Last week I read a blog that discussed the pros and cons of reviewing books. A non-controversial topic at first glance. Not too many variations on the theme. One either reviews or one doesn’t. Right? Wrong. The blog quickly became a hotly debated topic with representation from both readers and writers who surprisingly, or maybe not, look at reviews from different points of view.
Speaking as a writer, it is fair to say we love reviewers and reviews. Positive five-star reviews more than negative one-star reviews, but even one-star reviews, if honest, are opportunities for writers to learn and improve. In addition to bringing the book to a wider audience, reviews count for writers. Amazon uses them to determine placement perks, publishers use them to determine marketing perks, some advertisers use them to determine if they will accept an author’s money and allow them to purchase an ad. Readers, of course, use reviews to decide if they want to buy the book. If you were scanning the Amazon pages and you noticed two similar books, one with ten five-star reviews and one with 300 reviews and an overall rating of 4.5, which would you buy?
And that brings me to the second bone of contention brought up in the blog last week. Oftentimes (I’m waving my hand here) if I’m reading on my Kindle and I finish a book, I’ll give a starred review and move on. I won’t go back to leave a narrative review unless the book had exceptional characteristics. A remarkable or unique storyline, made me rethink my everyday world or worldview, or something else in the story that deserves comment. My standard exception to this is the first in a series, or if I have been asked to review. Then I will review the book with a brief synopsis, and will discuss what I liked best, and what worked for me (no spoilers) about the book. Many of the writers suggested that their process was similar.
It was interesting that this was the biggest difference between a reader review and a writer review. Readers wanted more. They wanted to know plot strengths and plot deficiencies, if the characterizations were believable, if the reviewer found the story satisfying. Far more in depth than your average Amazon or Goodreads review.
Each reader (and writers are readers, too) has to find their own reviewer comfort level. There is no right or wrong way, provided the review is honest.
Do you review? Are your reviews stars, narratives, or both?