In previous installments of this series I covered how to enter an Amazon customer review, how to write a short, yet useful review, followed by ideas to beef up your reviews to give potential readers additional information to assist their purchasing decision. In this final installment I’m going to throw out tips, hints, and other ideas to help refine your reviews to be even better and to help you get more out of reviewing.
While there are some readers who don’t mind knowing how a book ends (I’ve heard rumors that some people read the last chapter first), most would prefer to discover this on their own. Giving away a book’s ending or too much detail about critical junctures of a story is called a spoiler and considered bad form. The best approach is to not do it. If you feel you have to discuss something that would be a spoiler in order to adequately explain your reaction to the book, there are two approaches.
The first, which I prefer, is to be vague about the specifics, only explaining your reaction. For example, “the solution of the mystery was clever and took me by surprise, yet looking back the clues were there, if only I’d managed to put them together.” This communicates how we felt about the ending and that it made sense without telling the reader anything except it might take them by surprise like it did you.
I’ve yet to find a way not to describe my issue in terms clear enough to get the basics of my reaction across while being vague about the specifics., but if you find it impossible to explain your position without a spoiler, do everything you can to warn those who don’t want spoilers. Indicate at the start that there will be a spoiler later. Add a line in all capitals saying “*** SPOILER ALERT ***” as an additional warning.
Some authors will have book giveaways or offer a free copy of their book to interested readers with the request that they write an honest review on Amazon after they’ve read it. There is a Federal Trade Commission regulation, for those in the US, and a clause in Amazon’s Terms of Service (for everyone) that requires disclosure of this. In any scenario where the book is provided to a reader for free by the author this requirement applies. (It wouldn’t include “buying” an eBook priced as free on Amazon or another book vendor.) Adding a line somewhere in your review that says something like, “The author provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review” should take care of this requirement.
Other Review Venues
As you put more effort into writing reviews you may find that you have something in common with the authors whose books you’re reviewing: that you’d like more readers. One way to expand your readership is to post your reviews to other venues beyond your preferred Amazon site. These include other eBook vendors or Amazon sites (keep in mind that some sites require an account that has made a purchase from that site, some might also require the item you’re reviewing be purchased from them). Other venues are reader- oriented sites such as Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing.
Potential readers who use reviews as part of their decision making process are becoming adept at vetting the available reviews for credibility. This section could almost be a post on its own, but I’ll hit some of the high points. First, is how well you express or articulate your thoughts. If your review is full of bad grammar and badly misspelled words, the reader might rightfully question your ability to judge the writing of others.
Some reviewers will look at your profile where all your reviews are available in one place. If almost all of your reviews are five star and one star, a reader might question whether your judgments are too black and white with no ability to see shades of gray. Although some reviewers choose only to give positive (five, four, and possibly three star reviews), a reader seeing this might wonder if you “like everything.” On the flip side, a reviewer who only writes one star reviews will be perceived as a whiner who isn’t going to be satisfied with anything, and his or her reviews will probably be ignored or taken with a large grain of salt. The more reviews you’ve written, the more credible you’ll be to most readers if the overall body of reviews doesn’t raise a red flag.
If your review sounds just like several others of the same book, making the same points using similar language, some readers will pick up on this and find it suspicious. (I avoid reading other reviews until mine is written to avoid subconsciously being influenced in what I say and how I say it.) Last, there are some things that are said in reviews that are so clichéd as to be useless. My personal pet peeve is the statement that “this book is so bad, I’d give it zero stars if Amazon would let me.” (If I could, I’d give your review negative 99 stars.) If you hated it enough to threaten zero stars, you should be able to do better than that explaining why.
Start Your Own Book Review Blog
Reviewing isn’t for everyone, but some people find they enjoy it. If this turns out to be you, why not take the next step and start your own review blog? The considerations and how-tos of doing this go beyond the scope of this series (maybe I should write a book), but this is the logical next step. (If you decide to do this, once you get started be sure to get your site added to the book blog index at TheIndieView.com.)
Or possibly you’d like the potential added exposure your reviews would receive on a review site, but aren’t interested in the additional work that would be required. In that case, you might consider finding a blog with multiple reviewers that would be interested in having you join their team. (I can think of one that would be interested.)
Reviewing books is something that can be as simple as writing a quick, high-level impression of an occasional book to an enjoyable hobby that can suck up a large portion of your leisure time. Rumor is there are even people who get paid to do this. How far you go is entirely up to you.