Should you write a book review?

Anyone can leave a book review, on any review platform they wish, but should they? Most people reading this probably just raised an eyebrow as if to say “well, why shouldn’t they?” I have an answer for that.

A book review directly impacts an author's sales, ranking, and reputation. It can be the reason for 500 readers to buy their book or boycott their book.

An honest book review is a bit more complicated than “I hated this story because I don’t like clowns!” Again, a few of you might be thinking “well, that’s honest.” Yes, honest, but is it fair to the author to get a one star review because the reader chose to read a book about carnival clowns, something they know they hate? The author did not cause the reader to hate carnival clowns and a typical book synopsis would most likely contain the detail that the story is about carnival clowns. That type of reaction is as ludicrous as going on a blind date and finding out the person wore red shoelaces, so you storm out swearing how much you hate them because you hate red shoelaces!

The point of a book review is to be fair and objective, whether you liked the story or did not like the story. For starters, you should never choose a book to review on a subject, genre, or concept that you already know YOU don’t enjoy. What is the point in that? You already know you won’t enjoy it, so why bother wasting your time and the authors, only to give them a nasty one star review because you don’t like books about aliens or red shoelaces?

To be a good book reviewer, stick to the genres or concepts that you already love to read. This will ensure that you are reading something worthwhile and are picking the correct books to review based on your tastes. That alone guarantees more validity in your opinion because you love fantasy books, you read thousands of fantasy books and could logically speak as to why you like a fantasy book or why you didn’t like it.

Next, have something more to say than “It was great!” or “It was boring.” Tell other readers why it was great, or honestly, why you thought it was boring. Did the action slow down too much? Too many details to follow? Too wordy? Plot line lacked creativity or plausibility? Was the writing excellent and dynamic or too choppy and bland? Was the marketing aimed at one demographic or genre but turned out to be something better suited for a different market, such as general horror versus extreme horror, or a paranormal romance versus romance? Were you expecting something completely different than how it was promoted?

If you do find yourself in a situation where you really want to review a book but it just wasn't what you expected, leave a review, but so do objectively. Try to leave your personal feelings out of it and look at it constructively instead. Was the story well-written? Did the author carry the plot forward in an interesting manner? Were the characters relatable? Was it full of errors? Try to base your review off of these items, rather than your personal feelings of loathing clowns, zombies or love stories.

You can always state that this was something different than what you normally read, but you did like X, Y, and Z about the story. Then go on to state what you did not like about the story, objectively (not because it had clowns). Something like this: Even though I thought the plot was interesting, I do feel like the characters were not fully developed or did not have enough of a backstory to fully explain their motivation for their action. Using this method to state your pros and cons to a story goes a very long way towards helping new authors understand what readers are finding appealing and what techniques they may need to work on in future stories.

You do not have to be an elaborate writer to leave an adequate review. A few simple, honest words describing the pro’s and con’s in an objective manner can go a long way towards telling other readers what you thought and letting the author know, in a kind manner, what they may need to work on. It wasn’t until I became an author that I fully understood the correct way to leave a book review and why it is so important.

Authors spend, on average, a year or more of their lives devoted to a single story. From concept, to publication, can take up to 18 months or more to realize. That contains hundreds of hours hunched over a computer, or over a desk with a notepad, writing a story that they desperately want to tell. It's personal for them, it’s lost family time, lost sleep and lost files. Months of stress, and anxiety, while loving every moment of every word that we create.

Authors bleed on their pages, just as surely as a woodcarver bleeds into his creation, or a painter pours their soul into their artwork. Some authors are bound to be better than others, but all deserve the kindness of recognizing the hours of work that was put into their creation. When a reader leaves a bad review with no context, or out of spite, or simply from not understanding the best way to do it, it truly impacts the author on multiple levels.

By taking the time to acknowledge the hours spent to create a story for you to enjoy, and providing just 3-5 sentences of constructive feedback, good or bad, can go a long way towards guiding and motivating those authors to keep doing what they do or to become better at what they do. So, yes, please, we beg of you, leave a review.

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