BECOMING A BOOK REVIEWER
As an author and reviewer I guess I sit on both sides of the table. Neither is an easy job and both should view the other with sympathetic eyes. Both jobs take up a lot of time, and both need to have the basic question ever present: who is going to read my work?
Today I’d like to look at what makes a successful review and why anyone would want to be a reviewer.
A reviewer gets free books to read – usually those you choose – and there are benefits. If you review for http://www.longandshortreviews.com/ you get an option of free advertising space or an Amazon token after X amount of reviews. Likewise, http://www.theromancereviews.com/. Both are currently seeking reviewers and they’re both great “learning your art” places to start. It’s not a bad choice for an author to be a reviewer too because reviewing helps a writer see the pitfalls and successes in stories.
So what are the techniques of reviewing? Remember that a book review is a critical analysis and evaluation of what did and did not work for you: how did you feel about the characters; was the plot believable; was the pace too fast or lagging? The goal is to inspire readers, not to put them off no matter how bad you thought the book. This means you must be fair, not sarcastic and, please, never snark. You may find that the heroine was too stupid to live, the plot was full of coincidences, there was too much telling instead of showing, or the points of view were all gummed up. But if you have to say something you didn’t like, try to couch it with something positive.
Another definite no-no is to repeat either the blurb or the synopsis and, under no circumstances, give the plot or ending away (no spoilers in other words).
Just like an author must “hook” a reader from the start, so must a reviewer. Never start with “I liked this book”, because if you do, your reader will probably say, “So what?” and turn to the next page. Ask yourself the famous Wh questions: who, where, when, why – oh! and how.
Coincidentally (ahem) my hook on Marilee’s book, Castle Ladyslipper, was quoted as a successful hook (on this excellent blog that gives reviewing advice: http://thechrysanthemumconnection.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html )
Can you imagine how a knight and his men from the court of Henry II feel when they ride up to Castle Ladyslipper (or
) to find that it is inhabited in the main by beautiful, single women? Fairfield
An e-reader is a must because it makes your life so much easier: you can make notes as you go along or highlight relevant parts which you might want to quote when you write your review. It will also help you remember the main characters’ names –another essential.
Do think of the authors. Try to help them discover where they fall down as nicely as you can and they’ll reward you, that’s a promise. But don’t forget to tell them where they shine too. Is it really valuable to an author to say that the book depressed the hell out of you or that you didn’t like the ending? Did you ever think the author’s intention was to depress you J, in which case she succeeded? And please say why you didn’t like the ending.
Reviewers can go onto greater things once they’ve learned their craft. Take a look at www.bookcritics.org, http://www.midwestbookreview.com/ or go to your local newspapers and check out their reviews and crits pages. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll see you in the national papers.