How to Write a Quick and Painless Book Review
I review nearly every book I read. But only because the Goodreads app on my phone makes it nearly impossible NOT to select a number of stars when I’m marking a book as complete. As far as a written review? I—probably like most people—only take the trouble when I either love or loathe a book. So, please don’t think I’m up on some high book review horse when I say this because I’m as guilty as everyone else.
Reviews help readers find books to love and to avoid the stinkers
I’ve nixed dozens of books because someone had pointed out that it was a mess of grammatical and spelling errors and I feel like I dodged a bullet. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
But here’s the other thing: reviews help writers more than you know. The little guys, the big guys, the unknowns, and the darlings of the New York Times. Every writer wants, needs, and loves reviews. Yes, even Jo Rowling and Stephen King want and need your feedback. Because knowing how you feel about their work is what keeps them writing.
We indie authors are especially reliant on the review system. We don’t have a marketing machine to run ads or publicists to book us on talk shows. The only way anyone is going to consider our work is if they hear about it from a friend or they happen across it in their Amazon browsing. And the more reviews a work has, the higher it will rank in searches.
Here’s the thing: two minutes of your time can make a world of difference in a writer’s life. That’s how long it will take you to review a book. Seriously.
I know, I know what you’re thinking.
But I’m not a good writer
Guess what? You hardly have to type these days. Look how easy Amazon.com makes it for you. Just click some buttons, poke a star and boom!
But I don’t remember everything that happened
So what? No one expects you to summarize the plot. In fact, that’s super annoying in a review.
But I didn’t really like the book
That’s totally okay. Authors appreciate you taking the time to review their book, even if it’s not a glowing endorsement.
But I don’t have a lot to say about the book
No problem, sparky. Your review could be one sentence–or a fragment!–and still let the world know how you feel. Here are some examples of perfectly worthwhile, super short book reviews:
“The detective character made me laugh out loud.”
“I felt like the ending was rushed.”
“Way too much sex.”
“I loved the part in Las Vegas.”
But I can’t think of a headline
Yeah, I hear you on that. But guess what? You can skip it. Just leave it blank and hit “submit” and the world keeps turning. Cool, huh?
Click a few buttons, choose a star, and type a few words. Easy peasy, right?
Here are things to avoid
“The author is a vengeful slut and couldn’t plot her way out of a paper bag.”
Remove “is a vengeful slut and” and you’ve got yourself a review, cowboy!
“The author’s support of anti-gay campaigns make him a piece of shit”
Be that as it may, that isn’t about the content of his book.
“I’m not really a Sci-Fi person and all the space stuff and names without vowels really grated on my nerves. There’s no such thing as an anti-gravity grenade!”
“Dragons. What is the deal with dragons? And everyone just walks through the entire book. Hello? BORING?”
If you know you don’t like the genre, don’t rail against the tropes of the genre. It’s like complaining about the heaving bosoms in a Harlequin romance. Which I have totally done.
A customer review on Amazon.com spoiled the ending of Gone Girl for me and I nearly didn’t read it because of that. Don’t be that guy. Just don’t.
So, go ahead and make good on that promise you made to your writer friend (so, so many promises). Take a moment and write a couple pithy phrases about the book you read on the plane. Authors and readers alike will thank you.