May 30, 2015

Rick's Thoughts on Writing Reviews - a guide for the rest of us

I've seen a lot of blog posts out there by authors regarding books reviews.  These can be both positive odes to how awesome people are for leaving them as well as negative rants on the big meanie bullies of the world who dare tell them their precious works of timeless art suck donkey balls. I've hopefully made my thoughts fairly clear on these matters in the past. Today I wanted to touch upon another type of post - those helpful guides out there telling people how they should and shouldn't write a book review.

Sadly, I'm here to tell you that I've read quite a few of them and found most to be a bit lacking. My advice would be to ignore the vast majority.

"But wait?" you might ask. "How should I know what to write about a product if the product maker doesn't tell me what to say?" Fear not!  For I am here to offer what I hope to be the comprehensive guide to these things.

Step 1) You need to decide where to leave your review. Often times this will be the website from which you purchased the book. However, you might choose instead to do so at a dedicated book site such as Goodreads, on a Facebook group, or even your own blog.

In the case of the former, though, most shop websites have fairly easy to find buttons next to the reviews others have left.  One need merely click upon it, log in  if required, and then proceed to the entry form.

Some websites will let you get away with simply filling in a star rating and then going upon your merry way.  This is all fine and well, but you're here to learn about writing an actual review, dammit!  So let's get cracking already.

Step 2) Write whatever you feel like saying for however long you feel like saying it. Some websites have a minimum of required words for a review, so in those cases you'll need to reach that before you can hit the submit button.  If necessary, feel free to elaborate a bit on your thoughts, or don't. You can always post the ubiquitous "here's a bunch of words so that I get to Amazon's limit on reviews and can hit the damned button already." at the end of it.

Step 3) Hit submit

Step 4) Rejoice! You're finished!

To help you with any further questions on this topic, I leave you this handy dandy
Reviewing FAQ:

Q) Wait, that's it?  Aren't you supposed to tell me to only leave positive or constructive reviews?

A) Nope.

Q)  What about that thing you mother used to say about only saying something if you have something nice to say?

A) Yeah, well, my mom wasn't really into that crap.  Besides, I look at it this way - have you ever read any of those articles in the news about restaurants threatening customers who leave them lousy Yelp reviews or the apartment owners trying to put clauses into their leases stating no negative reviews are allowed?

Did you enjoy those articles?

I know I don't.  I am a firm a believer that once I have paid for a product, service, or meal then I am free to have whatever opinion of it that I please and I am likewise also free to share whatever that opinion is - be it positive or dripping with enough acid to dissolve a queen Alien.

Q) But shouldn't I take into account the author's "feelings"?

A) Hell no!  You paid for a book, not a guilt trip. If you loved that book, great.  If you hated that book then I don't see any reason why you should worry about someone else's feelings.  Publishing is a business, not a group hug.  If that business disappointed you, you should feel no qualms about telling the world.

Q) But what if the author leaves a nasty comment / sends their fans to leave nasty comments / tracks me down and sends me a threatening email / does anything else that only an asshole would do?

A) Depending on the severity, I'd say anything from getting an idea what kind of person they are and never again giving them your business all the way to calling the authorities.  You're a customer.  You're spending your hard earned money on a product. You shouldn't have to tolerate anything from the marker of that product that you feel is hurtful, harassing, or just plain unprofessional.

Q) Cool! Oh hey, by the way that is a thumb you're holding up, right, because it kinda looks like a...

A) Yes that is a thumb!  Why the hell would I show off know what? I don't want to know. Let's just agree to never discuss it again. Sound good?


Gwendolyn said...

I'm terrible at writing them. :(

Rick Gualtieri said...

There is no good or terrible. It's your opinion. Write it however you want to. Don't worry about how others will judge.

SyllieBee said...

You've seen the blog(s) I write on. We're professional, but we don't pull punches. I offer credit where credit is due, but I pride myself on being honest. I certainly don't love everything I read, but I try to recognize if that's due to subject matter, genre, quirky writing style, our just plain poor authoring skills (like horrid plot-holes, excessive grammatical/editorial failures, etc).

Rick Gualtieri said...

Yep. This post is more aimed at those authors who think they can control the message.

EC Stilson said...

Such good advice, Rick. I love the honest reviews – good and bad, they are so helpful. :-)

D.G. Hudson said...

I write book reviews as one facet of my blog, and I try to focus on these things: the main idea of the novel/story, a teaser of what it's about (no spoilers), whether I liked it and why (subject matter, etc), and a bit about the author.

What I avoid and what many focus on are critiquing the author or his writing style. If a reader wants to know that, there are many other reviews they can search for.

My purpose in reviewing the books is to advise readers about the book, not analyze the writer. If I'm totally turned off by the book due to grammar, swearing to exhaustion, or excessive erotica, I'll not be reviewing it. I would rate it on Amazon if the book was a purchase. I don't solicit books, but I will try to read and review books sent as a gift along with those I discover on my own.

The question that consumes many book review discussions: is a review of the book also a review of the writer? Not IMO.

Clint said...

I like to write humorous reviews on Amazon that still attempt to review the product fairly. I'm usually only moved to write a review by something that was so totally amazing that I just couldn't contain my positive emotions and had no other legal means of releasing those feelings; or by something that so-totally-didn't-live-up-to-the-type (think Spinal Tap's 18-inch Stonehenge). What drives me nuts are the people who think all reviews have to be serious and dry, to whit: "I also purchased this toaster oven. Where is the "Thermo-nuclear" setting you describe?"


Rick Gualtieri said...

Im with you. I love some of the hilarious reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Doesn't matter if they're gushing or scathing.

wanda boothe said...

I love reading reviews. I love reading books. I therefore write reviews that I would like to read.
BTW, I love Bill. I found you as I was tooling around Amazon trying to find when the next book might be coming my way. *sigh*
I am in No Way A Filthy Spammer.

Rick Gualtieri said...

Hah! I kinda figured. Usually the "filthy spammers" are the ones telling me how I could get better search results if only I hired them. :)