Tuesday, August 30, 2016

To Rave Or Not To Rave?




As writers, we often read and review books for other writers. It's not as easy as it sounds. Writers are editors. We notice things general readers do not from underdeveloped characters to missing commas. On the other hand, we know how important 5 star reviews are, and we want to be supportive to our fellow writers. Today, author Stephanie Faris has some advice for such endeavors.

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Stephanie Faris: 

I’m not a book reviewer. I’m a writer and a reader. However, like most authors, I realize the importance of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Nobody wants to be that author with zero reviews after our books have been on the shelves for six months. So, like most authors, I regularly post reviews for books on Amazon and Goodreads.


However, I know readers who have no desire to write a book. They’ll never know the awkwardness of signing books next to the author they’ve flamed on Goodreads. They’re free to give scathing one-star reviews, which other readers will cheer. If you’re an aspiring reviewer, here are a few tips to help you get started as an online book reviewer.




1. Decide Your Goal

Do you want to build a large following of fellow readers who watch for every review you post? Or do you just want to warn others before they waste money on bad books? Your answer to those questions will determine the next steps you should take.

2. Emphasize the Good

Whether you’re giving five stars, one star, or something in between, it’s important to spend some time saying what you liked about the book. Even the worst book has something good, so mention that before diving into what you didn’t like.

3. Don’t Rewrite the Book

If the book was good, but you would have written it differently, it may be a sign you should be writing your own book. As it is, readers don’t want to know about a book that doesn’t exist. The only option they have is to read the book you’re reviewing, so focus on the elements that work/don’t work in that book.

4. Finish Up with a Summary

Some of the best reviews have a section at the end that summarizes the strengths and weaknesses in one sentence. Ms. Yingling does a great job of reviewing on her Goodreads page and, in fact, I often go straight to her when I’m looking for a great book to read.

With all of that said, I review as an author. If I don’t like a book, you won’t see a review of it from me. It’s either five stars and a glowing review or nothing at all. However, my agenda is merely to support other authors. I personally have found that it’s bad networking for one published author to give another published author bad reviews, but that’s up to each author to decide for herself.

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Stephanie has two new children's books to share:

When Piper Morgan has to move to a new town, she is sad to leave behind her friends, but excited for a new adventure. She is determined to have fun, be brave and find new friends.





In Piper Morgan Joins the Circus, Piper learns her mom’s new job will be with the Big Top Circus. She can’t wait to learn all about life under the big top, see all the cool animals, and meet the Little Explorers, the other kids who travel with the show. She’s even more excited to learn that she gets to be a part of the Little Explorers and help them end each show with a routine to get the audience on their feet and dancing along!





In Piper Morgan in Charge, Piper’s mom takes a job in the local elementary school principal’s office. Piper is excited for a new school and new friends—and is thrilled when she is made an “office helper.” But there is one girl who seems determined to prove she is a better helper—and she just so happens to be the principal’s daughter. Can Piper figure out how to handle being the new girl in town once more?





Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive. 

Links:

Want to win some of her books for free? Get clicking!

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Do you review books? What do you think of Stephanie's rule of posting only 5 star reviews? Do you think a 4 star review is helpful or hurtful to an author?


49 comments:

  1. Thank you SO much for hosting me today! I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this. My personal policy on "five stars or nothing" won't work for everyone, of course! We all have to decide what our goal is in living reviews and work with that in mind.

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    1. LEAVING reviews, not living reviews. Oops!

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    2. I think your 5 star review policy is smart, but I still wonder about 4 star reviews because I read things that are good and that I like, but I don't LOVE them like I would my favorite popular authors. Do you think a 4 star review of a self-publishing or indie publishing does more harm than good even if the reviewer "liked" the book and has positive things to say?

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    3. I personally don't read reviews before I buy a book...I prefer to form my own opinion. If you'd left a bunch of 5- and 4-star reviews, though, and I cared about your opinion, I'd skip the 4-star books and go straight for the 5-star. In that sense, it would hurt the author. But my reviews are almost 100 percent to help other authors out, so I may be the wrong person to ask.

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    4. Meant to say "you" above as a general reviewer. Of course I care about your opinion!!! I just don't read reviews. I think my brain isn't awake today.

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    5. No problem. I'm typing typos here in the comments as well. After 3 hours in a water/amusement park, my brains are fried. I read reviews if I'm looking for a book to give as a gift, but I don't need them to pick out books for myself.

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  2. I don't always review books on Goodreads, but once in a while I will find one that I feel I must say something about. Here is one such review:
    http://jannghi.blogspot.com/2016/01/prozac-nation-my-review-and-my-prozac.html

    I loved the book and felt the need to write my own story. At first I thought mine was too similar, but was convinced by others that everyone's experience is different.

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    1. I think that's the case with most reviews. People usually only review products (books or otherwise) when they feel very strongly about them. That's why you don't see too many middle-of-the-road reviews, unless they're from professional reviewers.

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  3. I do review books, and for a long time I stuck to the rule of only leaving positive reviews. But some negative ones have slipped in on Goodreads. I'm not nasty, and would never leave a negative review for an indie author or one who's starting out.

    But some of the true crime I read is just so bad. I want people to feel they can trust my reviews.

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    1. I feel that if I were reading an Ann Rule book (she's deceased now anyway) or even something by Stephen King or Harlan Coben, I could tell the truth because I don't consider them my colleagues, if that makes sense. Writers at every level below that seem like professional associates, though...so it's more like a soda shop owner reviewing the other small business owner in town. You know you're going to be running into that guy at the Chamber of Commerce social get-together and it's going to be awkward if you gave him a bad review!

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  4. I'm with you - if I'm not enjoying it, I won't review it. I know some authors who will power through to the end just to leave a really bad review. I just don't think that's very cool.
    There is always some good in a book if you look.

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    1. "Life's too short to read bad books." Someone else came up with that saying, I think, but I live by it! Why am I going to read 400 pages if the first chapter hasn't pulled me in? And since I can't leave a review for a book I haven't read, it isn't even an option. If I made it to the end, you can bet I enjoyed it!

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    2. When I was younger, I would force myself to read something even if it was enjoyable. Maybe it's something you learn to do in school. (Hated Great Expectations). These days, no way. There are so many things to read and so little time.

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  5. I agree, Stephanie. There is always something good to say about a book even if it turns out not to be one of your favorite reads. I need to take the time to comment more on Amazon and other sites. You don't realize how much comments mean to authors until your book is out there. I just finished "Heartstopper and Other Stories" and loved it! Short stories are my favorite. Great writing; wonderful stories. I read "Time and Again" (a new classic) a couple of weeks ago and didn't love it, but that doesn't mean other people won't. (It had a very good ending.) Stephen King thinks it is one of the best time travel books written. I believe that books are subjective and take reviews with a grain of salt. That's why I was surprised that I didn't love "Time and Again" because I do love Stephen King's work. What you said is good. Read and review like an author/reader not a critic. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

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    1. Someone said 20 Amazon reviews gets an author listed in some newsletter they do? I don't know what that is. I don't think I've ever made it to 20 reviews!

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    2. Hi Valerie!

      I liked your short story (Lucy get your gun) too and have the review at the top of my to-do list. I saw a blurb by Stephen King on the back of a book that said he would read that book again even though he rarely rereads books, but I wasn't that excited by this particular book and found it kind of slow. And I forgot the title. Figures.

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    3. 20 reviews? Wow! I know I'll never make that.

      Thanks, Tamara. I'm glad you liked it!

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  6. I've been seeing her new Piper book everywhere. It certainly looks and sounds like a good read. (Congratulations, Stephanie!) As for reviews, I'm the same: I won't review a book unless I can give it four or five stars. If I don't like a book, I just won't review it. After all, the writer put time and effort and heart into it, and I'm not into shutting people down.

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    1. I agree, Elizabeth. Plus, when you come face to face with the author at a conference, it's much easier if you aren't burdened with the realization that you left a nasty review for that person at some point!

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  7. this is a very good post and I agree wholeheartedly. I don't expect 5 stars every time, but I prefer positive criticism over negative. No need to be ugly.

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    1. Authors see some strange reviews. I remember someone saying she read a review that a book hadn't wrapped things up at the end, while at the same time saying she didn't even finish the book!

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  8. Good advice. I started writing book reviews in my journal when I graduated from college. I don't review all the books I read online, but maybe 50% of them. My first purpose is to help me remember! Then to enlighten other people about the book and I am more likely to review non-fiction than fiction which gets read for fun.

    BTW, as you and your many of your readers are young adult writers, have you seen this upcoming conference in Charleston: http://www.yallfest.org/

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    1. That is one very useful thing about Goodreads! I know about YallFest and Se-Ya, the TN version--but I don't write YA. The one that's 45 minutes from my house doesn't seem to want writers of younger books. I'd definitely recommend any YA novelists who qualify apply for the YA fests that are popping up everywhere!

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  9. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Authors who bash other books are just shooting themselves in the foot.

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    1. I think so, too. The industry is a small one. People talk!

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  10. I do not review books online, but thanks for the tips. There is one author I have been reading lately and really enjoying. I might just review her books.

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    1. If you have something nice to say, definitely speak up. It helps out writers SO much.

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  11. If I don't like a book, I won't review it. I'd never slam another author because I know how tough this industry is.

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    1. It is odd--once you're an author, you see it so much differently!

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  12. I write reviews here and there. I would never give a book fewer than five stars because I simply wouldn't review it. I don't want to hurt anyone, so if the book isn't that great, I stay away.

    Love,
    Janie

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  13. I’m not a writer but as a blogger, I appreciate just how hard it can be to put even a few words together. With that in mind, I only leave reviews for books I’ve enjoyed.

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    1. That's a great thing to do. Even as a writer, I find it hard to find the time to put together reviews, probably because I over think anything I do write.

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  14. I find book reviews difficult to write. Mainly because I'm not an analyst. I either like a book or I don't. I do find it irritating when people over analyse writing, especially reading something into a story that was not intended by the author. Some great tips there, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. I do review books, rather a lot actually. However, I do not leave 1 or 2 star reviews because if a book is that bad I don't finish it. I prefer reviews that give positive criticism and think 4 star reviews can often be more useful than one ith 5 stars. Very often reviews tell you more about the person writing them than about the book!

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  16. I don't think the stars are very informative. Everybody use their own scale. I hardly ever give a book 5 stars, taking into account that my scale should accommodate the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Ibsen and Kafka >:)

    Cold As Heaven

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    1. I know what you mean, but on the other hand, I don't want to be too rigid with my ratings.

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  17. I don't pay much attention to the 'stars' but I won't review a book I didn't care for. I've seen the devastation a nasty review can cause and I sure don't want to be responsible for that. I do wish I had more time to review, but often I'm just grateful for time to read:-) Terrific post, Stephanie! Thanks for sharing, Tamara ;-)

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  18. Ever since I became an author, I don't review books unless I really liked them. I agree with what you wrote. I don't rate the books unless they are 4 or 5 stars. Four stars is still really good in my opinion.

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  19. I've done a few reviews and I have a list of books I've read that I need to do reviews for. I'll only do a review if I can give the book 4 or 5 stars. I definitely agree with emphasizing the positives in a book and not just dwelling on the negatives. As an author, I'm happy with 3 stars and up for my books.

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