REVIEWS Writing article number 3 from the archive
Reviewers have probably never been so important. They have always been the life blood of an author’s career, but they are no longer the sole preserve of the ‘professional’, the paid contributor to a newspapers literary pages. A new kind of democracy has grown up with the internet where the amateur (aka the reader) can play an important role whether on Amazon’s pages or on their own blog
I read reviews if I’m going to buy a new vacuum cleaner or a new book from an author I haven’t read before. I read the best reviews and the worst and very often they help me to make up my mind. But sometimes it will say more about the person who wrote it than it does about the product under focus. I don’t like gush. It’s easy to say a book or a cleaner is awesomely wonderful, and much harder to give a reason why it deserves such positive comments.
Words can also wound and sometimes it seems that the reviewer forgets that there is a real person behind the novel or work of art. (Corporations, however, are fair game.)
I also read reviews of my own work. Of course, I do. Every. single. word. I don’t really believe writers or artists or musicians who say they don’t – well, I don’t suppose Mick Jagger bothers much anymore, but most people who create something want to know how others respond to it. It may hurt, but the only review worth having is an honest one.
Today I’m handing my blog over to Rosie Amber, a blogger and a prolific reviewer who has created an international reviewing team.
Thank you for inviting me to your blog today Bridget for a chat about book reviewing.
You can also find me on Twitter @rosieamber1
Why as a reader I think reviews are important
In today’s world the book market is reaching saturation point. Self-publishing and e-book opportunities have opened the doors to publishing which were once held closed by publishing houses. More and more people are buying books online where they look at the book cover, the book description and they check out other reader’s reviews.
I love reading and want to share the books I love with others, so what better way than by writing a review and posting it on various online platforms and book buying sites.
As a reviewer, I post reviews about nearly all the books I read as long as I can rate them 3* or above. Below this I won’t review, I feel a “no review” says as much as a 1 or 2*. If I’ve been asked to review the book for an author and it will be below 2*, I’ll contact the author with an appraisal of their book, with my thoughts on how it could be improved.
What makes a good review?
I write short reviews. I’ll explain the book genre up front, then if it’s not one a reader likes, they can move on. I’ll usually talk quickly about the main characters and where or when the book is set. I’ll then go on to give a bit of information about the storyline, so that readers can decide themselves if the book sounds enticing. I’ll finish with a summary of what I liked about the book and if necessary what didn’t work for me. If the book needed another run through editing I will mention that and it will reflect in my rating. It’s so important in this competitive market for writers to put out their VERY best piece of work and not rush to publish.
Running a review blog
A year ago I filled my blog with all my own reviews, but my request list was getting long and I was being asked to review genres which I didn’t enjoy. So I created a book review team. Members join on a voluntary basis and review books around their own lives. There is no minimum or maximum number of books to read as long as they read and review a book in a month. We post reviews on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Goodreads, reviewer’s blogs and I get a copy of each review which goes out on my own blog.
It is set up so that authors provide several copies of their work and we give them multiple reviews of the book all from one place.
It is complex, I’m fielding book review enquiries from authors, managing the review requests from the team, making sure they review within the one month and dealing with any of their queries, sending out notification to the author when the reviews comes in and drafting up my copy of each review for my blog. On top of that I have my own review request list which is currently around 50 books. I try to read a book in no longer than 2 days. This is a hobby, I have to work it around family life and part time employment. All the reviewing is free with no monetary values exchanged. This is important with the current Amazon clamp down on paid reviews and fake reviews breaching their rules.
Approaching us for a review
The best type of author wanting a review is one that has found my blog, spent a good time checking out the type of books we read, the style of reviews we write and actually getting involved with some of the posts via comments and sharing on social media. I hang out on Twitter a great deal.
Then when they have got a good feel for us I’m happy for them to make contact via the contact forms. There is a good set of instructions about the RIGHT way to go about it.
It’s very obvious if a new author finds my blog, “Follows” by joining and then fills in the book request form. I get all the e-mails, the one which says “You have a new follower” and when it’s followed by a book review request I KNOW the author has spent little time checking me out.
Then when they send a copy and paste review request or they call me Amber or no name at all, I get miffed. Most authors understand I’m busy reading and living my life and I will get to their book, some are a little impatient. DON’T OFFEND A REVIEWER BEFORE THEY’VE READ YOUR BOOK!
All I ask is that authors remember the team and I are human, we do this because we like reading, we won’t like every book we read but we won’t be rude or leave a 1* and no reason why. We spend several hours reading your book and thinking about a fair review all for free and in our own time so that you might benefit from others who will buy your book.
Thank you Rosie – your advice not to offend a reviewer before they’ve actually read your book is a good reminder that we are all human.
This article first appeared on July 6th 2015