It’s all pretty straight-forward.
In a Review for Fellow Readers
There are a few things fellow readers always want to see in a review:
- If it’s worth the money,
- If it’s worth the time,
- And, if effort is involved, if it’s worth the effort!
Generally, readers also like to know this kind of stuff:
- Is it a fully-formed piece, aka not too much of a cliffhanger or meandering wandering run amok?
- Is it not only enjoyable but satisfying?
- Does the piece match the description or are there other things we ought to know?
So far I think it’s safe to say that a cliff-notes guide to writing reviews would say:
In a positive review, use words like worthwhile, well-developed, and satisfying.
In a Review with Fellow Writers in Mind
What I as an author also want to hear are words and phrases like thought-provoking, thorough, sensitive, applicable, biblical, and faithful. And if you can tell the point or goal of a piece, like “addressing real life in a fallen world” or “admitting that Christians suffer, too,” that’s great to include also!
I also think it’s fair to include, for fiction, warnings about language, sexual content, violence, or other culturally relevant topics, and, for non-fiction, I personally love being able to see outlines that clearly demonstrate the organization and topics addressed. Remember, more than applause, reviews are supposed to be helpful. Ideally for both readers & writers.
As to number of stars? That’s a pretty personal thing. I know people who give 5 stars to everything. I know people who give 3 stars to most. Of course every author wants 5 stars, but there’s no way to know how fellow readers will interpret a 4. <shrug> Reviewers, don’t worry about stars! Writers, don’t worry about stars!
Oh, one more thing. Just from me. If there is heresy in a book, that’s significant to me. In a review, I think it is super fair to say something like “While this book really emphasized what I’M supposed to do, it really left God and frankly Scripture out of it.” Or “Why isn’t CHRIST mentioned more in a CHRISTian book?” Or “This book portrays the Holy Spirit bizarre, New Age-y ways.” It doesn’t need a dissertation or anything, but even non-Lutherans can deeply appreciate missing some of the well-intentioned nonsense out there. Right? So maybe another line could be “Not suitable for church libraries. Kind of unclear, even misleading.”
Am I concerned that your review be perfection in text? Of course not. But what about grammatical errors, or formatting issues, of the books you review?
Here’s the thing. Although reviews can be changed, they rarely are. If you like the book, you can probably email the author through an author’s website. Authors can sometimes fix that stuff!! And as every publisher knows, little things can slip through even several rounds of edits. <sigh> But reviews live on pretty much forever, regardless of edition number, so personally I don’t comment on occasional typos or that sort of thing. Although I can’t blame you if you do. We all want professional standards whether publishing is traditional or independent!
Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 🙂 Or questions you might have?
I’ll wrap this up with the strange conundrum that websites & the Internet are impressed more by the volume of reviews than whether they are positive or negative. It’s strange. I don’t particularly understand it, but the algorithms are real. Suffice it to say that reviews are important in the no-longer-necessarily-human marketing ways of the world. <Shrug>
And with that I’ll wish you a blessed weekend, hopefully with reading & writing in your forecast!