Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Write a Good Book Review

How to Write an Excellent Book Review by Pastor George McVey

For those of us who are self published or small press published authors, there are two main things that are our best marketing tools. The first is word of mouth. If you like a book, recommend it to people. Don’t give them your copy but tell them how to get their own. This blog post is about the second, and probably the best marketing tool, and that is the written review. 

In the past, I had not worried too much about my reviews. I am more concerned now that a new App named Fakespot is available. Fakespot claims to be able to tell if a review is authentic. Fakespot runs its’ reviews through various technologies and algorithms to tell how many of the reviews appear to be fake or paid reviews. I tested this on myself as well as several authors I know and trust, and at least 40% of our reviews were flagged as fake.  

Needless to say, I was concerned because every review I had gotten was legitimate. They were from people who had read my book and reviewed it because they wanted to. Being told that over 40% of those reviews appeared (to this App) to be fake, concerned me. After checking to see what indicators were being used, this is what I found. Fakespot determined that any review which was poorly written was considered fake. This discovery led me to realize that most people really don’t know what makes up a good review.

Let me say this, by good review, I don’t mean favorable. I have some negative as well as positive reviews. Good reviews, in terms of this blog post, are well written reviews where the reviewer’s opinion of the book is articulated clearly and concisely. So, let’s look at some do’s and don’ts for writing a review.

1. Do be honest. If the book was good, then say so. If it was bad, say that. People are more articulate when they believe what they are saying. Every author I know would rather have your honest review than for you to just say, “It was great.” We don’t need you to pump us up if we don’t deserve it. We want to write the best stories or information books we can. If you tell us the book was perfect, but tell everyone else what was wrong with it - that does not help us.

2. Don’t leave a five word or less review. This is one of the things Fakespot considers bogus. For instance, a review that says, “It was great”, without saying why, is not a review. By this App, that review will be considered less than honest. Let me tell you what I think is happening. Amazon has a link at the end of every Kindle book where you can leave a review right from your E-Reader but most people don’t like typing on those tiny keyboards. Because of that, people leave a single word or a few words review. The purpose of leaving a review is to help other readers decide if they want to read the book. We have been taught an informed customer is a smart customer so we do our research before making a purchase. We have only so much time to read in this hectic world of ours so we use reviews to help us make up our minds. “It was good”, “Awesome”, or “Loved It” doesn’t help a person decide. What made it a good book? Describe the awesomeness; tell why you loved it. The same is true if you must leave a negative review. Tell what about the book did not meet your expectations. Were the characters not developed? Did the plot move too slowly? You get the picture; use your own words. 

3. Do share your review once you've written it. Post a link to it on your Facebook, Pin it, Tweet it. Heck, even blog about it if you want! Those reviews don't help us sell more books unless people see them.

4. Don’t review things that aren’t about the book.  I know a number of authors who have received poor reviews because the reader had a problem with the book purchase. We, as authors, have no control over the device from which the book is downloaded.  We do not control the font size of the book; the reader does (there is a place on your E-Reader to adjust font size). We didn’t charge you twice; the bookseller did. Reviews are about the story and book cover - not about the process of purchasing the book. 

5. Do check your spelling and grammar. Books are made up of words and thoughts. Nothing makes a review look more like a fake than poor spelling or bad grammar. I’m not saying you have to be perfect but if you can’t tell the difference between think and thank, people may wonder about the strength of your review. Seriously, it happens. 

6. Don’t tell the plot of the book. No-one, and I mean NO-ONE, likes spoilers. A good review talks about why you liked the book. It doesn’t give the plot and specific details of the book. Nothing is worse for an author than a review that tells everything about the book. If you “tell all” in your review, what reason does a potential reader have to read the book? Imagine you are looking for a good mystery to read. The cover and blurb of a particular book sounds interesting but you want to see what those who have read the book had to say. There are several reviews. The first one you read gives the book five stars then proceeds to tell you who did it, why they did it and how they did it. No mystery left for you! This is not a quality review; it is a spoiler without a warning. 

7. Do make sure you are reviewing the right book. I’ve had this problem myself. I received a one star review. The reviewer told why he didn’t like my book yet nothing he wrote about was in my book. I’ve talked with other authors who have had similar experiences. If you are going to review a book, make sure it’s the right book. Read the book blurb; look at the cover and look up the title and author of the book. Some people don’t know this, but more than one book can have the same title. I have a book titled Redeeming Love, and so do another dozen authors including Francine Rivers. Can you imagine if a review of her book, which is a historical romance but not a Western, was posted to my book which is a Western with some romance in it? Or, if a review of my book, Redeeming Love, was posted to her book reviews? The potential reader would not get the correct book. 

8. Do contact the Author if you find spelling, grammar or formatting errors. We know they shouldn’t happen, but they do. A personal example, I paid over $300.00 for the editing of my book, Redeeming Grace. It was money well spent. However, when I uploaded the content to Amazon, I made a mistake. I used the unedited file. A reader contacted me and said, “The quality of this book is so much lower than your books are normally. What happened?”  I checked on Amazon and very quickly noticed that I had uploaded the wrong file. After uploading the correct file, I informed Amazon. Readers who had purchased the book were informed by Amazon so they could download the corrected version.  If you should have this experience, give the author the benefit of the doubt and contact them. Give them specific examples of what you are referring to. Indie authors want to put out the best product they can. Most will correct the problems and respond to the reader with a “Thank You”. Your Kindle or E-Reader should let you know when a corrected version is up. If you don’t get a notice after a month or so, contact Amazon. They will put a hold on the book until it is corrected.

As you can see, it isn’t hard to leave a well written review if you just follow these eight simple things. In the end, the author will love you for it. Other readers will love you for it and maybe, just maybe, Fakespot won’t think your review is a fake review.


George McVey always wanted to be a Superhero but sadly no radioactive storms or animals have been a part of his life. Instead, he figured he could help people by becoming a Pastor and sharing his faith journey with others.

With twenty years of ministry experience, Pastor George has taught and preached on a lot of subjects. People would often request copies of his notes or, even on occasion, suggest he put his rambling sermon series into book form. He never took them seriously.

One day while spinning a tall tale for his family, some suggested once again that with all his experiences in ministry, and his imagination, he should be writing books. This time it was like lightning struck and he decided, “Why not?”

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