How to Write Great Book Reviews

A Guest Post by Larry Froncek

anita rodgers mystery writer
Image courtesy of rawpixels.com

Every year, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of novels are published in each of your favorite genres. In an earlier era, a new novel may only have had to compete for your attention with other recently released books and time-honored classics on the store shelves; however, in today’s world of near-permanent availability and infinite digital shelf space, any newly released novel is essentially in competition with every other book that’s ever been released in its genre. Without word of mouth, it can be almost impossible for a new writer to cut through the noise and gain traction.

That’s why it’s so important for readers to write reviews and share them on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, as well as their reader groups and their social media accounts.

I recently surveyed our VIP reader list to find out what they consider to be the top things they look for in a review when considering a new novel. Here are their most common responses, in no particular order:

  • The author’s unique voice.
  • Couldn’t put the book down.
  • Didn’t see plot twists coming.
  • A new take on the genre.
  • Would read more by this author.
  • Already purchased the next book in the series.
  • Great world building.
  • Total sensory experience.
  • Vivid imagery.
  • Character growth.
  • The book reminds them of an author, book, movie, or TV show.
  • Can’t stop thinking about it.

On the other hand, there are the things readers don’t like to see in reviews:

  • Spoilers (revealing plots twists, whodunnit, etc).
  • A summary of the book.
  • Rudeness or snarkiness.
  • Penalizing a book because it’s not in a genre you normally read.
  • Short reviews like “I loved it!” are fine but sharing WHY you loved the book is more helpful to a potential reader.

What to do if the book didn’t work for you?

Sometimes we give a book a shot and it turns out to be outside of our wheelhouse. Maybe you normally enjoy epic fantasy but thought an urban fantasy sounded interesting, but then found you just didn’t enjoy the book. That’s fine. Just note that in your review. Something like, “I normally prefer epic fantasy and wanted to try this novel. It didn’t work for me, but I can see how urban fantasy fans would really enjoy this story because of X, Y, Z.”

Just remember that if you’re reviewing the book of an up-and-coming author, they will likely see your review. So just remember there’s another person on the other side of the screen who invested months, if not years, of their time to create that story.

What to do if you have criticism for the author that you think might help them?

First, write it down and sit on it for a day. If you still think it’s useful, contact the author privately via email or a form on their website.

Letting them know about a weird spelling error or formatting problem might be helpful but editorial advice is likely worthless. They’re not going to rewrite the book to suit your tastes. If the fantasy novel you just read didn’t have enough romance, that’s your preference, not theirs. Every novel isn’t for everyone.

Once you’ve written that great review, spread it around

The best thing you can do with your new great review is share it on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and GoodReads and tag the author. If you know their email, send them a link to the review. Not only does it give them a heads up that you reviewed their novel but if they’re smart, they will tag you on their list as someone they can approach to review their next novel.

Need some inspiration to help you write a great review?

Every day I post my favorite new review on the Voracious Readers Only Instagram account and Facebook group. If you want to see some great reviews that you can model your own after, that’s a fantastic place to start.

I hope this short article has given you a useful perspective on the purpose of book reviews and how to write them to best help readers and authors find one another. Perhaps I’ll be reading one of your reviews someday soon!

Larry Froncek is the owner of Voracious Readers Only, a service that connects avid readers with authors in the genres they most enjoy. Since September 2017, Voracious Readers Only has made over 95,000 reader-author connections. For more information about Larry and Voracious Readers, please visit the Voracious Readers Only Website.

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A Writer’s Meme…

I sort of stole this from another blog – but I thought it would be a fun Friday post.

Name a novel(s) that inspired you to write.

So many… but three that come to mind are: The World According to Garp by John Irving, Of Captains and Kings by Taylor Caldwell, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

What’s your favorite genre to write and read?

Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense. Love puzzles and can’t resist trying to solve them.

Do you prefer to write stand-alone or series?

Series are great because you get to spend more time with beloved characters and watch them grow and develop. Although some stories are meant to stand alone. So, I guess I don’t have a preference. Although, most of my books at present, are part of a series.

Use 3 words to describe yourself.

Funny, stubborn, determined

Use an image that reveals your latest book’s Main Character or story setting.

anita rodgers mystery writer

Yes, bad things happen in the creepy woods. Hehe

How long did your first book take to draft?

Six months. Then I promptly trashed it. It’s okay, it was utter drek.

Who is your author idol?

Michael Connelly – the best crime writer out there, in my opinion.

Share a writing memory that made you determined to keep writing.

After reading a historical romance I wrote (inspired by a poem) my writing professor told me that I wasn’t ready to write novels yet. He said I needed to get more life experience first. Though he didn’t specify what that experience needed to be. Nothing like being told you can’t do something to make you want to do something.

Tell us something surprising or unique about yourself.

I’m very shy in real life. (Nobody believes me about this)

Share the hardest part of being a writer.

It’s very easy to feel as though you are all alone in the world. Writing is a solitary activity and it can make you feel isolated. You doubt whether what you’re doing matters, is good enough, and whether anyone will really care about what you have to say. You have to learn to be good at self motivation, giving yourself pep talks, and letting your intuition guide you. But despite this, there is nothing more amazing than creating a story you are proud of and want to share with others.

What’s your favorite social media and why? Share your link.

I think Facebook. It allows for a lot of interaction and enables you to connect on a deeper level than most of the other venues. I’ve made some lovely friends and found some wonderful readers on Facebook.

Share some uplifting wisdom in six words or less.

Believe in yourself. Believe in others.

Thanks for reading this fun little writing meme. Feel free to ‘meme’ yourself in the comments.

If you’re a writer: What is your favorite thing about being a writer? What is your least favorite?

If you’re a reader: What do you most like learning about your favorite authors? What book do you wish an author would write?

Have a lovely Autumn weekend.

Cheers,

Annie ❤

 

38 Phrases coined by Shakespeare that you never knew

anita rodgers mystery writer

Some writers are just timeless. Shakespeare is probably one of the most timeless of them all. Don’t believe me? Following are common phrases that we ALL use, even today – that came from the Bard himself.

For goodness sake

Neither here not there

Mum’s the word

Eaten out of house and home

Knock knock! Who’s there?

All’s well that ends well

With bated breath

A wild goose chase

Too much of a good thing

A heart of gold

Such stuff as dreams are made on

Fashionable

What the dickens

Lie low

Dead as a doornail

Not slept one wink

Foregone conclusion

The world’s mine oyster

In stitches

Naked truth

Send him packing

Vanish into thin air

in a pickle

Own flesh and blood

too much of a good thing

Truth will out

Eaten (you) out of house and home

Had you in stitches over a joke.

Give the devil his due

A sorry sight

There’s method in my madness

Salad days

Wear your heart on your sleeve

Spotless reputation

Full circle

There’s the rub

All of a sudden

Come what may

So, the next time you utter one of these phrases, be sure to thank the Bard for it. 😉

Why I Write About Monsters

 

Monsters come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. No group is immune to birthing monsters. Not all monsters are criminals. Often monsters never get caught. Yet, they wreak havoc wherever they go and revel in ruining lives. Death, destruction, and ruination is their goal.

My stories are crime thrillers and mysteries. And there is a certain satisfaction in writing such stories, because at least in fiction you can come to some resolution. You may even bring the monster/bad guy to justice. And reassure others that monsters can be caught and punished—and that we are all safe.

But fiction aside there are men and women in the world whose whole lives are devoted to being predators. To preying upon those they see as weaker or inferior.

I learned at an early age, that even so-called friends can be monsters. Like the man who called himself my father’s best friend then tried to lure me with candy and money into his sick fantasies. Or the tenant who lived in my grandparents’ rental who thought a color TV and cartoon shows would encourage me to let him be my boyfriend. I was eleven and he was forty.

Both these men were kind, funny, and very charming. Everybody loved them. No one suspected for a minute that they were monsters. I just happened to be lucky that my father believed me when I told him about them. Because so many girls aren’t believed. So many victims are ridiculed and shamed for ‘telling lies’ or ‘making up stories.’

But those are not the only type of monsters in the world…there the friends, teachers, parents, siblings, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, etc etc, who will batter you for ‘your own good.’ Who will give you advice. Who will judge you. Who will do everything in their power to make you feel like crap (in a word).

So…I guess I write about monsters because I’ve had a few wreak havoc in my life. And because I have seen what they have done and can do to others. And because I believe that knowing what monsters do can tell you who they are. And lastly, but perhaps more importantly because there are people out there who fight monsters everyday to which we owe a good deal of gratitude. Ordinary men and women who know evil when they see it and do everything in their power, to bring a little justice to the world and help maintain order in society. And it’s for them, I dedicate my stories and give my respect.

If you want a few good tips on how to spot sociopaths (monsters) this excellent article will give you some great tips on how to spot monsters.

What about you? Do you believe in monsters? Have you had people in your life who’ve turned out to be monsters? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Things I discovered over the weekend (writer resource roundup)

anita rodgers mystery writer

  1. There is a way to autograph you eBooks for readers. Go to Authorgraph, set up a free account and spread the news. It is super easy to set up, although the confirmation email took a few days to go through, and lots of fun. For you and your readers.  If you look to the left sidebar, you can see their little widget that you can add to your site to let your readers know you can autograph their eBooks.
  2. Apparently, a very prestigious literary agency has had an embezzling bookkeeper on board for quite a while. He managed to filch 3.4 million (yes, you read that right) from author royalties meant for the agency’s clients. Among them, one of my heroes, Chuck Palahnuick. This Kristine Kathryn Rusch post gives the details.
  3. Voracious Readers offers a small but possibly effective way to increase your email list and maybe get a few reviews while you’re at it.
  4. I discovered a great online proofreading app called Typely (H.T. Jane Friedman) that is free, super easy to use and hits those funny little things that the others seems to miss. The drawback is that it is an online only app and you can only cut and paste 50K characters (about 4,000 words) at a time, but it goes super fast. It won’t replace Grammarly or Hemingway but it’s a great little booster in producing a really clean manuscript.
  5. Apparently Shopify has a little site called Burst that offers free images. They are nice, high quality, somewhat artistic shots and better than many of the other free sites offer. You do have to pay for the high res version but for the low res version (totally usable for social media and promos) you can download totally free.

I’m sure there is something I’m forgetting, but five very cool, groovy things is pretty good for a weekend, right?

How about you? Any cool writer or reader tools, gadgets, apps or comics you discovered lately? Share in the comments please.

Have a great week.

Annie