E. B. Davis's "Ice Cream Allure" contained in the new anthology, Carolina Crimes: Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing is now available at http://www.amazon.com/Carolina-Crimes-Nineteen-Tales-Longing/dp/1479408832 Look for the trailer on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVkSYbgD7V0&feature=youtu.be Nineteen tales by SinC members!

James M. Jackson's
new Seamus mystery, Cabin Fever was released this week. Look for the WWK Interview on 4/9.
Check here for a list of online retailers or to order a signed copy from Jim.

Linda Rodriguez's
new Skeet Bannion mystery, Every Hidden Fear, is available for preorder at her website:

http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com/
Look for the WWK Interview on 4/30.

KM Rockwood's new Jesse Damon novel, Brothers in Crime, will be released on May 2. Look for the WWK interview on May 14th.

Gloria Alden's
short story, "The Body in the Red Dress," has been accepted by the Bethlehem Writers' Roundtable for publication in March/April. Look for the story under the section called "and more" at the top of the featured author of the month. Also look for her third Catherine Jewell Mystery, Ladies of the Garden Club available at all bookstores in print and ebook.

Welcome Wednesday guests for April: Kathleen Dalaney 4/2, Jim Jackson 4/9, Janet Evanovich 4/16, Teresa Ingle 4/23, Linda Rodrigues 4/30.

Paula Gail Benson's short story
"Confidence in the Family" is featured in the Mystery Times Ten 2013 anthology, which can be bought at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Times-2013-Linda-Browning/dp/0984203583/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1387240857&sr=8-2 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Friday, October 14, 2011

Writing Reviews


Writing Reviews

It’s not a surprise that reviews are frequently discussed on writing websites. Negative reviews can decrease sales and reputations. Positive reviews can increase them. There are more books coming out than anyone can read. Marketing and advertising, by publishers who do it at all, are generally reserved for books publishers believe have the potential to sell millions of copies.

I respect authors who reach the level of fame and success that readers will buy the next (fill in the name of the author.) I doubt I will ever be a member of that select group.

The rest of us depend on ourselves and on our readers for promotion. Reviewing books honestly and fairly leads indirectly to an atmosphere where all books, including mine, are more likely to be honestly and fairly reviewed.

I’ve been reading that reviews are for sale from certain sources. I’ve read reviews where the reviewer noted the excellence of the book and then rated it one out of a possible five stars, possibly misreading the instructions for rating. I’ve read scathing reviews where a reviewer “flames” an author.

None of that has happened to me but one reviewer described my Murder Manhattan Style title as “misleading” apparently because based on the title she imagined a different setting for the book. If you, “Can’t judge a book by its cover?” Should you judge it before reading it by its title? The review itself was quite positive, even flattering but it was down-rated due to the title.

All of this makes writing and receiving honest review even more crucial.

I’ve been working to improve my skill at reviewing. Here are a few observations.

Like anyone else I have my biases. Although I’ve read and truly enjoyed some romance and horror novels, they are not my favorite genres. Mix in strong elements of mystery and suspense and I’m more solidly in my comfort zone. I don’t personally refuse to review books outside my particular preferences, but in an effort to be fair to writer and reader I do concentrate on reviewing elements of the books I have more knowledge about and familiarity with.

As a mystery writer I am well aware of how hard it is to hide clues in plain sight, drag red herrings across the trail of the investigation and offer plausible but innocent suspects as alternates to the actual criminal. So when I write reviews I take particular care to leave clues, surprises and unexpected character traits unmentioned out of respect for the writer’s hard work and to enhance the reader’s enjoyment. It’s surprisingly easy to get enthused and to reveal information that would detract from the reader’s experience.

As a reviewer I am writing more to readers, than writers. Often in my blogs it is the other way around. I try to write less about techniques and more about the emotion the writing evoked. I try to give a sense of the story without telling a step-by-step synopsis.

As I learn more I hope to write more about it.

Do you write reviews? If so what do you try to do?

16 comments:

Earl Staggs said...

Warren, I write very few reviews. I consider them nonfiction and I'm a fiction writer. I also seldom read all of a review. When a reviewer gives a summary of the plat, I'll skip over it. I prefer to learn the plot page by page as I read the book. Usually, I'll read the first paragraph to see what kind of book it is. Then I'll skip to the last paragraph and hope the reviewer gives an opinion of the plot and the writing. That's all I really want to see.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Give the facts, get them right, give no spoilers, and have a clean well written review.

Kevin
http://kevinrtipple.com/

LJ Roberts said...

Warren, I do write reviews and concur with everything you said. There are eight elements at which I look, when reviewing a book. I start with quoting the first sentence of the book just to give the reader a taste of the author's voice and then a very short summary of the plot--no spoilers--and then focus on the elements with a brief opinion at the end.

I find it easy to review books I've loved, and books I've really disliked. The hardest reviews are for books that are "good".

LJ Roberts - who recently blogged about "A Reviewer's Conundrum" at
http://booksaremagic.blogspot.com/

Pauline Alldred said...

As a reader, I tend not to read reviews. When the emotional response of the reviewer comes through, I might over-respond to enthusiasm for or derogatory comments about a story.

There are two or three reviewers I've met and whose biases I know. I do sometimes consult their opinions of a new author.

Otherwise, I buy and read what attracts me, whether it's in good taste or not.

Carol Ann said...

I always struggle to write reviews. No longer do I feel obligated to write a summary because the reader can find that in the back page blurb. Why repeat it? Instead I focus on a short paragraph about how the characters and the plot touched my emotions.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I always do a book summary because the jacket copy either tells too much OR has numerous factual errors.

I also wish I had a penny for every author who claimed in public that he or she never read reviews and then e-mailed me to ask about a review. I would be rich!

In other news, as part of Friday's Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott, I review Beth Groundwater's first book, A REAL BASKET CASE, today on my blog at http://kevintipplescorner.blogspot.com/

Kevin
http://kevinrtipple.com/

jennymilch said...

There was a great post about Amazon reviews--their perils and pitfalls on The Thrill Begins yesterday...gonna try and post a link http://thethrillbegins.blogspot.com/

I rarely post reviews. I don't consider myself a reviewer. I mean, I'm not a reviewer. I'm a writer, and a reader, but not particularly articulate about why I like what I read. Every now and then if I know the writer I will write down a few sentences and give 5 stars. I hope this helps because as you say, so many writers are struggling to be recognized, even once published, these days.

I would propose a system that differentiates between professional reviews (those who do it for a living, or who do it frequently enough that it's a crying shame they *can't* do it for a living), reader reviews, and reader opinions (shorter, more subjective than a review).

I think this would both allow admiring friends and colleagues to draw attention to others' work, and maintain a badge of quality for reviews.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

That post that Jenny refers to seems to me nothing more than a rehashed anti Amazon deal that is common on the net.

As more and more review markets lay off staff and close, I think the chances of getting paid by legitimate markets is ending. I think the reading public is going to see more and more of these fraud deals where the author pays some bucks and gets glowing reviews put on Amazon, Goodreads and elsewhere.

I very much hope I am wrong.

Kevin

Warren Bull said...

Earl, That's an interesting approach. I hate it when essential plot points are revealed in a review. I recently read a blurb that made it absolutely clear who the murderer was when I started the book.

Warren Bull said...

Kevin, Great advice from an experienced reviewer.

Warren Bull said...

Thanks, LJ, Right on and right to the point.

Diana said...

That is a very good clear article you've written Warren. I review quite often and I hate to write a bad review.
I am frequently asked to give a review for a mag I write for, and recently I received two novels, one which needed tightening up and editing so desperately, that I sent a forward report back to the promotions officer of the company who sent both books for review. I pointed out what the problems were with both, and gave examples of what the authors could do to fix them (one wasn't published) The promotions officer was NOT amused, but wouldn't you think she would be keen to have the author get them as best he could? :(

Warren Bull said...

Pauline, You're correct in a review it is easy to set high expectation. Other readers may not agree and dislike a book just because it did not their expectations.

Warren Bull said...

Carol Ann, That an interesting and totally valid approach. Goodreads requests that sort of review.

Warren Bull said...

Kevin, Thanks for the information. I read and trust your reviews.

Warren Bull said...

Jenny,

I did not review for a long time but there are so few reliable reviewers that I listened to a number of people i respect and started writing them. It is a very different skill than writing. We try to make WWK one source of dependable reviews. Thank yoi all the for imput.