So have you read your copy of Honddu Vale yet? How about writing a book review? Remember when you were a kid and had to stand in front of the class and give and oral book report, and you started at the beginning and told the story until your teacher said, “Okay, that’s enough. You can sit down now”? Well, it’s not like that. (Although if you want to do a video review, go for it. You can post it on Amazon.com.)
What does go into an effective book review?
You want to give your readers an idea of the story, not tell the whole thing. Don’t write five paragraphs detailing the plot. The publisher has already put a teaser on the site, so you aren’t starting from scratch. What would you tell your best friend in a conversation? Focus on what most caught your attention or what you think will make readers want to read the book. I just reviewed Kirk Cousin’s Game Changer; Faith, Football, and Finding Your Way. I mentioned that he is a football player for readers like me who have never heard of him, but pointed out this book is about a lot more than football, more about life lessons learned from football. If you are reviewing Honddu Vale, you don’t need to tell the story blow by blow. Build on the summary that’s already on the site. Focus on what most struck you. The setting? The themes of forgiveness and grace? Or maybe you identify with God’s silence. If you are going to talk about the ending be sure to note that your review contains “spoilers” so a reader who doesn’t want to know the ending can avoid it.
What did you like about the book? Be specific. Don’t be so general in your praise that readers have no idea what you are talking about, or worse, wonder if you actually read the book.
What did you not like about the book? It’s okay to tell the truth even if I’m your friend. Yes, I would prefer that you not trash me and my mother, but it’s all right to say, “I wish the author had . . .” or “The book would have been stronger if . . .” Your review will carry more weight if readers sense that you are giving your honest opinion, however graciously. I often check out the negative reviews just to see if I agree with them or not. I also have some hidden reviews on Shelfari, where I catalog everything I read. Those are books I couldn’t find anything good to say about, but I didn’t want to trash the author whom I might meet up with at the next writers conference.
And that brings up another point.
Be sure to rate the book according to the site’s scale. On Amazon five stars is good. One is “I hated it.” How often have I read a one-star review that raves about the book. Obviously, the reviewer thought that one was the best. She trashed the author without even meaning to and dragged down the author’s overall ranking. (If you are tempted to give Honddu Vale one star, I would prefer that you just smile politely next time one of my books is mentioned and not read it.)
In your book review you might mention who you think will enjoy this book. Historical fiction lovers. Fantasy lovers. Ordinary readers experiencing the silence of God. When I reviewed Game Changer, I recommended it for young athletes and said the middle school boys in my Sunday school class will be getting it for Christmas. That lets readers know the intended audience and that I liked it enough to buy more copies.
Publishers have given away free review copies since who-knows-when, but with the rise of on-line customer reviews the lines between advertizing and reviewing have blurred. If you received a free copy from me for review purposes, you are expected to include that in a disclaimer, something like, “I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.” Simple as that. You don’t have to include a disclaimer to say you are my cousin or friend. That one’s up to you. Receiving a free review copy does not obligate you to say good things although I would appreciate it if you would be polite.
So how do you post a review on Amazon? Search for the book you want to review. Click on the title to get the page. To the right of the stars that show the ranking you will see a number and customer reviews. That will be blue, indicating a hyperlink. Click on it. There you will see all the reviews, but right near the top is a link that says "Create your own review". I recommend writing your review before you get there, and cutting and pasting. I always freeze when I have to fill something out on-line. It’s that simple. You might have to fill out a profile if this is your first time to review on Amazon. (I don’t remember since I have been reviewing for years.) But it won’t be complicated, and I promise they won’t bombard you with junk mail.
So that’s it. A review can be as short as two or three sentences. There are other sites like Goodreads and Shelfari that are designed for sharing the love of good books. I post on all three. Goodreads can even link to your Facebook account and update your status when you start/finish/review a book—another way of helping authors like me spread the word.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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