07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Saturday, August 3, 2013

How To Write a Worthy Review

by Regan Walker

Regan’s Romance Reviews: http://reganromancereview.blogspot.com

Regan Walker
We are all readers. Hopefully we are also reviewers of the books we read. With the hope of helping you write meaningful reviews, I’ve jotted down some notes on how I do my reviews. I have nearly 600 reviews of mostly historical romance novels on Amazon with a 91% “helpful” rating. And I have a blog dedicated to helping other readers find the “keepers,” so I’ve thought some about this topic.

Reviewers have many styles, but to my thinking they generally fall into three categories:

1.     Just my opinion: These are short and often sweet reviews that say very little except that they liked the book. They tell you nothing about the story. I suspect many are written by friends of the author, but with the new Kindle review option, perhaps not. In any event, they are frequently 5 stars ratings but say little. I do not find them helpful.

2.     The Barracuda: These are written by those having an axe to grind, something that sets them off. Typically, these folks give one and two star ratings and rant about that one thing that has upset them. In reviews of bodice ripper romances, you can find them ranting about rape or forced seduction, typically inherent in the subgenre. To me these are really unfair reviews and they only detract from what might otherwise be a 5 star novel.

3.     FOT (Fair, objective and thorough): These give you a bit of the story and setting, what the author did right/wrong, what the reviewer liked and whether they would recommend the book. The ratings generally range from 3 to 5 stars but can be 2 stars when appropriate.

To write a fair, objective and thorough review, I recommend you include as many of the following as you feel appropriate:

1.     Your familiarity with the author’s work. Have your read other books by this author? Are you a fan of this author’s work? Is this the first of hers you’ve read? This tells the readers what you know of this author’s work and gives your review credibility.

2.     The setting. Tell the readers where you place this book in history and geography. For example, in my review I might say “Set in 12th century Scotland…” or something like that. You’d be surprised how many blurbs do not do this. While perhaps this is more important for a historical, it is also important for a contemporary. You might say the book is set in “modern day London,” or “on a desert isle.” If it’s fantasy, or time travel, let the reader know as the blurbs can leave them wondering. 

3.     A bit about the plot. You want to let the readers know enough of the story to be interested; yet you don’t want to give away the surprises or the ending. It is in this section I might tell the reader “This is a story of second chances,” or I might say, “The hero is a man wounded in both battle and in his heart….” I try to give more than the bare facts so the reader has a clue about this book. I have had some authors tell me I summarize their story better than they could. If that is so, it’s because I carefully take notes and ask myself, “What is this book about, really?”  

4.     What the author did right. There is always something good to say. Perhaps it’s very well written, or the characters are well developed, or the novel is obviously well researched, or the dialog natural. To have a balanced review you need to have something positive; and be specific. 

5.     What you didn’t like or think other readers might not like. Be honest and tell the readers what bothered you (if anything). For me, it is typically contrived conflict, improbable plot elements, major historical inaccuracies or the characters acting against their type. I recall one book that I rated 5 stars, but found completely improbable the rape of the heroine by the noble born hero who had been a British naval officer and a gentleman. She was an innocent 18 year old he’d just rescued from a shipwreck. If the author had made the hero a cad, or a pirate without scruples, I could have seen it perhaps, but not as the man she’d cast him. I still gave her 5 stars because I couldn’t put it down.  

6.     Your lasting impressions. When you finished the book, were you wishing there was more? Did the story make you cry? Laugh? Want to read it again? Or, did you find it entertaining but not something you’d put on your keeper shelf? Say so. These impressions help other readers and give your review added dimension. My favorite comments in the reviews of my first novel were “…a definite must read,” (14 reviews); and “…I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Regan Walker’s next book…” (11 reviews). Amazon has a tool that picks these repeated phrases out and presents them to the readers looking at the reviews. I like that.  

7.     Whether you intend to read other books by the author. State your intention if you have one. I might, for example, say I liked this so well I’ve already bought the next in the series. You might also recommend another one by this author that you particularly liked. That, too, helps readers.  

8.     Why you gave the rating you did. For example, I might rate a book 4 stars even though I considered the writing 5 stars, because it was a 3 star story. Generally, a 5-star rating is excellent, and if I add that it’s a “keeper,” I view it as better than 5 stars. I will not be giving that book away. Four stars is “good” and I can recommend it. A 3 star rating is kind of average, at least to me, and I don’t recommend those. I only put books on my Regan’s Romance Reviews blog and on my “best lists” if I’ve rated them 4 or 5 stars. I also make use of the ½ star to add to a review…and might say “4 and ½ stars” before the rest of the title for the review if I feel that is justified.  

9.     Say something meaningful in the review’s title. You have lots of choices here but make it helpful. One of the earliest reviews for my first novel was titled “History and A Love to Remember.” You might choose titles like these: “Couldn’t put it down!” “Wonderful Scottish Historical,” or “ Absorbing Civil War Story, Wonderful Characters” or “My Favorite Vampire!” Whatever you choose, say something that would be meaningful to another reader. 

For more examples of my reviews, take a look at my blog (http://reganromancereview.blogspot.com).
And remember, the important thing is to write the review and post it on as many Internet bookstores as you frequent. The author will appreciate it!





Shobhan Bantwal said...


Great tips on writing an effective review. While I'm a voracious reader I'm not very good at making insightful comments on books. This becomes a problem when new authors approach me for an endorsement. Your guidelines will help me in reviewing books in the future. Thanks for sharing them.

Paty Jager said...

Regan, welcome and thank you for these great tips. I tend to be in the #1 category. I prefer to be brief. It's just me.

Regan said...

Thanks for the comments, Shobhan and Paty--I do understand that some reviewers like to keep it short. I think it's just great you are reviewing the books! As an author, I really appreciate it when readers leave a review. And if my list helps, so much the better.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for the advice on writing reviews! This is such a wonderful way to support the authors we love.

Judith Ashley and I are co-hosting a 'Review Party' for Rose City Romance Writers - a time and a fun setting with friends,snacks and resources that will give us a chance to write all those reviews we've procrastinated about. Your post and website will be great resources to share!

Regan said...

What a great idea, Sarah! That is one party I'd come to! And thanks for sharing my website--the Regan's Romance Reviews blog. (I also have an author website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com).

Diana Mcc. said...

Great tips on reviewing! I'm like Paty and tend to write shorter reviews. I tend to read the shorter reviews. Usually I read one or two with low ratings and one or two with four or five stars. I hate the reviews that go on and on and read like a book report. I want to discover the story for myself.

Leah Weller (leahluvsmedieval) said...

Thank you so much for this info! I leave reviews for the books that I read and this just helped me out immensely! :)

Regan said...

I'm so glad you found it helpful, Leah. The readers who like my reviews, especially those on Goodreads who put me into the top 1% of reviewers, tell me they like seeing this in a review.

Judith Ashley said...

Regan, Thank you for giving us permission to use the contents of this post at our Review Writing Workshop!

By this time next week, we'll have studied and written reviews and have learned about how to use a good review to find new (to us at least) authors.