Do you review books online?
I used to avoid it. I might go on about how important reviews are to authors, but instead of walking the walk, I planted both my feet in cement.
There’s a gazillion blog posts out there detailing the many horrors that will befall a writer who also reviews books. Amazon will delete your reviews. Readers won’t trust you — they’ll think you’re either conspiring with the author behind their backs, or trying to make them look bad to raise your own work. It dilutes your brand… And blah, blah, blah.
But let’s be honest. The real reason I didn’t review books was because it was hard. And impossible. I looked at my words, and compared them to book bloggers, and failed. I read blog posts about how best to review, and studied reviews, and despaired. And despaired. And sank under the water by those bloggers’ reviews. They weren’t reviews — they were mini-masterpieces.
Maybe you can relate?
But when I clicked through books on Amazon trying to find books for my diverse reading challenge, I noticed something. Not many had more than twenty reviews.
One of my own personal goals is to promote LGBT fantasy as a genre, since I want a lot more amazing books to read. I hosted a couple of events, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s like a drop in the ocean.
If I really wanted to help my beloved genre and favourite authors, then I needed to write reviews.
Reviews are critical to book success (and critical for encouraging authors to write more). When the Queer Sci Fi facebook group asked whether people used reviews to choose which books to read, half the responses were a resounding yes!
The other half is influenced by the star rating and number of reviews. So even if you think reviews don’t affect your purchasing decisions, you still see those two details.
But staring at the blank comment box on one computer monitor, and amazing masterpiece reviews on the other, how could I possibly live up to that???
Thankfully, the WROTE podcast came to my rescue. Author and bookstore owner Nathan Burgoine explained his way to recommend books. The result isn’t a work of art, but actually a functional review that will help other readers decide if this is the book for them. Best yet, you can write one in five minutes.
All you need to do is write three sentences.
Step 1: Finish 3 sentences
1) This book is about…
2) I really liked…
3) I would recommend this book to people who like…
(This formula assumes you liked the book. I don’t finish books I don’t like, and thus wouldn’t review it. But if you want to be more fair, add in a sentence, ‘I didn’t like’ between 2 and 3.)
This is your first draft, so it doesn’t need to be perfect, or even coherent. Just write it down on paper, Word, or wherever you can save a copy.
So my not-so-cogent first draft for TJ Nichols’ Warlock in Training started like this:
When a demon abducts Angus, he must choose whether to obey the human warlocks or turn against humans to save the demon world — and just how bad is it that Angus is falling in love with his demon?
One of my readers recommended this one to me, and I wasn’t disappointed — although don’t expect them to end up happily ever after in a monogamous style. If you love a good twist on good and evil, demons and humans, then you’ll love this gay urban fantasy.
Step 2: Edit your review
Put it aside for a day or two, then re-read it. Re-write by making your thoughts more clear. Rewriting things to brilliance is a lot easier than penning them the first time around.
My second draft looks something more cogent and articulate like this:
Angus had never wanted to be a warlock, but when a way-too-sexy demon abducts him, he’ll have to choose between the safety of the warlock council or to risk everything to save the demon world.
One of my readers recommended this one to me, and I wasn’t disappointed. Warlock in Training offers an intriguing twist on the usual humans equal good and demons equal bad, as well as global warming.
Step 3: Post your review where you bought the book
This is essential. Don’t worry about whether it’s good enough. When I first started, I wrote and edited twenty reviews, and still hesitated to post a single one. That review screen on Amazon was intimidating! It’s one thing to share a rec with you guys, and another to post it on the Internet, where anyone can read it.
But then I clicked submit. You know what happened? The sky didn’t implode. My inbox wasn’t filled with hate mail. Amazon didn’t reject it. It just exists there, helping to sell my favourite books.
The next time was easier, and the time after that even easier.
That’s it. In less than fifteen minutes, you wrote a functional book review.
So do you review books? Why or why not? Reply below and share, I’d love to know. (No judgments, I promise.)