(Updated April 12, 2021 to change heading.)
With the boom of self-publishing, over one million new titles are released each year in the US alone. Authors strive to make their book stand out by attending book launches, book clubs, book readings and other functions. Book reviews are a major way to boost their online presence. Here’s how to help your favorite authors by reviewing their book.
What should you write?
If you want to be scholarly, there are guidelines for writing formal book reviews, but you don’t need to go to this length to be useful to the author and potential readers. A couple of succinct sentences is enough.
To get started, try this proforma:
[Book Title] by [Author Name] is about [list key themes.] [Protagonist name] is a [describe key character] protagonist who shows that [key outcome].
eg. Past Tense by Lee Child is about history, courage and good versus evil. Jack Reacher is a tough, yet righteous protagonist who shows that sometimes you have to stray outside the bounds of the law to achieve justice.
Be honest, but be kind. There’s a lot to be said for the old adage, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’
Where should you post?
There are a myriad of online booksellers and most of them invite reviews. So where should you start? Amazon is the most important one for book sales. I’ve also discussed Goodreads as it’s another valuable site.
How do you do it?
- For ease of editing, I write my reviews in Word first. This also makes it easy to post to multiple sites.
- If you don’t already have an account with your bookseller of choice, set one up. As for any other account, this requires a username and password.
- Logon to the site, then find the relevant book.
- Follow the link to the review page.
- Cut and paste your review and upload. Your comment will be verified before it goes live, so be aware that your post might not be visible for a couple of hours.
Each site has a few quirks:
- On Goodreads, the review option only appears after you click a star rating.
- You can only write a review on Amazon if you have a minimum spend of $50 in the past 12 months. This is to prevent spam accounts from generating reviews. There seems to be some confusion about whether ebooks count towards that $50. For this reason, I had difficulty to begin with on Amazon, but now it’s smooth sailing.
How much will it cost?
Zero, assuming you have reached minimum spend on Amazon.
Special Note for Writers
This blog was originally part of a series about creating an online presence for authors, including websites, blogs and social media. But why should an author spend time reviewing other people’s books?
- To review it, you first have to read it, and whether you view it as research or pleasure, writers need to read, read, read.
- To construct a review, you have to analyse the book – another great discipline for an author.
- A review gives you something to post on your blog or social media to keep your readers engaged.
- What goes around, comes around. While you shouldn’t post a review with the expectation of one in return, by writing it, you encourage others to do the same, and hopefully the culture will be contagious.
Note: Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, as I’m sure there is much to add to this discussion. I am happy to update the blog with reader input.
Next time: a bit of fun up at Mansfield with The Case of the Mysterious Rose Saboteur.
Next writing blog: The Book Publishing Flowchart.