Monday, May 16, 2011

Sue On Reviews


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  you get an option of free advertising space or an Amazon token after X amount of reviews. Likewise, 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: )

Can you imagine how a knight and his men from the court of Henry II feel when they ride up to Castle Ladyslipper (or Fairfield) to find that it is inhabited in the main by beautiful, single women? 
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, 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.


  1. I've reviewed a couple books, but I can see now that those reviews sucked. Although I never attacked the author or said I hated it. That wouldn't be fair!

  2. Yes, Sue does a very good job of reviewing. After 6 published books, I have some strange stories about reviews. One reviewer didn't like the main vampire character in Moonstone. Um, there are no vampires in Moonstone. LOL!

  3. Congrats on becoming a book reviewer~ I love to review books as well. I am always honest, but tactful when necessary. I know I would want someone to be honest and not sugar coat stuff when it was indeed bad! Thanks for the post!

    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance Darkspell coming fall of 2011!


  4. Ha! Marilee - I hope you told the reviewer.
    Thanks Elizabeth, I too always want an honest review - but with reasons. Because some reviewers don't "get" the idea. If a reviewer hates the ending or characters or voice, he/she must say why. And to say it made them depressed is really undermining everyone's intelligence. (Believe me, that happens)

  5. I review books, so I loved reading this post.

    I agree with your point about no spoilers--I've come across many reviews, on many popular blogs, that mention they have spoilers. I don't see why; when I read a review, I want to learn about the reviewer's overall opinion of book, not what happens.

  6. Thanks for joining us, Golden Eagle. I agree, reviewing is an art. I've noticed reviewers get a bit harder on an author with each subsequent book. IMHO, rightfully so. Speaking only for myself, I want each book I write to be better than the one before.

  7. Great interview! Congrats on becoming a reviewer, Sue!