Previously in Book Reviews – Part 1, we discussed online reviewing algorithms, frequency, sniping, and the benefits of good book reviews. We continue talking about reviewing books with comments about reviewing often, objectivity, authors’ reactions, and as readers, how you should interpret reviews.
Write reviews for EVERY book you read. It either helps the author sell more books, evaluate his/her writing for the next book, or it could affect the next person’s selection when choosing to buy a book. The more review data is out there, the more information prospective buyers have to make intelligent purchase decisions. Not everybody gets their information/reviews from every site. Post that review in as many places as you can find. Amazon and Goodreads are just a couple of the major sites to post reviews on. The more you spread the word, the more people you will reach. Every book review helps someone. Either the author learns from his mistakes or makes more sales. Readers benefit from either avoiding or buying more of a given title.
Reviewing Books: Constructive or Attack?
Sometimes, no matter how thoughtful, polite, constructive, or insightful a review may be, the author will take it as an affront. Depending on their personal insecurities, maturity, professionalism, ego, or personality, some authors take anything less than glowing praise as a personal attack.
If a review is well written and points out the good and bad of a given work, a professional author should be able to take an emotional step back and objectively evaluate the constructive criticism and apply it to the work, using it to better their next endeavor. Was the plot too cliché? Were my sentences too lengthy and complicated? Was my conflict too weak? Is this a story anyone would really care about? You learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Some people are incapable of that. There is nothing you can do about that. Take the high road. Write an objective, well-educated review giving both positive and negative constructive feedback and move on to the next book. Do not get into an online pissing match with the author. No one comes out smelling good after those.
A Grain of Salt
Take book reviews with a grain of salt. Sometimes a bucket of salt, depending on the reviewer and the review. Everyone has an opinion. That doesn’t mean they are right. (It doesn’t mean that they are wrong either.) People have different tastes.
Someone I met recently, who is a very smart and intelligent author, stated how he hated Robert Heinlien‘s Stranger in a Strange Land. He mentioned how sexist it was. He’s right. It is. However, it is also one of my favorite books, sexism aside. (Don’t be blasphemin’ the Heinie!) It was also conceived in the 1940s and ’50s, when the concepts in the books were the predominantly accepted social norms and the fantasy existence of the 16-year-old male, who was the primary market for sci-fi at the time. That doesn’t make it right by today’s standards, but it was back then, and frankly, it still makes an entertaining story. Point being, as intelligent and correct as he is in his assessment, he has a completely different opinion of the book than I do. I am smart enough to realize it IS sexist, but still like the story, and he is intelligent enough to concede it was written in a different time, but it still doesn’t suit his personal tastes. Neither of us is wrong, we just have different likes and dislikes.
A Whole Lotta Smoke
When reading and assessing the validity of reviews, either from a prospective buyer’s point of view, or as the author, one thing to keep in mind is the old adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” If enough people say the same thing, there may be something to it. If the majority of reviewers say the author is too wordy, too flowery in their descriptions, and too detailed, the author may want to consider dialing it back a bit. If that is not your preferred style of book, take heed.
Reviewing Books: Summary
- Be objective, non-personal, address the technical and storytelling aspects of the book.
- Find good and bad in every review
- Remember the author is human too, with feelings
- Post often and everywhere to make sure good authors get rewarded and bad books get avoided
- Avoid cowardice via anonymity – don’t be afraid to have an opinion and be brave enough to let the author know who you are, for good or bad
- Write a review based on your feelings and observations, not the majority
- Don’t be afraid to have your own opinion. Everyone has different tastes and certainly won’t always agree on a review
- Take in reviews with a grain of salt, but pay attention if the same criticism is mentioned numerous times
Why? Because life is too short to waste on bad books.
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About Paul K. Metheney, the Author: Paul was the featured author for dozens of sports magazine articles, has two stories published in a recent anthology, a contract to be published in an anthology coming out later this year, is contracted for a collection of his own short stories, and is working on a much-delayed novel or two. Paul has nearly three decades working in advertising design, print, and graphic design. For the last twenty-five years or so, he has been working in the web design, SEO, PPC, social media, and marketing fields, including writing marketing copy for his client's blogs and social media on various subjects. Oh, yeah. He teaches those subjects as well at the local community college. Paul can be reached at his blog on writing, teaching, poker, travel, reviews, and all things politically incorrect at paulmetheney.com, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
In full disclosure, Left Hand Publishers, besides publishing some of his work, has contracted Paul's company, Metheney Consulting, as one of their book cover design artists and marketing consultants to help assist with author's branding and marketing.
Paul is happily married to his one-time, high school sweetheart, loves riding his Can-Am Spyder motorcycle, sporadically smokes a good cigar, and is an avid poker enthusiast. Paul is owned and cared for by two small Shitzus.
To learn more, visit his web site, dedicated to writing, teaching, poker, reviews, all things politically incorrect, and posts revealing genuine stupidity in the world: PaulMetheney.com or email him at