Welcome to the first, You Asked, the Experts Answer Segment, for 2016. A number of blog posts this week covered reviews and their value to the authors. The post from Kristin Lamb, reblogged here yesterday, is a good example. However, the question I’ve heard the most often when discussing writing reviews is, “What criteria or rating method do I use when writing a book review?”
Although, I’m not a professional reviewer or an expert. Fellow writers and authors have asked me to read and review their books and I make every effort to give helpful and honest feedback. Every reviewer has their own methodology. Yours may be different from the one I have developed, but the important thing is to have a system that effectively communicates your thoughts to the author and reader, alike. I use the 5 stars method for my reviews based on the following 5 criteria.
- Entertainment – I love reading. It’s an escape and adventure. I want a book to transport me to another place and time. I want to feel as if I’m at the dinner table or on the run with my characters. When I’m reading I want to forget the time. So, for me the first and most important aspect of any review is the entertainment value. Was I entertained?
- Characters – I want to connect with the characters. I don’t have to like them, but I want the personality, physical attributes, and motives of the characters to come through loud and clear. I want a character I can visualize and relate to. Give me a character that makes me laugh or pisses me off, but don’t bore me or give me a superhuman (unless you’re writing Sci-fi or fantasy).
- Plot – Does it make sense to me? Is it credible? Are all the loose ends tied in a pretty bow at the end, or am I left hanging wondering what happened to Suzy Q? I love a plot with twists, turns and surprises, but don’t overdo it. I don’t want to get drunk or whiplash from those twists and turns. Give me a plot that moves forward, creates change (in the character or even me), and a plot that takes my breath away.
- Writing Style/Voice- This one is as important to me as the entertainment aspect. Point of View (POV), the way sentences flow, and word choice plays a major role in whether I like or connect with a book. If the writer’s voice captivates me, I can often overlook other weaknesses.
- The Finished product – Was the book well-edited? Covers are not going to affect my reviews. It’s the content, the structure, voice, style, and story. But please, proofread. Screwed up formats are not going to win a star. The occasional grammar slip-up is okay, but repeated errors pull me from the story and make me stop reading.
Assign the Stars
- 5 Stars – a check in all the boxes.
- 4 Stars – I liked the plot, characters were okay, but something about the writing style or finished product pulled me out.
- 3 Stars – It was okay entertainment, but I found it lacking in more than two of the elements.
- 2 Stars – lacked credibility in either plot or characters; the writing style/voice was lack luster and rather than entertained, I slogged through the story.
- 1 Star– I have yet to rate a book 1 Star. If a book is missing the majority of the elements above, I won’t waste my time finishing the book. I read to be entertained, not tortured. Okay, maybe tortured is a little strong, but you get my drift.
As others have pointed out, reviews are the lifeblood of every writer/author. I review books to make others aware of the book, give the author feedback, help me remember the book, and to show respect and support to the author. You can find my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
I hope you found this information and method helpful and the next time you read a book, write a review. The authors will appreciate hearing from you.
Do you have a method to your madness? Do write reviews? I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood, Pinterest, Bloglovin, Twitter@sheilagood, and Contently.
I hope you found this information and method helpful and the next time you read a book, write a review. I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood, Pinterest, Bloglovin, Twitter@sheilagood, and Contently.