By Iola GoultonI’m speaking at the upcoming Omega Writers Conference in Sydney, Australia. My topic is reviewing, and today is my deadline for getting my speaker notes to the organisers. So I’ve been thinking a bit about reviews and reviewing. So today I’m sharing three reasons why I review books (and think you should as well!), and three reviewing tips.
1. Reviewing Helps Authors Recognise Good WritingAuthors need to read. Stephen King says so:
I recently read an article which suggested authors should read for two hours for every hour they write. I don’t know that I would recommend any particular formula, but I do believe reading helps writers.
Reading in the genre we write gives us examples of what works and what doesn’t work in terms of genre, story, plot, structure, and characterisation. This enables us to figure out why something worked, and replicate that in our own writing.
Reading in other genres broadens our understanding of what good writing is, and gives us examples of good writing—whether at the sentence, scene or novel level. It also helps us understand what kinds of books specific publishers are potentially interested in (something which is especially important in Christian fiction because of the themes and content. Narelle Atkins wrote an article on acceptable content in Christian fiction, which you can find here).
2. Reviewing Helps with Your Online PresenceReviewing under your author name on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads, and sharing those reviews on social media, will give you quality content to use in building your online presence. It’s recommended that authors share more than constant me-me-me! posts, and book reviews have the advantage of being by you, but about someone else.
Reviews of books in your genre is also easy content for your author website. I share one review a week on my new author website, www.iolagoulton.com. This helps show Google it’s a real, active website (it would be even better if I was sharing new reviews, but I’m not. At the moment, I’m sharing reviews that I’ve previously published on Iola’s Christian Reads. Although I do have a few new reviews in the pipeline for September ...).
3. Reviewing Helps Other AuthorsAuthors need book reviews, so reviewing helps other authors, always a good thing!
Three Reviewing Tips
1. Sourcing Books to ReviewYou don’t have to buy the books you review on Amazon (or any other website) from that website. You can review hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks. You can review books you already own, books you’ve borrowed from the library, books you downloaded free from Amazon or books authors have given you to review.
My favourite source of books to review is NetGalley (which I wrote about in this article). If your publisher isn't a member of NetGalley, well, they should be. And you can also join as an indie author, either by yourself or as a member of a co-op.
2. Follow the RulesAll reviewing sites have rules (sometimes called ‘Reviewing Guidelines’, but be aware: they are rules and disobeying the rules will have consequences).
I’ve written before on Amazon’s Reviewing Guidelines:
Reviewing Ethics: Online Book Reviews (Part One)
Reviewing Ethics: Online Book Reviews (Part Two)
Note that Amazon have now clarified their Reviewing Guidelines to state that “payment” for a review includes:
bonus content, entry to a contest or sweepstakes, discounts on future purchases, extra product, or other gifts
So you can’t ask your fans to email you a link to their Amazon review to enter them into a prize draw for a free book or a cruise for two, or to send them free bonus content such as extra chapters or an exclusive novella. Yes, I’ve seen that done. By Christian authors.
I’ve also looked at the ethics of reviewing as an author:
Reviewing Ethics: Four Sins of Online Reviewing (Part One)
Reviewing Ethics: Four Sins of Online Reviewing (Part Two)
3. Remember the Golden Rule: Reviews are for ReadersWhen writing a review, think like a reader (after all, you are a reader!). Tell the reader what you would or wouldn’t like to have known before you read the book. Say who you think might like the book. Mention other authors: fans of X and Y will enjoy Z.
But please don’t write reviews purely to promote your author friends on online stores (e.g. Amazon), or on reader sites (e.g. Goodreads). And don’t puff up a substandard novel (it will call your own writing into question).
Many author-reviewers choose only to review books they’ve enjoyed and can recommend. That’s great, but you might need to keep those reviews on your blog.
If you want to find out more about reviewing, then make sure you sign up for the Omega Writers Conference! Or sign up for my newsletter—I’m planning to turn this into a book one day, and then you’ll be the first to know about it. One day …
About Iola Goulton
I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more atwww.iolagoulton.com.
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