Reviews and reviewers. If you are a writer, these are two things that you will certainly encounter along your journey. Love them or hate them, they’re a necessary evil. I am a professional reviewer and editor, so I look at books from two different perspectives. Today, I am visiting Seekerville to speak to you about reviews. Just what do those stars mean after all?
My journey as a reviewer began as a child. Books have always been a huge part of my life, and I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. One of my friends, who happened to be an editor for RT Bookreviews Magazine, asked me if I would like to be sent free books to read in exchange for reviewing them. Free books?!?! Are you kidding me? Of course I was interested! She sent me my first book, and I was on my way. One month she mentioned that she wished I could review more than one book a month, which I hadn't realized was an option. Nowadays, I review two series lines for the magazine, as well as single releases (generally inspirational, mystery, and mainstream). This equals anywhere from 12 to 15 books per month. Did I mention the fact that my husband loves that I get free books? Especially those that can be stored on my Kindle instead of in one of the many plastic containers all over my garage :-)
I’m sure that everyone remembers writing book reports at some point in their school career. However, professional reviews, or even those done by average people and posted on blogs, Amazon, and Goodreads, are a bit different. In general, these book reviews are a critical analysis of a work that has been published, and they assess the strengths and weaknesses of the story. They can be a great source of publicity for the author.
Writing a review can seem like a daunting task. Not everyone is capable of providing praise and criticism in a tactful manner. The reviewer should strive to inform the reader whether or not the book is interesting, original, entertaining, and worth buying. Readers are not looking to have the story retold to them, and they certainly do not want the ending spoiled. Readers want to know if the book is well-written, with believable characters, and enough twists and turns to keep them engaged.
When a review is posted on Amazon, Goodreads, and similar sites, there is often no limit to the length. However, for RT Bookreviews Magazine, where I do the majority of my reviewing, there is a strict word count allowed. For series lines, such as Harlequin and Steeple Hill Love Inspired, reviews can be no longer than 100 words. For all other books, the maximum allowed is 150 words. This amount must include a brief summary, with no spoilers, and an opinion. For most readers, the opinion section is the most important part. And then of course, there is the star rating. For professional reviewers, there truly is a system in place. However, many writers and readers may not really understand what all goes in to choosing that rating and just what the rating means.
Some writers choose to not even look at reviews, as they are too close to the book. It is important for writers to remember that reviews are given for the sake of the reader. A review should not be viewed as a personal attack against the author. As Lenora Worth mentioned to me when we spoke at the recent ACFW conference, “I listen to them, but don’t take them personally, though I may say ‘wow’ or question them. I use them to teach me a lesson, because it’s okay that not everyone loves it. Readers and their opinion are the most important.”
Reviews are not something that will make or break your career. And remember, even if you are not given as high a rating as you would have hoped, they still took the time to read your book.
Now, onto those stars. RT Bookreviews Magazine uses a scale that is slightly different from most online sites, which tend to use a five-star system. The RT scale is as follows:
This book is absolutely amazing, and I would recommend it to everyone!
- 4 ½ stars: Gold/Phenomenal-Top Pick-In Class by Itself
This book is definitely a keeper, and most people I know would love it.
- 4 ½ stars: Fantastic-Keeper
This book kept me actively engaged, and I would recommend it to others.
- 4 stars: Compelling-Page-Turner
There are good and bad things about this, as well as a few possible problems. I would probably recommend this to others.
- 3 stars: Enjoyable-Pleasant Read
This book had some problems, and it’s hard to find something positive to say about it.
- 2 stars: Problematic-May Struggle to Finish
This book had too many problems to name. I didn’t want to finish it.
- 1 star: Severely Flawed-Pass on This One
As a reviewer, we are asked to be objective. The following items should be kept in mind when we select our rating:
- How was the plot? Too slow? Fast-paced?
- Was the story original?
- Where the characters engaging? Well drawn? Funny? Complex?
- How was the chemistry between the hero and heroine?
- How were the secondary characters? Unrelated or integral to the plot?
- How was the setting? Unusual? Rich? Detailed? Dull? Boring?
So, as you can see, a lot of thought does go into writing a professional review. Have you ever written one? Would you want to? Are any of the items I listed above things that you consider when working on your latest story? If not, perhaps they should be.
Leslie McKee is a professional editor and reviewer. Books have always been a significant part of her life. She is a member of ACFW and has served as a judge for their First Impressions and Genesis contests. She is also a member of The Christian PEN, and is part of their newsletter editorial staff.
She has been reviewing since 2005, primarily for RT Bookreviews Magazine. Since 2012, Leslie has been professionally editing and proofreading manuscripts for authors and publishers. Her lifelong love of reading and learning, in addition to reviewing and teaching, led her into the publishing industry. Editing and reviewing are not merely jobs, they are her passions.
In her editing, she strives to provide quality services to values-based authors and help them on their literary journeys. In reviewing,she aims to provide an honest review and does all she can to help promote the author and their work. Leslie wants to help readers obtain books that will entertain, educate, inform, and inspire them.She also wants to help writers shine while spreading their message.
You can find out more about her editorial and proofreading services on her website: lmckeeediting.wix.com/lmckeeediting. You can also find her at her blog: lmckeeediting.blogspot.com.
Today we're giving away an Amazon gift card in Leslie's honor so you can buy more books...books..books! Leave a comment for Leslie to be entered.
Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
And P.S. for today we have nesting comments per our guest's request! Enjoy!