Mathiya Adams, June 15, 2015
One of the most important tools an indie writer needs is favorable reviews for each of her publications. Reviews help sell books. For many readers, reviews give an indication of how popular the book is, how it is received by the reading public, and what the book is about. Obviously, good reviews are better than poor reviews, but what makes a good review?
The answer in my mind is a good reviewer.
A good reviewer has six characteristics.
1) The ideal reviewer has actually read your book. Seems obvious, right? But all too often, someone will write a review of your book and it is pretty clear to you that they haven’t read your book. The problem is, it can become obvious to other readers that the review is contrived, built up out of biographical descriptions, words and descriptions from other reviews, or full of factual errors.
2) The reviewer understands the genre. While some reviewers read a little of everything, it is always best to have a review written by someone who knows the genre you are writing. This eliminates embarrassing errors in understanding what the story was about. “There were too many elves” would not be an appropriate critique of a fantasy novel.
3) The best reviewers have read other books in the genre. You want reviewers who know what to expect in your novel and to identify what is unique in your novel. The more well-read in your genre the reviewer is, the more likely you’re going to get a meaningful review.
4) The reviewer has written other reviews. A good review is more than “I liked this book.” A good review says why you liked it, what specific parts were likable and what parts were not so likable. A good reviewer takes the time to review many authors, not just you.
5) The reviewer doesn’t have an ax to grind. You don’t want to be caught up in the reviewer’s on-going battle against Romance writers or the high price of New York Times Bestsellers. Nor do you want your book to be judged less well simply because the reviewer “simply doesn’t believe there are any five-star books out there.”
6) And finally, the ideal reviewer actually likes your book.
Now, it turns out that some people don’t make ideal reviewers, simply by the nature of who and what they are. These include:
1) Your mom. Yes, she loves you, and quite assuredly, she loves everything you do. Unfortunately, other readers can tell when your mom has written a review of your book. There’s no objectivity. Sometimes a book takes too long to develop. Sure, mom will overlook that, but the average reader won’t. Let your mom read your book but don’t ask her to write a review.
Oh, this advice also applies to other members of your family.
2) Your friends. Ah, friends can be a great problem for you. How do they write a great review if they really aren’t interested in your genre or if they don’t want to hurt your feelings? It’s not easy. Don’t put your friends in that quandary! It’s not nice, and worse still, your reading public will be able to tell when a review was written by one of your friends. The review will sound like it’s nice, but not really say anything.
3) Yourself in disguise. Don’t get a fake email account and write a review under that name. First, the universe has a way of exposing all deceit. I don’t know that the universe really operates this way, but I hope it’s true. Second, if you want to say nice things about your book, do it in a blog or a newsletter. Self-promoting isn’t bad; being dishonest is.
4) People with whom you promise to exchange reviews. I realize this is an easy way to get reviews. You read and review my book; I read and review your book. It’s not a bad thing until you actually agree to do that. Then you are faced with a dilemma. What happens if they give you a five star rating, but you find that you really don’t like their book at all? Are you going to be dishonest? And if the reverse is true, do you want a dishonest review promoting your book? I hope not.
5) And finally, the last group of people you don’t want reviewing your book are Trolls. What are trolls? They are people who like to put down everything, to create havoc, to cause pain. Trolls aren’t interested in your book. They’re interested in YOU. They want to start an argument, get you upset, or cause you to act in an unprofessional way. Most often Trolls will just say something inflammatory.
Oh, and just to be fair, keep in mind that sometimes authors can be trolls with reviewers. Trolls are never nice, whatever side of the review they are on.