Writing & Blogging

Are Book Reviews Necessary?

I’m out recovering from my infusion, so thanks you, Chris, for the awesome guest post! I’ll be back next week!

You’ve heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But have you ever judged a book by its review? When you look for a new book to read do you take time to scroll through the reviews to see what other people think? Are having 50 “5-star” reviews enough to convince you to buy the book? Are the reviews even necessary? In the following article we’ll answer that question.

Whether you're a reader or a writer, book reviews are an important part of buying and selling books. But are they really necessary?

Why Should I Write a Review?

There are some out there who may not understand the point of a review. They think, “I bought this guy’s book, read it, and I told others about it.” That’s wonderful, but you didn’t tell the author himself. Some writers, especially indie authors, crave reviews for their books. It’s not necessarily the fact that it will catapult their book to the top of a list, but that it gives the author feedback to how he’s doing as far as telling a story.

When you go into a restaurant, order food, and then pay for it, you also tip the waitress for a “job well done”. The review to an author is the same thing as a tip to a waitress. It encourages them to continue to write stories and share their talent with the world. Even a negative review can help a writer gauge what works and what doesn’t in a story and they can move forward from there and improve their craft.

If you don’t leave a review, an author won’t be able to tell if he’s on the right track or if he needs to rethink something. Some authors may just give up completely and return to their 9-5 job or others will continue to churn out amateurish drivel because, in their mind, “no news is good news.”

What Do I Write in a Review?

First and foremost remember this review is for the author and his book. The last thing he, or anyone, wants to see in a review is someone doing a shameless plug for their, or another author’s, book. Most negative reviews will say, “Don’t waste your time with this one but rather check out MY NOVEL which is infinitely better!” And they’ll even include a link to that book.

Simply telling an author you liked his book is not enough. If you just want to “Like” something, stay on Facebook. You need to tell the author WHY you liked his book. Was it the main character’s boyish charm? The road trip across the United States? Or was it the final showdown between the Hero and the Villain? Mention character names and scenes that you liked. This proves you’ve read the book and you’re not just heaping praise on the author because he is a family member or your best friend. A lot of times people will buy a copy of a book, rate it 5-stars, and say, “I loved it” and not even read the book. Why? Perhaps the author is looking for a way to instant stardom; ‘buy’ a few reviews, get noticed in the rankings online, and then kick back and watch the money roll in.

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But I Didn’t Like the Book

It’s fine if you didn’t like the book, but make sure you leave a review anyways and tell the author (and others) why you didn’t like it. No one likes an internet troll who’ll go around and purposely rate books a 1-star just for kicks. You know they haven’t read it and don’t intend to neither.

Sometimes a story just isn’t for you. It may have been well-written and well-developed but, it’s just not the story you were expecting. Make sure you put that in your review. You may not have liked it but there might be others who will. I can’t recall how many times I’ve gone to the movies to see a film that was given a bad review, yet I loved it. And, of course, there is the reverse; I was disappointed with a movie even though it got rave reviews.

When you're buying a book, you might check out the reviews to see what other people think. Here's what you should know about them and what you should know about writing one yourself.

Beware Rave Reviews

Speaking of ‘Rave Reviews’, like the 1-star trolls out there, a praise junkie is the opposite and can be just as problematic. Anyone who rates the book 5-stars and simply says, “This is the best book that I’ve ever read” doesn’t tell you if they’ve really read it or not. Others, as I mentioned earlier, might be friends or family of the author. I mean who’d want to get shunned at the family picnic because YOU didn’t like Uncle Merle’s “fascinating” book on the history of the necktie?

Writers, I’d recommend reading reviews of those who rate between 2-4 stars. These sometimes can be more of the genuine article as they have actually read the book and are giving an honest review about it. These will be a better gauge of what direction to go in regards to writing that next book. Should the main character be featured in book 2 or will that quirky sidekick that showed up at the hockey rink get her own book?

A Warning to Fellow Writers

Aside from the self-promotion of your own work, as described above, don’t draw attention that you are a fellow writer. Not that you’re drawing attention away from the author of the book you’re reviewer, but sometimes a writer will say something like, “This story is great that I wish I was the one who wrote it” or “This story makes all of my novels seem like high school play material.” This most likely will send a red flag up to the ‘Higher Ups’ or the site you are posting a review and it may get deleted. Remember, when you are reading someone else’s book, you are a fan who is sharing a review not a fellow author giving insight. If you want to give insight, contact the author themselves.

So – Are Reviews Necessary?

Yes, book reviews are necessary and should be done with careful planning to help both author and fellow readers alike. What are you experiences with writing or reading reviews? Have they helped or hindered you in picking up a copy? Please share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.  Yes, book reviews are necessary and should be done with careful planning to help both author and fellow readers alike. What are you experiences with writing or reading reviews? Have they helped or hindered you in picking up a copy? Please share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Adventuring!


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1 Comment

  • Reply Archer Crosley

    What were the reviews on Vincent van Gogh’s paintings when he was alive? I think reviews are like political endorsements – a bad practice. A bad review can crush an emerging great author. A good review only allows the author to get a big head. Ultimately, an author has to listen to his or her inner voice.

    August 30, 2017 at 8:52 am
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