Jake Chism is a fiction reviewer I’ve come to trust over the past few years for his insights and honesty. So when he offered to write a post about how to write a good review, I said absolutely!
In 2006, Jake Chism began writing reviews for various websites, and approximately 200 reviews later he decided to start his own. He launched FictionAddict.com in June. Since the launch Jake has developed reviewing guidelines for his writers. He shares those with us today.
1. A Good Plot Summary. Be informative but not too informative. I typically write one or two short paragraphs that give a basic premise of the story. If you get carried away with plot details, you run the risk of losing the reader’s attention. No need to re-write the book. The main concern here is to give the reader a brief snapshot of what kind of story to expect.
2. NO SPOILERS!!!! I got carried away with the caps and exclamation points, but this is something I feel strongly about. Nothing screams “poor review” more than blatant spoilers. The purpose of reviews is to inform readers, not to spoil the reading experience. Authors don’t spend hours upon hours, day after day, pouring their soul into their work just so you can come along and ruin the whole thing with two sentences.
3. Highlight the Positive. So you’ve read this book and it has absolutely blown you away with its awesomeness. Great…Tell us why! Whether you were moved by the characters, or floored by a plot twist, or even driven insane by the suspense…please, by all means tell us about it. You do authors and readers no favors if you don’t adequately explain why a particular story is worth reading.
4. Don’t Shy Away From the Negative. Many reviewers take the approach, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” As I’ve grown as a reviewer I’ve begun to distance myself from this philosophy. From conversations with a variety of authors I’ve discovered it’s not negative reviews they have a problem with. It’s the reviews that are mean-spirited, poorly crafted, and tasteless that are the most damaging and discouraging. Reviewers do authors no favors when all we do is kiss up to them. Authors want to know what readers think of their work, even if they don’t agree with them. On the other hand, no writer wants to read a review of his/her work that does nothing but belittle and bash. What’s the point? If a book didn’t work for you, by all means tell us why. But use some tact and have a little respect for these authors who work so hard to bring us their stories. If you long to rain down curses and ill will on the writer, then do us all a favor and don’t say anything at all.
5. Honor Your Commitments. Sometimes as reviewers we bite off more than we can chew, and before we know it we are buried under stacks of books we’ve requested. Add to that all the unsolicited titles publishers love to send, and pretty soon we’re completely overwhelmed. Bottom line: you have to know your limits. Publishers spend a lot of money distributing ARCs and review copies, and we have a responsibility to review what is sent to us when we ask for it specifically.
6. When you post a review, e-mail the publicist to let him/her know. It’s just the decent thing to do, and you never know--you might see your review quoted in a future title or on an author’s website.
7. Share your reviews online. Use places like Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and ChristianBook.com, especially if it’s a positive review and you want others to read the title. Twitter and Facebook are also great places to post links to reviews. If you write for a review site or publication you may need to get permission before you post elsewhere, but this is one thing you can do to help promote authors.
8. Don’t leave a negative review on Amazon (or other similar sites) simply because your book took too long to arrive or was damaged. That certainly isn’t the author’s fault, and it makes no sense to blame him for it. (For those of you who are shocked at such behavior….believe me….it happens more than you think.)
9. Familiarize yourself with new authors when reviewing their work. You don’t have to read everything they’ve written, but it helps to know what they have done and are currently working on. Sometimes, if I love a book, I will spend a little time at the end of the review highlighting what they have coming out next or something they’ve previously written. This shows readers that this author has more than just that particular book that is worth checking out.
10. Spend some time reading other reviews to get a strong feel for what quality reviews look and feel like. Here are some recent reviews two of my writers have submitted:
Jane Austin Ruined My Life
Bio: Jake Chism is a self-diagnosed book junkie and the founder of FictionAddict.com. His reviews have been widely quoted in the works of such authors as James Patterson, Terry Brooks, Eric Wilson, Ted Dekker, and Robert Liparulo. Jake obviously enjoys reading, movies, sports, watching way too much TV, and spending time with his amazing family in Texas. You can reach him at Jake@FictionAddict.com and follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/jachism) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/jachism).