Book Reviews: Special Helps for Authors and Readers

[This blog post is a collaboration between two of our members, and a great job they did! Nancy Kuykendall and Eileen Moynihan were in class when I was talking about writing book reviews. They graciously accepted the challenge to collaborate and write a blog post about that very thing. Enjoy and learn :)]

 

Apparently, reading during lunch and ignoring others is considered “rude,” and laughing out loud while reading is annoying. Who knew? Another thing to consider is to have a strong opinion about a book and not share it with the author. You share it with your friends, but does that help the author or other readers? Of course not.

Without doubt, authors look for feedback after publishing and releasing a new book. We keep track of comments on previous books as well. We like knowing what readers think of our work, and we need to know. We want to know how our book was received—if it was helpful, informative, fun, written well, and if readers felt it was worth their time and money. Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, we like to know if our words had an impact on others.

Receiving reviews from readers helps authors know how well they did. Was the story believable? Were there any holes? Was the story easy to follow? Were the characters described well and were they liked within their roles? In other words, were they believable? Authors want to know what a reader enjoyed or didn’t enjoy. Reviews are not just to feed our ego they are to teach us. Reader comments can confirm a job well done and help us know where we need to improve. We’ll take to heart what needs correcting then get to work improving our writing.

It’s also important that authors write reviews. There are several reasons. One is it’s a great writing exercise. I [Nancy] enjoy writing reviews for other authors, and I want to do my best to be clear and concise, as well as helpful. I make an effort to construct my sentences well, so that in not too many words I can express my opinion and leave something valuable for the author about the writing and the book. I want to make sure I comment on what I liked and enjoyed in a book. Every author needs positive feedback as well as helpful criticism. Another good reason for authors to leave reviews including next to their name that they’re an author, is to give extra credence to their remarks. Both the author being reviewed, and other readers, might put more stock in a review coming from another published author. Not to mention that the authors writing the reviews receive recognition when concluding the review with name and title of one of their published books—they just might pick up new readers.

Authors writing reviews benefit both the author they’re reviewing and themselves. In a world with thousands of books, it’s an excellent way to help each other be noticed.

Reviews for your book can be wonderful or scary. A good review gives you validation as an author and writer. It is great to get a good review from someone you know, but it is even better to get a good review from a stranger; it confirms that your writing is on the right path and may hint on areas to improve or develop your characters or plot.

When you get a bad review your heart might sink and give you a sense of not being worthy as a writer. It is best to leave it for a few days before you go back to analyse the review to see if it has any genuine merit. If there are lessons to be learned take them on board and move on. As a writer, if you want to improve and develop, you need to take constructive critiques and use them as building blocks to learning your craft. Authors should be constantly learning and developing skills so take each critique as a gift.

As a reader of another author’s work, you need to give a balanced, honest opinion of their work. It is good to be kind, but it is not helpful to avoid expressing some concerns about things you think need remedying. It is best to use the ‘sandwich’ method whereby you say something positive, say what might need improving in the ‘filling’ (and give an example of how to improve it if you can), and finish with something positive. There is no need to be downright cruel, but you are helping the author when you focus their attention on something that really stands out as needing to be fixed.

I (Eileen) always try to give as many stars as possible on an Amazon or Goodreads review. If I give a three-star review, there are a number of things I feel need fixing. If I feel a book is so bad that I can only give it a one-star, I contact the author personally to tell them my concerns about the book or just don’t give a review.

When I think about purchasing a book, I always look at the reviews first. I look at the five-star reviews and the lower star reviews if there are any, and then I make my own mind up about whether the book might be worth reading. So, reviews are important to the author and the reader, but try and see past people’s personal opinions to find the truth. Generally, if several people mention the same thing then there must be some truth in it.

Frankly, book reviews are important. They should be insightful and express the essence of the book being reviewed (no need to write a synopsis, the reader gets that from the back cover). Reviews should be a source of information to help the reader and author of the book.

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5 thoughts on “Book Reviews: Special Helps for Authors and Readers”

  1. Wise advice indeed. Speaking for myself, I thought the most important thing was the number of reviews. Yes, this is important, but I failed to realize I could and should learn from reviews regardless of the number of stars. With the right attitude, I can learn something from every review. Even if the person is just being mean. It may hurt but then I realize everyone can see that this person is being mean and no one will give it any weight in their decision-making process. One of the best decisions I made was to join a critique group. I always hated criticism and it was a scary thing for me to do. However, the people in the group were seriously trying to help each other produce the best manuscript possible. When I realized this, I embraced the criticism and learned from them. This also, in my opinion, is a strategy to eliminate poor reviews. Great blog Eileen and Nancy.

  2. Pingback: A joint blog post by me, Eileen Moynihan and Nancy Kuykendall on the topic of book reviews – edited by Gina Burgess – Eileen Moynihan Author

  3. I tell people I want reviewing my tales “the biggest room in the world is room for improvement.” I want to find out what I can make stronger, more moving, more realistic. I know already I don’t write to everyone’s taste. Example: The Musician and the Vampire has interesting characters and events, but it mixes two unmixable ideas: tarot and religion. No two topics are less compatible! I like best about this book (published last March) that the villain isn’t destroyed at the end, but reformed. Can it be made better? Certainly. I recently accepted an offer to critique “Th Geography of Dissatisfaction,” a short story you can read in the blog section of my website (no charge!). She said, “Why the hell is this?” Not much help there!
    I’m willing to read and critique stories/poetry/even novels for reviews, on a quid pro quo basis. This way my critique group, Utah Christian Writers’ Fellowship, won’t be my only source of input. (They hated MV for the taromancy, by the way.)

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