Monday, October 17, 2016

Why Authors Should Write Book Reviews

When it comes to book reviews, there are many rules and regulations telling authors what they should and shouldn’t do. Reviews by published authors, whether positive or negative, are regarded by some in the writing/publishing industry, as a conflict of interest. Over the years, this has been a highly controversial topic. Yet this peer support system seems to be acceptable at the Academy Awards, where peer recognition is an honor as actors nominate fellow actors in certain categories. 

It’s well-known that famous writers compose blurbs for other writers’ books. Isn’t that a kind of review? Some readers/authors don’t give much credibility to this activity and refer to it as the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" nature of blurbs. But that’s a discussion for another day. The thing is, writers are also readers, so shouldn’t their opinions count? I read somewhere that when it comes to reviews, it seems okay for non-writers to leave a negative review but not authors. The thing is, how often do non-writers post reviews? I think that non-writers don’t post reviews as often as writers, because they don’t know how important it is. But I could be wrong.

But let me get back to the topic at hand which is, why authors should write book reviews. Some of the benefits are:

1. It’s a way of building your online presence. As you grow, potential fans of your work want to know what books you like and why. It gives them a chance to learn about “the person behind the pen”. If writers don’t write reviews, there’s a possibility they could be missing out on a chance to find more readers.

2. It helps you to think/operate like a reader after you’ve spent a chunk of time with your butt in the chair thinking/operating like a writer. Stepping back and getting into the “reader mindset” is an important technique to help enhance your writing. There are writers who can juggle the author and reader hat quite effectively. But it’s not easy.

3. It’s a way of giving back to the writing community. The best thing you can do for your peers is leave a review on Amazon/Goodreads. The first twenty/thirty reviews are crucial to help boost sales and set a book going in the right direction. It also helps to build your author-support network.

4. It’s practise in writing short fiction. When you review a book, the aim is to attract the attention of a potential reader without giving away too much. Your review needs to be succinct, strong and include relevant points that will hold the attention and make it a pleasure to read.

5. It’s practise in analysing book titles. As a writer, I struggle with story/book titles. When reviewing books, these are some of the questions to consider: What did you expect to learn when you looked at the title? Did the story title fit the actual story? To what extent – and how effectively – were your expectations met? You can then apply what you’ve learned when making decisions about your own story titles.

6. It enhances your thinking skills. Reflect on what you as an individual liked/disliked about the story. When you dissect writing that you admire try to pinpoint things you liked about the writing, for example, the phrasing of certain sentences or maybe a paragraph that captured your imagination. Ask yourself: why did I like these aspects of the story? Different reviewers bring different qualities, abilities, degrees of expertise, and experience levels when assessing the same books. Compare your responses to other reviewers to help sharpen your thinking skills.

Can you think of other benefits/advantages of authors writing book reviews?

23 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those are all good points. It does help us with our own writing.

Pat Hatt said...

It sure helps one think indeed. Mine always sound so friggin generic though.

Bish Denham said...

One problem I'm running into is that Amazon is taking down reviews on my books (and reviews I given) from people I have friended on Facebook. Amazon is making the assumption that if you're friends on FB then the review is somehow bias and/or false. I don't think that's right or fair, since as you say, writers are readers review books all the time. Since so many of us are friends of FB that leaves me, a self-published author, with very few people I can reach out to review my book, which means my books may well disappear from view.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think writers do leave more reviews than nonwriters. I think many non-writers don't know about the blurb thing on books. And it is good practice to write a good review without too many spoilers. This is a timely post.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I've been neglecting my duties as a reviewer because of my new release. But come December, this is going to change. I've got a stack of books to read. Looking forward to it. This is a great post, Michelle. Duly noted.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post! I do believe that all authors should write reviews, and I have tried my best to write a review for every book I've read this year, including the ones I read with my son. It can be intimidating to write them, but reviews are vital to authors.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

We spend so much time writing. Flipping to the other side helps. After all, we are writing for readers.

Sandra Cox said...

If I like books I leave reviews. I don't leave a review if I'm not that fond of a book. I feel it's very important that we support each other.

The Cynical Sailor said...

Point #5 is really interesting. I hadn't thought about carefully analyzing a book title as part of the review process. Something I'll be paying more attention to going forward.

Caitlin Lane said...

These are all really great points, especially #1 and #6. I struggle with the whole building an online presence thing, although I'm sure that I'm not alone in that. Instead of writing reviews I usually just suggest books to my friends, but I think that I'll start leaving reviews.

Diane Burton said...

I'm trying to be more consistent about writing reviews, esp. those I've bought on Amazon. My reviews say "verified purchase" which I think gives some credibility. Because I know how hard writers work, I won't give a review under 4 stars. I just won't review a book if I don't like it. I'm sure there are others who will enjoy it.

A while back someone wrote about not linking your FB page (or profile) to Amazon. That's how they know if you're friends. I never had, but it might be a good idea to unlink it.

G. B. Miller said...

I do write reviews on books from time to time, mostly non-fiction as I find it much tougher to write reviews for fiction, and I always approach as a reader, never as a writer.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michelle - I can definitely see we should leave reviews ... especially for our blogging friends.

But having seen Bish's comment and read other similar ones ... is there a way of having an author page for 'our' books, and a private page for our blogging friends and avoiding Amazon taking down reviews? A way of working round it ...

Big brother is certainly around ...

GoodReads and The Library Thing ... we can still do ... and I must start doing those ...

Tweeting regularly ...
Writing succinctly ...
Perhaps even putting a book tab, or
a reading shelf on blog, and adding reviews etc ..

We I am sure can do more to help ourselves ... cheers Hilary

Mirka Breen said...

OF COURSE writers should write book reviews, and Amazon et al should not block such. Professional reviews, such as in the NYT, are mostly penned by other published writers who have some bonafide on the subjects they review. It is absurd to even challenge this.

As to "I'll scratch your back..." it is the way of the world, and we live in it. I've yet to write a review I couldn't stand behind because I was scratching anything. But this is a personal choice. I also don't respond to "please like" requests. I like what I like when I truly like. I can't do it any other way. but I don't tell anyone else how to live in this world.

Roland Clarke said...

I think I've become a reader that writes reviews, and let my writing slip. At first I found writing reviews hard but now I try to review every book I read. For my debut novel I discovered how hard it was to get reviews so I feel I must try and say something constructive. Reviews in a way keep me reading and choosing books that should be good reads.

Jennifer Williams-Fields said...

I have written book reviews for authors as well as had other authors write book reviews for me. I don't look at it as "you scratch my back" but rather as I value a fellow writer's opinion. Also, if I read a review by an author, I value that review more.

Sandee said...

I love reading reviews. It helps me decide if this is a book I would want to read or not. I've read some books that if I'd read a review first I would have saved my money.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

lorilmaclaughlin.com said...

I agree that authors should be able to write reviews. Just because we're authors doesn't mean we're not readers, too. We are perfectly capable of writing honest reviews. I have a list of books I still need to review. Got to get going on that...

Robert Bennett said...

Huh. I never really thought about this. I kind of just polish of books and it is what it is...I've never trusted myself to provide concise reviews that were helpful.

Maybe I'll give it a swing.

cleemckenzie said...

I agree with all of this. Besides, I love to write reviews anyway, so you're preaching to the choir here. :-)

Michelle Wallace said...

Thanks to everybody who visited/commented on the post!

Anna Wolosencuk said...

I think this is a super good point. As a writer (although not professionally) I tend to review books without even thinking about it. I think I'll actually try giving reviews for those books I love because I want to help those authors succeed. If only I hadn't lent out The Uglies Series; I'd love to reread it and do a review on those books.

As for "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine", I don't think the philosophy is really a negative thing. I mean, I'm sure there are authors that try to make review deals for publicity but (if it were me) I'd want the reviews to see how I could change things and grow as an author. There are some things we just can't see about our own writing styles because we are just too close to it.

Deniz Bevan said...

Great post, Michelle! I try to write reviews for all the authors I read that I "know" online, but feel guilty cos sometimes my reviews are short!