I didn’t either.
Nor did being a journalist equip me to write book reviews.
So while I buy and read other authors’ books, until I published my own first book, I didn’t take the next step and review them. I feared I wouldn’t sound wise enough, that my analysis would be inept. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been timid to ask readers to review my own books.
And therein lies the issue. Authors need reviews. But if we ourselves are too timid to review books and too timid to ask it of others, we have a problem.
My readers have no problems writing me letters — even very long letters — stating why they enjoyed my books. But writing a review can be a fearsome thing, one that seems to require expert writing and story analysis skills that many readers believe they don’t have.
And why should they? They didn’t go to Book-Review School either. They are readers, not professional book reviewers. They’ve bought or borrowed a book, read it, enjoyed it a little, or a lot, or not at all. And then they went on to the next book. Or perhaps to do the dishes.
If we’d like readers to review our books, there are a few simple things authors can do to help:
First: Demystify the act of reviewing books.
For starters, could we replace that word “review” with “comments”?
Check almost any online store and you’ll find dozens, hundreds, even thousands of reviews of the products they sell. Shoppers seem to have no trouble posting online comments about the things they buy online – despite the fact that those comments appear under the heading “Reviews”. But mention the term “book review” and many people get flustered, even anxious.
What if we change that word to comment?
Second: Tell readers how to do it.
I’ve had readers tell me they wanted to review one of my books but had never done a book review before and didn’t know how.
I explain that “a single sentence saying why you liked or didn’t like the book is perfectly fine.”
“If you wish”, I usually go on to say, “you can also explain why you would recommend/not recommend that book to others. But you don’t have to. A short comment is fine.” I can almost hear the relief in their responses.
And here’s a surprising outcome: while some of my readers do just the above and no more, at least as many go on to write longer and more substantial reviews.
Third: Tell the reader where to post online reviews
A book-lover wanted to review a book she had just read. She knew what she wanted to say, but had no idea where to post her remarks. She had never heard of Goodreads and wasn’t in a hurry to find out, but she had bought the book online from Amazon and was happy to leave her review there.
Once I showed her where to post her remarks (Look down the left side of the Amazon book page and you’ll see “Review this Product” just below “Customer Reviews”), she was off and writing.
Review this product
Fourth: Show your appreciation
I’ve not done this in my own books yet, but I am now considering including a short note of thanks (in the back of the book) to everyone who, having read one of my books, would like to leave a review.
Perhaps I will give the reader a few tips about how to do so as well.
After all, if there is a Book-Review School, no reader I know has been there.
What do you think, Reader? Please leave a comment. A single sentence is fine!