Book Review Writing

For Beginners

 

You have the most important role in the success of my book BLACK GIRLS MUST DIE EXHAUSTED – you are a reviewer!

This tutorial came about following my realization that often, when I’ve asked someone who has read or is planning to read “Black Girls Must Die Exhausted” to write a review, the next thing that follows is a puzzled look and the question, well, how do I go about writing one?

For those that aren’t in the habit of writing reviews, this could be a bit daunting.  But, it’s worth it, for both me, as the author and those who have yet to read the book, to know what to expect and to know what you thought about it – especially if you loved it!

Even if this is not your first review, I thought it would be helpful to you to have some background about how exactly reviews work to help authors, publishers and other readers, and how what you write will be helpful in the lifecycle and success of “Black Girls Must Die Exhausted.”

The Where, What, Who and When of Reviews are the most important things.

Where

The most critical time in a person’s purchase decision-making is at the point of purchase. In the case of “Black Girls Must Die Exhausted,” initially, this will be on the Amazon platform, on the purchase page for the book. A customer looking at the reviews on a purchase page is trying to find good reasons to click the “Buy” button. So, reviews are a helpful additional element of information that can either help finalize and support their decision to purchase, or help them recognize that this is not what they were looking for. Prospective purchasers likely want to know that other people who might think like them, or people whose opinions can be trusted and who value their own time found this book to be a worthwhile and valuable reading experience. This helps to remove uncertainty about the impending purchase. The second best place is your own social media, including Goodreads, where other book fans come to discuss books they love and to look for new books to read.

Who

Who writes the review is also somewhat important. Readers want to know that the person writing is a discerning reader, that they actually bought the book in question (or how they came to get it), and that they might share similar tastes. So, in a review, it’s actually good to tell a little bit about yourself and the types of things that you usually read, the amount of time that you devote to reading and how often you find something that you really really like. Also, it’s good information to share how often you might be so moved to write a review. If you don’t write reviews often, it says a lot that you would take the time to write something and could be a great endorsement for the book, if true.

What

What is said in the review is important. Five and Four star reviews are great, as are high compliments. But what is really most important is honesty. Even if you give a five or four star review, it’s fair game to include some light criticism, or a truthful assessment of what you would have liked to have been different or even better, what you would like to see in the next book. Nobody believes all 100% 5-star, glowing reviews, unless they are 100% percent honest! So, if you’re so moved, by all means, glow on! But, if there is fair and light critique that you’d like to give, sometimes it can add to the credibility of the reviews overall. So, your honesty is welcome.  If there was something that you didn’t like about the book, it’s most fair to the writer and to the reader of your review if you are specific about what that was. 

When

When you post your review is very important. The sooner, the better!  Ideally, just after you finish reading, while your impressions and memory is still fresh, take the time to jot a couple of lines!  It will be your purest sentiment, the easiest time to write and it helps to get the book more traction early on.  Don’t wait!

So, now that you have the quick and dirty background on why reviews are such an important “social proof” element for the book, let’s explore briefly what makes a great review and how to go about writing one.

How to Write a Great Review

Whenever I write, I always think about my intended audience first. What questions do they have? What do they really want to know? What would be most helpful and how can I be brief and impactful?

A person reading a review wants to do what they can to ensure that they won’t be disappointed in making their purchase or choice for reading. It’s just that simple. They’ve already seen the cover, and read the synopsis, so they know what the book is supposed to be about and are intrigued. The review is the decision-making ingredient.

Content

So, a great review from my perspective would answer some of the following questions:

What genre of books do you usually read (Fiction, Non-Fiction, Historical Narrative, Biographies, etc.)? Is this in line with what you normally read? If it is, did it meet or exceed your expectations for the genre? If this book was out of genre for you, did it open your mind to new genres? Or, was it just that good that you didn’t care?

What called your attention to this book, or what made you think that it would be a good read? It’s ok to give your personal views of your first impression of the title, the synopsis, the cover, whatever. After you read the book, how did your impression line up with your original thought?

How much time do you usually have for reading? Is your schedule very busy? Was this book worth making time for in spite of your busy schedule?

Was this book an escape? Did you find yourself immersed in a new world, or experience with engaging characters?

Did you find the plot and characters relatable?

Who was your favorite character? Would another reader enjoy this person? Why?

Were there any insightful moments (that aren’t spoilers) or memorable quotes?

Do you recommend this book? Who would like it? Someone like you? Someone different? Everyone?

Is this a book that everyone should read? Why? What will they learn?

Ratings

This isn’t an absolute standard, but it is based on my informal survey of other readers and how they interpret ratings.  I’ve seen a number of reviewers who write a written review, and consider the star system an afterthought, not really taking into account how important in can be as viewed by other readers. In fact, many readers don’t even read the written reviews and just look at the star ratings for their decisions!  So, it’s important – and definitely worth covering.  In some cases, I’ve seen reviewers write glowing written reviews, but only give the book 3 stars. For the average person, 3 stars means that the book wasn’t so good. So, to avoid mixed-messages, I’ve tried to give some indications of what I’ve heard from other readers as far as how they view the star ratings: 

Five Stars means, this is a great book. I’m glad I bought it and you should definitely buy it too because you will enjoy reading it.

Four Stars means, this is a good book. It’s not everything I thought it would be, but it was still worthwhile.   If you buy it, you most likely won’t regret it.

Three Stars means, eh, this was ok. It wasn’t that great and given the choice, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. I’m not saying don’t buy this book, but I’m also not saying buy it.

Two Stars means, this book was not good and didn’t try to be. I’m not happy I bought it and you likely won’t be happy either.

One Star means, this book sucked on purpose. I feel like I was duped (i.e., a scam). Don’t get suckered into buying it like I did.

Length

In thinking about length, a helpful review is between 100 to 200 words. Think 2 – 3 relatively short paragraphs.

Buying the Book

Reviews that are posted as “Verified Reviews” carry the most weight with purchasers on Amazon. Please note that you are able to write a review without a purchase – it just will not be a “Verified Purchase” review. Because of prior abuses of the review system, most Amazon shoppers do look for “Verified Purchase” reviews and weigh them most heavily, but will still read others. If you’re able to purchase the book, either on Kindle or in paperback form and then write the review just after reading, that would be great!  

Posting a Review

Amazon and Goodreads give you lots of opportunities and prompts to write a review for your purchase (or just to write a review on the platform) and to make recommendations to others. The easiest and best way is to just go back to the product page for the book. You can find the book by searching for the name of the title in Amazon’s search bar. It will take you back to the product page. If you scroll down on the product page, you will be able to write a review. Please make sure that you are signed in to your Amazon account so that the review will be a Verified Review, if you have already purchased the book.

On Instagram, post your #shelfie! Posting a photo of the book cover with your review blurb and a few hashtags is a great way to spread the word.  Common hashtags for books on Instagram are: #bookstagram #igbooks #goodreads #instabook #amreading #bookish #booksofinstagram #greatreads #bookreview #currentlyreading 

Feel free to tag me: @JayneAllenWrites or @QualityBlackBooks

On Twitter, you can post links, so please feel free to link readers:

To Amazon directly: http://a.co/d/1wwLIXF

To Goodreads directly: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41540244-black-girls-must-die-exhausted

To this site: http://www.jayneallenwrites.com

And please feel free to include popular Twitter hashtags as well: #WeNeedDiverseBooks #MustRead #AmReading #BookReview #WomensFiction #WritersofColor #Shelfie

Tag me on Twitter: @JayneAllenSaid or @QualityBlkBooks