Monday, November 04, 2013

Review or not to review: the decision is yours

Most of you know I contribute to an Aussie blog called Aussie Owned and Read. I love the AOAR girls, and since we began back in January of this year they have become my closest writing family. If you don't follow us, head over and check out what we have to say. There's lots going on with advice, author interviews, book reviews and heaps more. We focus on anything to do with YA and NA writing and publishing.

Below is a post I wrote for AOAR in July about writing reviews. You can view the original post HERE.

There was a time when book reviews were only seen in reputable newspapers and magazines, and they were written by professional review writers. The internet has changed that in an enormous way, and now, anyone can voice their opinion about pretty much anything.

Writing a review is a very personal thing, and the outcome of the review is just that—one person’s opinion. There is no right or wrong way to write a review, but I’d like to give both authors and readers some tips that may help.

For Readers
  • I have to be in the right frame of mind to read. If I’m tired, or the kids are screaming around me, I’m obviously not going to enjoy reading as much as I should. Having no distractions is good!
  • My bookshelves (and iPad) are full of books that actually interest me. This may seem like a silly thing to say, but I’ve read countless reviews where people have said, “I don’t usually read sci-fi, but I thought I’d read this…” (Sci-fi was just an example.) Most of these go on to be bad reviews because the reader isn’t really interested in the subject matter. I’m not saying don’t try something new, but if you’re not into sci-fi, then that type of book may not be the best read for you.
  • I keep a notepad and pen next to me so I can jot down quotes, thoughts, and page references. One minute we may be happy, but the next we want to kick the MC for being so stupid, or something to that effect. This is where writing down a few words about a particular scene or chapter can be a big help when it comes to writing the review.
  • I always try to start and finish with something positive, even if I didn’t like the book. This can sometimes be hard, and if it’s not possible, I aim to be respectful with my word choices. Or, I simply don’t write a review. Personally, I find profanity very off putting, and it makes me disregard a review almost immediately.
  • Say why you liked or didn’t like the book, don’t just give a summary of the story. Potential readers want to know if the book will interest them, and your reasons for liking or disliking it will persuade them. Saying “I didn’t like it” doesn’t really help anyone. Neither does “I loved it”. Tell us why. Keep in mind; if you dislike a book, chances are you can still say something nice about it :-)
  • Be prepared for backlash. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to agree with your opinion, and we don’t love every book we read, but take it in your stride. We all need to learn to play nice.

For Authors

Reviews of your work
  • Read them, don’t read them, it’s up to you, but like I said before, a review is one person’s opinion. If it’s positive, dance around like a crazy person. If it’s negative, try not to take it personally. I know—it’s hard.
  • Don’t respond to negative reviews. In private: cry, scream, rant, rave, throw a pillow at your cat, but don’t engage the reviewer. If you do, you are likely to start an argument and make yourself look bad. Make sure your cat is okay, and then move on.
  • By all means interact with your fans, but someone once gave me a very good piece of advice. If you can’t, or wouldn’t, say something to someone’s face, don’t say it on-line.

Reviewing Other People’s Work
  • I’ve seen quite a few people say that authors shouldn’t review other author’s work. I don’t entirely agree with this. I’m an author, and if I love someone’s book, I want to shout it to everyone. The same is equally so if I’ve been strongly affected in any other way. Although I do tend to mainly write reviews for the books I’ve really liked.
  • As an Indie author, reviews are very important to me, and I figure if I want people to review my books, I should pay it back in kind.
  • If you are an author, and you do decide to review, be careful what you say. I’ve learnt this the hard way. I strive to be honest, and polite, but sometimes people can take negative feedback quite badly. It’s sometimes hard to decipher someone’s intended tone when it’s a bunch of words on a screen. If in doubt—don’t. But… you are entitled to your opinion just like any other reader.

Review or not to review: the decision is yours.

Obviously, this article is my personal opinion on the subject of book reviews. The tips I’ve explained and the points I’ve made are solely my own. If you agree, that’s great. If you disagree, even better! I’d love to hear your thoughts about reviews. Do you read them? Do you write them? Do they affect your reading decisions? Leave a comment below.

K x

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