Writing reviews

There are so many books available that it’s hard to decide which one you want to read. That’s why the personal recommendations you get in online reviews are so useful. The more reviews there are, the better the system works so, if you’ve read a book you enjoyed, you can help other people enjoy it too by putting a review on Amazon, Goodreads or any other online booksite.

I’ve been writing reviews for many years and ran www.wordpool.co.uk for 10 of those. (That site is still online but we don’t update it any more.) So here are a few tips I’ve learned during that time.

  1. If you’re going to say what the book’s about, keep it short and don’t give away the ending.
  2. Sometimes it helps to mention what type of book it is: police procedural, funny fantasy, paranormal romance.
  3. Say why you like the book.
  4. Say who else might enjoy the book. If you wish, you can mention other similar books. (“If you like David Walliams, you’ll probably enjoy this” or “great book for fans of Jane Austen”)
  5. Mention any issues that might make the book unsuitable for some people – graphic descriptions of violence , scary pictures of spiders, lots of elves. (My husband hates stories about elves.)

What about bad reviews?
Authors hate bad reviews. They make us feel awful, but that doesn’t mean no one should write them. Bad reviews can be as helpful as good reviews when people are trying to choose a book, but don’t just write “this book is awful”. Try to explain what you didn’t like so people can decide whether they are likely to think the same.  For instance, saying “I didn’t like this book because there were too many elves” would make my husband choose a different book but it wouldn’t put me off at all. (We agree on almost everything except elves.)

Personally, I only write bad reviews if I think there’s something really wrong with the book – like being full of spelling mistakes or failing to live up to what’s promised on the cover (for instance, a book that claims it’s about elves but isn’t.)

The importance of being honest
The whole review system breaks down if reviewers aren’t completely honest. So I don’t think anyone should give a good review just because they’ve been paid to do so or because their friend/mum/auntie wrote the book. That doesn’t mean you should never review a book by someone you know – it just means you should read the book first and only write a review if you would do that even if you didn’t know the author.