I've been reading a lot of articles lately about releasing a new book (for obvious reasons). One of the biggest pieces of advice for readers that I've seen? Review books. Now, I have to admit to rarely reviewing books, so I felt a little hypocritical asking others if they like my new book, would they please leave a review. I mean, I'm a writer as well as reader, I know how all of this works, and yet I'm still intimidated by the prospect of posting a book review somewhere. So, in the interest of making the book review easier and a lot less intimidating for all of us, me included, let's look at some of the reasons readers might be afraid of the dreaded book review, and how we can maybe get past that to support our favorite authors:
1. Leaving a book review takes too much time.
This is probably the number one reason most people don't leave book reviews. I mean, who has the time to write out an "essay" about a book and then go through the process of posting it? I'm busy! I do think writing out long, detailed reviews with summaries of the plot and everything you liked, including examples, would be time-consuming. The truth is, though, that most people looking at reviews don't have time to read all that any more than you have time to write it. They want to know: is this book good and why. That's all. You can write a couple of sentences or a couple of paragraphs, but you don't have to summarize the book or even use examples if none come to mind. Let's face it, some other reviewer has already been detailed enough for ten reviews, more than likely, so including all that information isn't necessary. Just include the basics; that makes a review easy for you to write and easy for others to read.
2. What if it's not perfect?
So what? I know, I know, this is hard for me to accept as well. I'm a writer; I want everything I write to be perfect. But the truth is, even published books aren't always perfect. Books go through multiple rounds of edits, both with the author and through the publisher, and still they come out with mistakes. It happens. A published book is important. How important is it for a two-paragraph review not to contain a typo? It's not. Get your idea across, and stop worrying about being perfect (she says, pointing her finger at herself!). Which is more important: writing a pristine, literary-journal-worthy review, or supporting the author you want desperately to write more books? I lean toward the latter, and so letting go of my dreams of pristine literature posted in the Amazon review section must go by the wayside. Remember, we don't have time for that! (See point #1.)
3. What if I make the author feel bad?
It's okay not to like everything about a book. It is. As an author, I can tell you that I appreciate an honest review, even if you didn't like everything about my book. And that whole, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all?" Really, it's the nice that matters, and I don't mean in what you include; I mean in the language you use. If there's a criticism, saying it nicely is key. We are all entitled to our opinions, and they are as numerous and varied as belly buttons and, you know, other stuff I won't mention. It's how you say something that matters. We've all heard the horror stories about boards on review sites wanting authors dead and flamers targeting books with one-star reviews. Are you that person? No? (Good!) Then you have nothing to worry about. Be yourself; be nice; be honest. That's all that matters.
4. What if other reviewers "target" me?
Back to those flamers. I must admit, things like this scare me. It's a form of cyber bullying that has become so popular on the Internet today, as if the fact that you are safely behind a computer monitor and keyboard gives you the right to hurt the feelings and even the livelihoods of others any way you want. I don't believe that. But I also don't believe that the vast majority of readers target books and authors and other honest reviewers. That's why I finally decided to venture onto Goodreads. Because as much as there are those bullies out there in cyberspace, there are many more lovely readers who just want to get to know their favorite authors, or authors who could become favorites. I'm one of them, even though I have a book published--I'm a huge fan of certain authors. Reading about them and getting to know them makes me giddy! And I refuse to allow the worst of people to keep me from doing that.
So what can you do about the dreaded book review? Forget those essays you had to write in high school and college. Get familiar with various sites, and find one that you like, where you feel "safe." Read a book you love. Then go online and post a paragraph about what you liked. That's all. No worrying about doing it right or perfect or what others will think. Be honest. Be nice. And be supportive of your favorite authors. I know that's what I intend to do. :)