Leaving a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or another retail site? First of all, thank you so much! This is one of the most useful things you can do to promote a book you love. Here are a few reasons why:
- The more reviews a book has, the more often retails sites like Amazon and B&N will recommend the book to others and feature it in searches.
- Potential buyers will use the number of five-star reviews as a quick snapshot of whether a book is worth their money.
- Inclusion in an ebook promo newsletter like BookBub can skyrocket an author’s backlist title. And what do those sites look at when deciding which books to feature? You guessed it: reviews!
- In a 2015 survey of Christian fiction readers, 16% said the main reason they heard about/purchased a book was because of online reviews. Based on the number surveyed, that’s over 250 readers. It adds up! (Note that 33% of the readers surveyed regularly left reviews for Christian fiction books…let’s raise that percentage!)
If you feel intimidated by the pressure to craft the perfect review, just know that even a simple five-star rating and a “This book was great! Can’t wait to read more from this author!” is helpful.
But if you want to go the extra mile, here are some tips for writing an awesome book review.
(Note: the following tips are for consumer reviews left on sites like Amazon, B&N, and others. If you have a blog where you post reviews, some of this advice won’t apply, since those reviews are usually longer and more creative.)
Skip the plot summary—or challenge yourself to create a “teaser summary” that’s one line long. People coming to the page can view the back cover copy, so there’s no need for this step. They want to hear your thoughts on the book!
Put the most important stuff first. It’s good to start out with the thoughts about the book you most want people to read…because half the people might stop after that first sentence.
Keep it short. You’ve scanned through articles and content on the Internet. You know that it can be daunting to see a huge block of text. For this reason, it’s good to keep reviews to a nice, tight paragraph, maybe two if you’re feeling ambitious.
Answer “why.” Instead of just stating that you like something, explain why. The plot was interesting? Great! Let us know if the descriptions made you feel like you were there or the mystery kept you guessing until the end or you’d never read anything from that historical era before. The characters were relatable? What was it about them?—their personalities, the small-town feel of the secondary cast, the hero’s doubts and struggles? Talk about that! Did you cry, laugh, or think about something in a new way by the end of the book? Tell us about it.
No spoilers! Please, please, PLEASE don’t give away key plot elements. Readers will be disappointed (and annoyed) if you ruin the fun of plot twists. I’d err on the side of not even mentioning, “You’ll never see the big surprise ending coming!” because that alerts readers that it’s there.
Look at examples. Click over to a few of your favorite past reads and look at some reviews people have marked “helpful.” (Add your vote if you agree—it makes the best reviews more visible!) What did they do that worked well? How much information did they give, and in what way? (Probably at least some of them broke these rules I’m giving you, and that’s okay. This is just a list of what I’ve found to be helpful for authors and readers.)
So, before we go, let me address the big (awkward) question: what if you didn’t like a book?
This is a tough one. If you’re an influencer for a writer and have agreed to actively promote the book, try to focus on the positive aspects.
If you’re just an ordinary, bought-this-book-and-hated-it reader, stop and think about this: it wasn’t the right book for you, but it might be the right book for someone. It’s often a matter of taste, and in those cases, it’s best to just not leave a review. Think about all the effort that goes into writing a book—even if you didn’t enjoy the end result, you want to respect that.
It’s not that there’s never a time to leave a negative review, but even in those cases, explain what about the book was off-putting to you in a gracious way. Always remember that authors are real people doing lots of hard work to get that book into your hands (and that they often read reviews).
Stats and Amazon formulas aside, leaving a review can be incredibly encouraging to an author who may be going through a time of frustration or struggling to write the next book. I’ve seen it happen many times, so it makes me doubly excited to see those great reviews! Thanks to all of you out there who support Bethany House authors (and all authors) in this way!
Any additional tips you can think of, readers? What makes a review stand out to you when you’re thinking about whether or not to buy a book?