I just recently got off my hind end and started my book review blog. It is a task to say the least, but I enjoy the things I have been able to do with it so far. Being new to the book review world, I decided to seek out other book review blogs, and what I found was confusing and intimidating and way different than I had envisioned. Naturally I want to become a reviewer that Authors and readers alike, will turn to about books. I am just not sure how to achieve that. lol
So here is my question: "What makes a great review?"
I have noticed that my reviews are "Holy Crap!" long, and they differ (although not that much) from other reviewers. This is discouraging. =/ Then I think to myself... Am I making them too long? Am I doing it wrong? Does anyone really sit through the whoooooooole post till the end? Should I even keep going??
So I would like to know, as an author, what do you hope to see from reviewers (aside from the obvious good review)? Do you want them to delve into the story and report back on everything they think and feel and see? Is it over the top to go through all the characters and summarize them, then add a storyline summary in? Or would you prefer that they just keep it short and sweet and simple?
As someone who reviews books, what do you look for in a review? Do you want a lengthy article or something short that you can fly through? Will you read a long article till the end? Do you want to be informed or just touch base?
I have seen reviews that are pretty much a remix of the synopsis and that makes me sad. When I look for books to read, I first check out the cover art and then I read reviews. I seek out the review that has meat to it. One that really gets me in there and lets me sneak a peek at this literary world that I might not have been able to access just from the synopsis. If I can't find a review like that then chances are I won't pick it up. That almost feels like a cardinal sin in the review world, but I can't help it. So, since I seem to have a preference for a certain type of review, I tend to write in almost the same way, but its becoming awkward for me. >.< I want to run and hide under a rock and not review anymore. I don't know... maybe I just need some sort of justification that there are readers out there who appreciate the type of review I write. Mind you, I have only done two actual reviews, so my footing is still a bit wobbly, but I don't want to doom myself before I get started. Ya know what I mean?
Okay, so now that I have rambled, I would like to know what both authors and reviewers alike, think. Please leave me some feedback! :)
Sometimes I think I get a bit carried away when writing my reviews, especially when they are about classics, I just can't help myself! But usually I try to make review between 1-3 paragraphs (sometimes really short paragraphs) in length because I feel like if they are any longer the reader might get distracted, but that's just my opinion. Don't abandon ship and give up on your book review blog yet, you'll find that your own writing style gets better (and perhaps a bit more concise) as you write more. The only way to become a better blogger is to keep on blogging!
And remember sometimes its good to have a good long rambling review on your blog every now and again :)
I suppose my fear is that I will never be able to keep it short and simple. lol I am by nature, a talker, and it carries over into everything I do. =/ I guess I can give it a whirl and see how it goes though.
I try to aim for between 400 and 800 words. My reviews have a bit of a synopsis (albeit spoiler-free), then I spend a few paragraphs talking about the book's strengths and weaknesses.
It takes practice to determine what sort of review-writing style works for you. My reviews for the first couple months that I was blogging tended to lack depth and be rather short, but they've gotten much better over time.
Hi Grace. If you like mysteries, I've just finished The Sand Bluff Murders and I'd be more than happy to let you read a pdf copy. It would be my own carefully edited copy, but the actual publisher's editing is still in the queue at www.writewordsinc.com (Cambridge Books). The publisher would like some reviews to include in the package so I'm always looking. Thanks, Carl
Hi Melissa, good post and I can't help but comment because I'm one of those people who can't write short reviews. haha
From personal experience, I've seen that I don't like reviews that has nothing to say but "I loved the book/ or hated the book.." a little synopsis (what I can already get from the blurb), some pointless (and annoying) pictures/gifs and that's all. Just doesn't sound helpful to me, without any insight about the book or useful information. I like longer reviews, with a point and I don't mind spoilers at all. I've some pet peeves (I read Romance novels a lot), so I want to know if one of those are in that book, so that I can avoid it. I also want to know about the book in general, in straight forward words. Which is why when I started reviewing, I kept these things in mind. I do reviews the kind I like to read; I talk about the general storyline, the main characters and then, I insert my comments as I go, so that if someone's reading the review would know why I'm making this comment. I know most people do not like to sit through a big, spoilerish review but I can't help my ways. I actually love it a lot and have no intentions of giving it up.
So, I'd say, honesty should be there, express your opinions but try not to hurt the author directly if you didn't like a book. I make sure of that as much as I can, unless the book was utter crap and I feel like demanding a payback. lol I also agree with your words, I want a sneak peak of the literary world so that I know if I should or shouldn't pick that book up. I admire people who take time to do lengthy reviews and express their thoughts accordingly. I've gotten some good feedback from authors who told me it helps them understand exactly what the reviewer felt, which can help them improve their writing.
Also agree that you pick up your style through practice. You can't make everyone happy but at least you're being honest and love what you're doing. So don't sweat on the 'whys and hows' of it. Be yourself. :)
Anyway, just my opinion. I never aimed to be the best blogger or reviewer or whatever. I do it because I love it. I'm also a regular reviewer at Goodreads, and I've seen many so-called popular reviewers, whose reviews I don't personally like but they're pretty popular and have a big follower base... But I move on and do my thing.
-Punya, from Punya Reviews...
I try to keep my reviews short because I don't like reading really long ones. Or, if you want to write a long one, then break it up into smaller paragraphs so there isn't a wall of text and maybe insert some pictures to make it easier to read. Also, a picture of the book is a must to me. I'm very visual and seeing the cover of a book makes me more likely to read through the review.
Also, I copy the summary from Goodreads and put that at the beginning of my post with other information about the book (title, author, year published, page count, etc.) and don't talk about it in my actual review. And, my reviews are mostly just my thoughts on the book instead of "real" reviews. I talk about why I chose to read the book, what my expectations were, whether or not the book met them, if I was surprised or disappointed by anything, etc. Then I talk about what I did and didn't like about the book, going through the pros and cons.
I usually end a post with some questions to stimulate discussion. It's important that these questions be both book and non-book related in case some readers haven't read the book you're discussing.
But overall I'd say stick to what you're doing. I'm sure there is an audience for the type of reviews you write, you just have to find it and bring it to your blog. And having a different style of writing will make you stand out among other reviewers/bloggers and give you a unique voice. Hope that helps! :)
If you reviewed my stuff, I would hope to see the following:
1. All the standard info (author, title, etc.) plus, ideally, a link that would help the reader purchase the work. Probably this would be a link to Amazon.
2. The genre of the work.
3. The premise of the work, but not a synopsis of the whole darn plot.
4. In a positive review, an explanation of what made the book particularly enjoyable.
4. In a negative review, fair and reasonable criticism from a reviewer who recognizes the difference between legitimate critical standards and his or her own personal quirks. As an example of what I mean by the latter, I've seen a reviewer slam a book because it was written in the first person and he didn't happen to like the the first person. Well, first-person narration is a perfectly normal and accepted literary technique. Even if a reviewer doesn't happen to care for it, its use is an invalid and stupid reason to give a book a bad review.
Another example of this problem is when a book receives a bad review simply because of the genre to which it belongs. If a reviewer hates all romances, for example, he or she has no business reviewing them in the first place. It's not kosher to give a book a bad review simply because it is a romance.
Well, I look for originality. Just say what you think of the book without too much preamble. And yes, I look for short posts (I have too many books to read!).
As an author, the last thing I want is someone summarizing the story. What's the point of reading the book if someone has already told you what happens? I think a good review should itemize both the good and the bad points of the book. A good review is not one-sided. No book is all good or all bad, so it's important to cover everything.
You are right Irina! No one book is all good or all bad (almost). I will do that from now, not only say why I didn't like it but also what I liked about it.
Great topic. It's an important one, I think. As you're developing a book review blog, how you operate now sets the tone for future perception of your reviews. So many people jump in NOW and learn from their own missteps later, but at the high speed of blogger-to-blogger communication, asking a lot of questions about content presentation and expression is a great idea. The following suggestions are based on my perspective alone and have no authority in the universe, but I do hope they help you as you're shaping your blog. :)
Let's see. On my blog, I offer to review at 250-450 words per review. I feel when I give myself that length standard, I can avoid sounding dismissive about a book I felt fell apart by writing too little, as well avoiding talking to death a book I thought succeeded on multiple levels. It helps me stay balanced and fair. If you DO wish to write a lengthier review, make sure it stands alone as though it's an article. If you're itching to write a longer one every now and then, find a blogger who's looking for a guest post of that nature and tell him/her that's what you're hoping to post. Or do a featured review each week or month or something like that, where you can post a longer one that's more involved. Also, you can post the terms of your reviews on your blog, so people know going into it that, before they submit, you're being open and up front about your style. Tell people what you look for in a book, and stick with it. This is your review blog, and while the opinions are not the final word on the book, they are YOUR opinions and represent your involvement in the world of the written word. What I think appeals to people is when they find someone who is being honest and genuine and enthusiastic, which is sometimes difficult to sniff out these days with everyone on the planet wanting their backs scratched for scratching yours. Be authentic first and foremost.
As far as the character description and storyline summary, I think you can risk a spoiler if you get too involved in your review. Authors know the nuances of a phrase they've written, or the importance of a brief scene that has a subtlety which, in a review, could cause a new reader to guess an outcome once they've begun to read it. Too much is dangerous, I think. But your goal for more than a revamped synopsis is a good objective to carry into your reviews. I think focusing on writing style, believability (does the novel about an elf zombie coming to life and falling in love with a homeless, alcoholic Greenwich Village unicorn WORK because of the author's ownership of the narrative?), pacing, and relevance to the genre is a good starting point. If a book is literary fiction and has themes of social unrest, does it come through in the narrative and the characters? What elements contributed to that theme working or failing throughout the entire book? Something like that, I think, is a solid base.
A general summary is necessary, as well as discussion of character. Then theme, and then what you think the book aimed to accomplish versus what you feel it actually DID accomplish. Then a brief statement that rounds off your overall opinion. Never be unkind, even if you threw the book across the room because you just couldn't get into it. That's why I think you benefit from telling people on your blog what you review. It also can't hurt to warn them about sending you an unpolished, rough manuscript. Their best shot at a good review from you is to send you their best. It really is the sign of a novice if they send you an unedited copy, and disrespects the process itself. And be firm about your opinions, setting the rules of how you do or don't post a review. As long as you're humble, grateful and having a good time doing what you're doing, all will fall into place. Good luck, and have fun!
Damon Ferrell Marbut
Author, Awake in the Mad World
You should get some selfish pleasure from it; otherwise why bother? That is the key, doing it because you love it. When you write a review, you should rate a book on the main essential attributes: theme (if it has one) plot, characterization, style. Plot is the most important.