (some plot element), and I just don't like books that include that
Here are some other things, but I know none of my books would ever earn these (grin):
- This book is so poorly edited I couldn't finish it. (Please don't write this if you found an error every 30 pages. This is what you say when there are errors every page, or ever few pages, enough to truly impact your ability to enjoy the book.)
- This person needs to go back to high school English and learn about sentences and paragraphs.
- The characters are shallow and uninteresting.
- Plot? What plot?
I'm not trying to tell any of you what to write or when you should review. I'm just trying to nudge some of you who are intimidated by leaving a review. You don't have to be. If some of the things I've written above are fair, then copy and paste them into your reviews. You don't need to be creative and unique when you review. You need to help other people decide if the book is worth reading.
Note also that (apparently) a lot of people buy books based on how many reviews it has. I joined BookBub, and they frequently say, "Over 500 5-star reviews on Amazon." I don't see any of my books earning that distinction (plus I'm really left wondering whether those are honest reviews vs. fakes).
But if you want to support your favorite authors, buy their books and rate them when you're done. 5 stars and some cut and paste phrases to let others know, "this person liked the book. I might, too."