On Writing Book Reviews

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Earlier today, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across this photo:

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Number one is a helpful piece of information, because it’s likely there are reviewers out there who think you can’t review books on Amazon unless you purchased them there. Numbers four and five (in my opinion) are less a rule, and more a further explanation of number one, informing reviewers about why posting reviews on Amazon are so important to the authors of the books. Still, all three items are good things for reviewers to know.

However, I don’t agree with numbers two and three… and here’s why.

2. You do not have to read the whole book to leave a review.

I’ll preface this by admitting that I’ve left a review rant of one book (a Kindle freebie) that I read very little of before I abandoned it. I was annoyed that a few paragraphs were used to briefly mention a lot of events that should have been properly fleshed out and explored, as it would have provided rich story material. So I wrote a brief review rant and stated that life was too short to waste time reading bad books. 

It comes down to one simple question: How can you properly review a book you didn’t even bother to finish? I don’t see how it’s possible. I also think—when it comes to advance review copies—that a reviewer isn’t exactly fulfilling their part of the agreement if they only read parts of the book, and write a review based on that. I think if authors and their publishers are kind enough to allow us to read their books prior to the publication date, then we reviewers owe it to them to read the entire book before we write our reviews. Not to mention, as influencers, we owe it to the people reading our reviews, as well.  We’re persuading others to buy/not buy these books. Doesn’t that obligate us to read the whole book before we review it?

3. Reviews can be as simple as “Loved this one so much! Can’t wait for the next!” THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE TO BE SPELLED CORRECTLY.

Yes, I’ve done this before, too. I wrote several pseudo-reviews on Goodreads that were very similar—just two or three sentences gushing about how I loved the book. This was before I started my blog, when I wasn’t concerned with what I wrote, or how I wrote it.

If we want to be taken seriously as reviewers, I think it requires us to write something a bit more considered than the example given above—that’s the sort of thing I would say to a friend, or post on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong! I love to gush about how much I love this book, or that book… it’s one of my favorite things to do. But now that I’m blogging, I want my reviews to be taken seriously. I want the people who read them to feel I’d put a lot of thought and careful consideration into what I had to say, because I do. I’ve spent hours working on a single review, rewriting, adding to and/or deleting portions until it felt just right. I’m meticulous about it in every way, because I don’t want it to come off as fangirling—which isn’t easy to do when I really loved a book—and, in my opinion, that means it’s going to take more than a couple of sentences.

As for that last bit? That it doesn’t have to be spelled correctly? Uh-uh. Just… no.

I’m not perfect. I once misspelled an author’s last name due to carelessness, which embarrassed the hell out of me. It happens to us all, which makes proofreading so important. Why is it important, you ask? Let’s face it—the favorite pastime on the internet for many people seems to be pointing out spelling and grammar errors made by others. We’ve all seen it, time and again. Whether it’s fair or not, poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation gives a poor impression of the writer to the person reading their words. I’m not saying we have to be perfect in writing our reviews. We all make mistakes, and we don’t always catch them. What I am saying is, we need to try to minimize those kinds of mistakes if we want to be taken seriously as reviewers. Readers will then focus on our thoughts about the books we review, rather than how many times we massacred the spelling/grammar/punctuation in our writing. More to the point, it leaves the reader with good impression of the reviewer, and makes our words more meaningful… and more likely to persuade them to read the books we loved, or avoid the ones we hated.

Isn’t that worth a little extra time and effort?

What do you think? Should book reviewers feel obligated to read the entire book before reviewing it? Is spelling important? Why or why not?

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2 thoughts on “On Writing Book Reviews

  1. Great post. I guess it just drives home the fact that our reviews help authors in a major way. I dont always.remember to post them on Amazon but I think i will make it part of my review process going forward

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    1. Thanks! I haven’t been so great at posting my reviews on Amazon, either. I always mean to do it, but by the time the release date comes, I’ve forgotten about it. I think I’ve only done it for two ARCs, because I got emails specifically requesting it once it was released.

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