To Review or Not To Review?


Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

I love to read.  I’ve loved books since before I started school, and my parents were reading to me.  My favorite book back then was Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.  I gave it a five-star review by requesting it every time anyone offered to read to me.  The truth is, we review things all the time — restaurants, movies, books, plays, jobs, bosses, politicians, everything and anyone.  Usually verbally, but there are those who commit their thoughts to paper (or the computer screen).

As a writer, and especially now as a published writer, I’m occasionally asked to write a review of a novel, or a fellow writer will suggest reciprocal reviews.  It sounds like a good idea, reciprocal reviews.  The one thing to remember about them, or anytime a writer reviews a book for pay or exchange of services, it’s absolutely necessary to include a disclaimer in the review that identifies the review as for pay or reciprocal.  Commercial reviews, i.e. those that appear in newspapers or magazines, do not need this disclaimer, only reviews by consumers. And if there’s no pay or no reciprocity?  No disclaimer necessary.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107To review or not to review?  As a writer, I’d love for everyone who reads Perceval’s Secret to write a review at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or on their own blogs.  Get the word out there!  Let people know that it’s fun, compelling and worth the read!  But of course, the reality is that most people don’t feel qualified to write a review (even though any thoughtful reader is) so they don’t write even a short review.  They don’t understand just how important book reviews are for the promotion and sales of a novel.  Especially for a writer like me who hasn’t already had a bestseller and has an audience just waiting for the next book.  Word of mouth is a powerful force, and book reviews are a part of that kind of promotion.  Think of a book review as what you’d tell your friends about the book when you’re having a beer at the neighborhood pub.

What about me?  Do I write reviews?  Yes, I’ve been working hard during the last year to get into the habit of writing a review of each book I read.  I post the reviews at Goodreads and usually Amazon or the store where I bought the book.  And I’ve agreed to do two reciprocal reviews.  The first, I’m embarrassed to say, I have yet to do.  I bought the novel and it sits on my Kindle, and that’s the problem.  I prefer printed, hard copy books, usually paperbacks, and if I buy a Kindle edition, it takes me a long time to read it.  I’ve been catching up on my reviewing “obligations,” i.e. reviewing books of writers I know and these are not reciprocal or even requested of me.  I just want to support those writers.  So I fully intend to honor my obligation to my first reciprocal review agreement, and I’ve set myself a deadline of August 31.

The second reciprocal review went in an unexpected direction.  I bought the Kindle edition and read the fantasy novel immediately, fully expecting that its author was going to read Perceval’s Secret immediately and review it at Amazon.  I think I sent him a free copy of the novel, too, to review.  He did not offer to send me a free copy of his book.  When I finished his book, I wrote the review and posted it at Amazon and Goodreads, and I sent him an e-mail alerting him to the review.  It wasn’t a super, glowing, positive review, however.  I had a couple problems with characters although overall I enjoyed the story and gave it four stars.  And guess what?  To date, I have yet to see a review of Perceval’s Secret written by that author.  I am not pleased.

But then, I have yet to do the first reciprocal review, so who am I to judge?  This is the risk.  People won’t follow through on their agreements.  So what’s a writer to do?  Maybe try to make it easier on readers to write a review?

Here are some questions to answer when writing a book review:

  • How did you come to read this particular book? (Maybe you love the genre, it was recommended by a friend, you liked the cover, etc.)
  • What did you like about this book? (genre, atmosphere/tone, main character, secondary characters, setting, story, character-driven action, dialogue, language style, plot-driven action)
  • What did you dislike about this book?
  • Would you recommend this book to other readers?

The next time you read a book you love, please help out the author and write a review!

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7 responses to “To Review or Not To Review?

  1. Nice tip on writing reviews! I hope that author comes around and reviews your novel! Great Post! 🙂

  2. Justin Zinman

    Thanks for the post. FYI, if you liked Beatrix potter,I’m reading the autobiography of Beatrix Potter by Linda Lear right now. It is an awesome read, she was an amazing women. She was extremely adventurous and passionate about life and very fun to read about I would highly recommend it if you liked her.

    • Thanks for the review of the Linda Lear bio of Beatrix Potter! I think there’s also a movie in the works or completed about Potter that stars Emma Thompson. Thanks for leaving a comment, Justin.

  3. Pingback: Publishing thoughts tumbling around in my mind      | Write on the World

  4. Pingback: The Perceval novels, book 1 : Perceval’s Secret – C.C.Yager | Ladybellule

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