Wednesday, February 4, 2015

REVIEWS AND REVIEWERS: A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP

with special guest Leslie McKee.



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:



  •     4 ½ stars: Gold/Phenomenal-Top Pick-In Class by Itself
This book is absolutely amazing, and I would recommend it to everyone!
  •     4 ½ stars: Fantastic-Keeper
This book is definitely a keeper, and most people I know would love it.
  •     4 stars: Compelling-Page-Turner
This book kept me actively engaged, and I would recommend it to others.
  •     3 stars: Enjoyable-Pleasant Read
There are good and bad things about this, as well as a few possible problems. I would probably recommend this to others.
  •     2 stars: Problematic-May Struggle to Finish
This book had some problems, and it’s hard to find something positive to say about it.
  •     1 star: Severely Flawed-Pass on This One
This book had too many problems to name. I didn’t want to finish it.

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?
No matter the rating, some sort of reasoning must be provided, especially if it is given a 3 or below. In general, I believe most reviewers try to find at least one positive thing to say about each book they review.

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!

215 comments:

1 – 200 of 215   Newer›   Newest»
Marianne Barkman said...

Leslie this is a keeper...4 1/2 keeper, maybe even phenomenal. As a reviewer I can definitely use this as a guide line. Thank you for sharing.

Helen Gray said...

Like most writers, I always loved to read. But I hated writing book reports. Now I hate writing synopses. :(

So I have the utmost respect for what you do, Leslie.

The coffee pot is set up and ready for morning.

Melissa Jagears said...

I've always wondered why RT doesn't give 5 stars but two 4.5 star ratings, it's like at my husband's work, no one is allowed to get a 5 on their evaluations because people always have room for improvement. I guess only Jesus could get 5 stars.... or then again, maybe not because it the RULE!

*whispering so Tina can't hear* I do read all the reviews of my books that I know of, mainly looking for themes. What can I do better? I keep those in the back of my mind when I'm editing the next story if it's a craft thing or when plotting if it's a story thing. And if readers love something I'm doing, then I keep it up if possible. I did not mean my series to connect characters AT ALL when I pitched it, but I got sooooo many people wanting to see new characters in the same town, I went with it. Found it to be fun. I also read other author's reviews and like to listen to their readers gripe. Sometimes that gives me story idea nuggets. Like if a reader says "I sure wish they'd write one where the cowboy snuggles with a teddy bear" and I go "Oh, that sounds fun" then I put that in my idea file. I get story ideas from reader complaints all the time. *end whispering*

I do, however, wish that anyone who has decided to learn how to write really thinks on whether they should continue writing reviews or not. Once you start writing, the man behind the curtain is revealed, and no longer holds the enchantment over the reader like the Wonderful Wizard of Oz does, but you now see the wizened, ugly, balding, cowardly, asthmatic, rheumatic old man pulling strings, panicking over whether he's pushing the right ones or not and you, as Wizard of Oz in training, can then start second guessing his every button push. The magic is gone as a reader, you are no longer just a reader but a pick-a-parter. So whenever I write reviews anymore, which is rare, I keep it short and try to remember what I would have said when I was a reader. I used to love basically every book I read. Sigh. I ruined my reading habit, makes me sad sometimes.

Cindy W. said...

Hi Melissa. I know what you mean about losing the enchantment of reading once you start reviewing. I have been reviewing for several years now and I find myself 'studying' what the author is doing instead of just enjoying the read. But I love reviewing and I am very picky on the books I review. It's rare that I find a book I don't want to finish but it happens. I loved your books too!

Cindy W. said...

Hi Leslie. As a child I loved to read but I was so terribly shy that I hated writing book reports because our teachers always made us stand up in front of the class and read them. Now that I am older...much older... I love reading and writing reviews. If the book is really good, I love to help an author promote the book by posting my review in several places, tweeting about it and adding a comment to my facebook page. I'm not shy anymore and I even find I talk books up in bookstores to prospective buyers.

Thank you for your post today! I like the rating scale.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Wilani Wahl said...

I have been writing reviews for the books I read. I am now on several street teams for various authors of Christian Fiction. I love the fact I get the books for free. Recently I had a difficult time after having to give a 3 star rating for things in a book that were not in line with standards of a Christian Fiction. When I wrote the review, I tried to kindly write the criticism as well as also giving positive points in the book. Another reviewer sent me a link to how to write a review. This link said I should never post a review that was less than a 4 star. (This guideline for reviewers was written by an author. In the hundreds of reviews I have posted in the last year and a half, I have only given a couple of 3 star reviews. Most have been 4 or 5 stars. This has left me very numb to be attacked because I gave a negative review. In this particular book what I found objectionable was the pastor in the story was secretly into pornography and though he got caught there was no consequences.

My question is this How badly does a 3 star rating affect the author's sales. Was I wrong to write the review?

I have decided that if I ever have to write a 1 or 2 star review I would talk to the author before submitting the review.

Wilani Wahl said...

I hope everyone will have a great week ahead. I am leaving today on a trip to Florida. I have an opportunity to go and meet an Author for one of the street teams I am on. Plus I will get to meet other readers who are also on the street team.

An added plus is that in my wip my main character takes a trip to Florida so I get to do a little research also. I have books packed to read as well as what I might need to do a little writing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

hahahaha! I love how you are whispering. I heard you all the way from the kitchen.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Woot! A research trip! That makes it tax deductible. I need to write a book set in Hawaii! Have fun.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome to Seekerville on the other side of the podium, Leslie. It was a treat to meet you at ACFW. Prior to that I always thought of RT Reviewers as being ...well you know, those people on the other side of the curtain, like in the Wizard of Oz! Great to match a face to a name!

Tina Radcliffe said...

We have a Panera's spread today in honor of Leslie's visit. Dig in. Zero virtual calories!

Mary Preston said...

As a reader I rely on a lot more than just a review.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And I have a question for Leslie. Do you ever have authors contact you to dispute their review or to explain to you what they think you "missed."

Glynna Kaye said...

I apologize if this duplicates, but I entered it once..."published" and it didn't show up. So trying once again! :)
------

Good Morning, Leslie, and welcome to Seekerville!

12-15 books a month is a TON of books to read and evaluate! Thank you, too, for mentioning that reviewers shouldn't RETELL the story or include spoilers as I so often see on Amazon reviews -- a book report rather than a review.

I started reading RT in 91? 92? That's where I FIRST learned about RWA and immediately joined the national and local chapter---so although I'd dreamed for years of being a published writer, it was RT that handed me a very critical key to getting there! Although it took awhile, I finally made it to the published world!

How much do you find titles and book covers influence how you initially feel about a book before you've actually gotten very far in the reading? What advice for inspirational authors in general would you give for engaging a reader from the get-go and delivering on a satisfying ending?

Tina Radcliffe said...

You had me curious, Glynna. I checked. I started buying RT at my local indie bookstore in 1993 and subscribing in 2008.

The biggest thrill of my life was being reviewed in RT and today it is the only review I regularly read. Though sometimes (whispering so Melissa Jagears doesn't hear) I read other reviews.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Good review, Marianne. LOL.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And btw, Kudos to RT for how they have expanded their reach to include more inspirational romance in all areas, the magazine and the convention. Do you go to the convention each year? Have you seen it evolve to be more G rated?

Wilani Wahl said...

Thanks, Tina!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, one more question or two for Leslie, before I rush off to the day job. Do you write as well as edit and review? How do you find the time???

Are there an areas you'd like to see inspirational romance expand to..I mean not including vampire Amish stories.

Heather Saffer said...

Good morning! Leslie, I enjoyed reading your post! I'm new here but you'll hear my story on Friday :) Ruthy said (threatened?) that I better say hello and get to know you gals beforehand! Lovely to be here!

Heather

P.S. I'm having trouble logging into google so I may look anonymous here... I hope I can fix that!

Glynna Kaye said...

Tina -- I found my first copy in a Phoenix mall bookstore, then found it in my own town's mall bookstore (a great excuse to go to a bookstore every month!), then began subscribing in early 1999 when no one in town carried it anymore. Like you, I seldom read reviews -- except the RT ones (which I pull out and keep in a scrapbook)!

Abbi Hart said...

Great post! Love the way you put everything!

Missy Tippens said...

Leslie, welcome! We're so glad you joined us today.

I enjoyed reading about how you do reviews. I've always said being able to write a review is a true gift. I have a really hard time writing them (for Amazon or Goodreads). The plot summary is the hardest part for me! Maybe that's why writing a synopsis is so difficult for me. :)

I appreciate your hard work.

Missy Tippens said...

Heather, we look forward to having you!

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Leslie! Thanks for the look into the review side of publication. The guidelines you use to review are important for us authors to remember as we write and revise. I always read reviews, at least those in RT and on Amazon.

I'm impressed by the number of books you read each month while handling your editing business. Are you a speed reader?

Janet

Missy Tippens said...

Have a great trip, Wilani!

Missy Tippens said...

Glynna, that's so cool that you discovered RWA through RT! I first found the magazine on the goodie table at a conference. It was either the RWA conference or Moonlight & Magnolias. I, too, dreamed of seeing my own books listed there someday!

Kelly Bridgewater said...

I review regularly on The Christian Manifesto. When I give a low score to a book, in my gut, I feel bad for the writer because as a budding writer, I know how hard it is to write a compelling story. But I do find strengths and weaknesses to justify my low score. I hope the writer takes my review into consideration and improve their story. But, like you, Leslie, I love the free books. Months before they hit the shelves. So much fun.
Please enter me in the drawing for the Amazon gift card.

Mary Hicks said...

Every book I pick up anymore is like a workbook—writing has changed the way I read.
I used to finish a book even if I didn't really like it—no more. I don't have the patience to slog through just because I started it. I don't do written reviews, but I am guilty of 'reviewing' everything I read.

Jill Weatherholt said...

You must be a fast reader, Leslie. That's an impressive monthly count.
This is an informative post. Thank you for including the rating scale, it's very interesting.
Yes, I do write reviews on Amazon. I also like to send a personal email to the author letting them know how much I enjoyed their book.

Marianne Barkman said...

Hi, Heather. See you on Friday

Jolene Navarro said...

I always read the RT reviews. Thanks for spending some time here with us. Keep reading!

Janet Dean said...

Also, what special something makes a 4 or 41/2 star book soar to Top Pick? Is it the uniqueness of the story? Or the way it impacts you, your life experience?

Thanks!
Janet

Leslie McKee said...

Good morning, and thanks for inviting me to join y'all in Seekerville today! I can see that the party is well underway, and I will get caught up with everyone just as soon as I can. Thanks for bringing the Panera spread, Tina. It's far more impressive than my protein bar, and you can't beat the 0 virtual calories! I look forward to chatting with everyone today :-)

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks, Marianne. Glad to be of assistance. Where do you review books?

Audra Harders said...

Leslie, welcome to Seekerville! You read so many books a month. WOW. I imagine that is what my little slice of heaven will be like, LOL!

Interesting perspective on reviewing. I still feel badly for the first book I ever reviewed. I told the whole story, and then inserted "I liked the book very much" at the end of the "review." I learned quickly NOT TO DO THAT!! LOL!

Thanks too for including the criteria you follow when reviewing. Good stuff to know as we write.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks, Helen! As you can imagine, I never minded writing the book reports, I just wasn't crazy about the teachers that thought I needed to do an art project to go with them. I can barely draw straight line with a ruler!

Wilani Wahl said...

Thanks, Missy

Leslie McKee said...

I wondered that, too, Melissa. I'm not sure if it has to do with nobody being perfect or not. I'll admit, I do wish at times that we were allowed to have other half star ratings (particularly 3 1/2) instead of just 4 1/2. However, I just follow along with the rules.

Nice try with the whispering, but I see Tina caught you :-) I get what you're saying. I have spoken with a number of authors who agree that they do read reviews, but they try not to take everything personally. Like you, they try to glean that bit of information that will be helpful and keep the readers coming back.

I understand what you mean about writers as reviewers. Keeping it short and constructive is perhaps the best way to approach that. As I edit as well as review, I have a bit of that problem as well. It's hard for me to just read a book for enjoyment, which I rarely have time to do anyway. Instead, I find myself wanting to take notes on it, note the grammatical errors and inconsistencies, etc. It can take a bit of the enjoyment out of reading if I'm not careful.

Leslie McKee said...

You're welcome. I'm glad the rating scale is helpful for you.

I hated giving oral reports, too. What's funny is that I actually was a teacher for a number of years. I'm very shy, too, which is why I'm kind of surprised that I let Tina convince me into doing this today!

Thanks for all you are doing to help promote books :)

Myra Johnson said...

Wait ----- WHAT???? Tina admits to reading reviews????

Cindy Regnier said...

Thanks for visiting Seekerville Leslie! I love to read and write reviews on what I read. Oddly enough I never related my review methods to my writing.Thank you for a new perspective.

Leslie McKee said...

From my perspective, three stars is on par with being average...and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Every book cannot be a four or five star book. That's just a fact. And they shouldn't be. If you are always giving top ratings to every book you read, the people reading those reviews may not take you as seriously. I like how you said that you wrote the criticism as well as giving positive points. I can't believe that any author would fault you for that. I have spoken with a number of authors over the past few years, and I don't think they just want sugar-coated reviews. That's really not beneficial to them or the readers.

For RT, I have given out a number of three-star reviews, and I'm not the only one. We are allowed to go down to one star, which is something I have never done...at least not yet. I have given one two-star review, and I felt it was well-deserved. I made sure to include the reasons why. By offering constructive criticism you are helping the author grow.

I don't believe it was wrong of you to write the three-star review. However, I do agree with your thinking pertaining to the one or two star review. I believe most authors would like to be informed individually before having those posted elsewhere first.

Leslie McKee said...

Have a fabulous trip! I'm not sure where you live, but this is probably a great time to head to Florida :-)

Tina, that sounds like a great plan!

Myra Johnson said...

It's great to have you as our guest today, Leslie, and really interesting to get the inside scoop on what you do as a book reviewer! There really is both art and skill involved--a hint to what the book is about and a fair balance of its strengths and weaknesses. Thanks for taking on the challenge!

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for inviting me! Funny, that's kind of how I felt about authors :-) It sure is great to be able to match up names and faces!

Becky Dempsey said...

I like your list of things to think about when doing a review. I dislike reviews that tell the story and give things away!

Leslie McKee said...

I agree that you should base it more than just a review. Since I write reviews, when I am looking at books and even movies, I never base my decision to watch them or purchase them on just a review. I do take it into account, though it's not my only deciding factor. It's just there to provide you with a little more insight before you spend your hard-earned money.

Carol Post said...

Great post, Leslie! I love the way you explained the star ratings. I do very little reviewing, although I have to admit to doing a little "critiquing" as I read. I guess it's the writer in me. I know it's a really good book when I finish and think, "Man, I wish I had written that!"

Leslie McKee said...

I have not had them contact me personally, but one did contact the magazine. We are not required to respond, but the senior editor did pass the email along to me just in case I wanted to. To my knowledge, that was the only time.




















Jeanne T said...

I so enjoyed this post, Leslie. It's always good to have an understanding of what goes into the reviews, and what they mean. Also, knowing the elements a reviewer looks for (and the ones you mentioned are spot on) is a great plus.

Thanks for visiting here today!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Great post! I have been a reviewer longer than my time as a fiction writer but not as long as writing non-fiction. I've kind of learned to read between the lines on reviews so I don't tend to pay the low ones any mind when I am looking for books to read. They are usually about something in the reviewers life more than they are legitimate.

But I wish, truly wish, half stars were available on Amazon. That would allow more wiggle room. But in reality, I don't look at the stars any more. I look at what folks say.

And I also write my reviews so the most important thing to know won't get cut off on Goodreads. I also don't do synopsis reviews. Those drive me nuts with what they often give away.

Put me in for the drawing.

Peace and thanks, Julie

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for the welcome, Glynna!

Until I attended my first RT convention, I really didn't understand how much of an impact RT has had on so many authors.

As for book covers and titles... A number of the books I review come to me electronically so I rarely see a cover. Occasionally I do get a hard copy ARC. Personally, I prefer some of the ones that leave a little bit more to the imagination, as I like to form the characters in my mind based on the author's description, and not necessarily what picture the cover artist chose to use. However, that doesn't really impact how I feel about the story, it's just a personal preference. As for the title, that does go a bit more into how I feel about the book. To be honest, there are some books that I have finished and have questioned how the title came to be as I noted very little connection between the two.

As for advice on engaging the reader... Grab them from the first page! I like to be dropped into the action from the get-go. It makes me want to keep reading. And as for the satisfying ending, I'm not necessarily one of those people who believe that just because it's an inspirational book it must always have a completely happy ending. Just because we are Christians does not mean everything always ends perfectly. I think it is important for Christian authors to include that in their stories. I'm not saying that it should end on a depressive note, but it's okay to have those hardships and struggles in there. That's real life after all.

Jackie Smith said...

Interesting post, Leslie! As an avid reader, I appreciate your hard work!
Please put me in the drawing for the A. card!!! THANKS!

cathyann40 said...

I love reading these posts every morning. I'd love to win a giftcard. :-)

Leslie McKee said...

I have only been able to attend two of the conventions. I am happy to see that they are starting to include more inspirational romance, but I would still love to see a bit more. That was what was so awesome about having the opportunity to attend the ACFW conference this year. At RT, I was able to mingle with a number of authors that I have heard of, but not necessarily read (largely due to time constraints)... though I did get to meet one of my childhood idols (Lurlene McDaniel)a few years ago, which was a huge thrill! At ACFW, I felt that I "knew" so many more people. Yes, the convention has become a little more G rated, but I don't think it will ever totally become that way. There is still a huge erotica market out there, so I believe there will always be some risqué features at the convention, as a number of readers want that.

Leslie McKee said...

I used to write a lot, mainly poetry, when I was younger. I still do that a bit on occasion.I started a novel as a teen, but never finished it. I do have it floating around though, so perhaps I will have to revisit that at some point. Many people have asked me whether or not I am going to write a novel. At the moment, it's not a priority for me. However, I will admit that I have started to write something recently. I haven't gotten very far, largely because I have not had the time to work on it. I feel I am very fortunate to have the "inside knowledge" that I have, and I believe that could be very helpful if I do decide to pursue writing. Right now I believe God is leading me to do what I am doing, which is editing and reviewing. However, I am open to whatever He places on my heart. Never say never, I guess (at least that's what a number of people told me at ACFW when I told them I had no plans to become a writer).

As for other areas for inspirational romance... I'm not sure about that one. Over the years, it really has expanded to include so many things. It is now covering more real-world topics and not just the happily ever after's. It's tackling the tough subjects that really exist in the world. For the inspirational market in general, I would like to see a bit more geared toward young adults. That's slowly coming along.

Leslie McKee said...

Welcome, Heather! Thanks. I look forward to hearing your story on Friday.

I had a bit of trouble logging in at first, too. Hopefully you get things figured out soon.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks!

Leslie McKee said...

Thank you so much, Missy!

I'll admit, it is a bit hard at times to condense a novel into the word count for a review. That's why I occasionally like writing them for Amazon and Goodreads, as I can make them longer :-)

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for the welcome, Janet.

I'm not sure that I'm technically a speed reader, but I definitely do read quickly. I've always loved to read, and a book is never far from my reach. (I'm currently sitting by a bookshelf and three bags full of to-be-read books!) That's why I love the Kindle and the app for my phone!

As for what makes something a top pick...you pretty much nailed it. I definitely look for the uniqueness of the story and the way that it touches me. Sometimes a story is just written so beautifully that it truly becomes a part of you, long after the final page. I do not give out Top Picks lightly.Those books, at least in my opinion, are truly something special, and I believe other readers would agree.

Leslie McKee said...

Kelly, nice to meet another reviewer. I agree. I hate giving out low scores, too, which is why I also balance things with the strengths and weaknesses. I actually do that when I'm editing as well. I want them to know what they are doing well so that they can grow. and I agree, the free books months before publication are awesome :-)

Leslie McKee said...

I understand. As I edit and review, it is very difficult for me to read a book just for pleasure without mentally taking notes on the positives and negatives, the grammatical issues, etc. I have a number of non-review books on my Kindle that I've started and never finished because of various issues. If I don't have to read it, I'm not going to waste my time reading a poorly written book. However, that's not the case with the books I am reviewing. Those I have to finish. Thankfully, I have been lucky. There have been a small percentage of books that I truly struggled to finish, though I have had some.

Helen Gray said...

Yeah, I don't draw either.

Leslie McKee said...

You're welcome, Jill. I'm glad you found it helpful. Yes, I am a fast reader, thankfully, as my job depends on it :-)

I think that's great that you send the author a personal note to let them know how much you enjoyed their book. I'm sure that many reviewers don't do that, and I bet it's much appreciated :)

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for the welcome! I sure will keep reading :-)

Leslie McKee said...

It's definitely great being able to read for my job :-) Of course, I've always heard that when you are able to do what you love, it's not really a job. Very true!

Unfortunately, I see a number of reviews such as you described. Actually, some contain far less than that. Reviews that just say "It's a good book" are really not helpful to anyone. At least you gave a summary of the whole story :-)

You're very welcome. I love what I do and I have met so many wonderful authors over the years. I want to do all I can to help you guys be the best you can be.

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome :-)

Leslie McKee said...

You're welcome, and thanks for having me here today!

Leslie McKee said...

I'm glad you found it helpful. I'm sure many people dislike those spoiler reviews! I know I sure do.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks, Carol. I think when you're in the business, it's difficult to not critique things a bit as you read them.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's something that I'm sure a lot of people don't fully understand and really haven't thought a lot about.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks! What you said is quite true. Even when you have specific guidelines to follow,it is not always possible to totally distance yourself from the review. I know people who have rated things poorly because it touched on a sore subject for them in some way. I try very hard not to do anything like that in my reviews. And I agree about the half stars. That's how I feel with the magazine as well as on Amazon. I think you're correct though that is not so much the stars as it is the feedback.

That's a good point about Goodreads. I've only recently started to use that. I've read so many books that it's very daunting to try and link up all my reviews. I will keep that in mind that things get cut off so I'm sure to put the most important things first.

Leslie McKee said...

Thank you. You're very welcome :-)

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for stopping in this morning!

Heather Saffer said...

Thanks, ladies!! I think I got it! :)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Leslie. I was a reviewer for a while ... a year or two ... for RT Magazine. I found it frustrating because I seemed to get odd books. Maybe I wasn't at it long enough to get a choice but, anyway, none of them were (usually) books I'd have chosen to read unless I needed to so it wasn't very fun for me.
All of this was really interesting. New information. Thank you!

Mary Connealy said...

I also had a newspaper column in my small town weekly newspaper that was a book review. That went on a LONG TIME. Reading one book a week was no problem and these were all books I chose and wanted to read.

Mary Connealy said...

Leslie you've said, JOB a few times. Is this really a job? You get paid? I never got paid! I got a free subscription and the books of course. I was doing one a month. Maybe it was some trial period and I was found guilty!

Mary Curry said...

Good morning, Leslie. Thanks so much for being here today to educate us about reviews. I imagine reviewers may need as thick a skin as writers.

Thanks also for the trip down RT memory lane. My very first memories of the writing community are of the First Saturday classes RT sponsored many many moons ago. We had the chance to learn from pros and socialize with so many fellow writers - published and aspiring. It's fun (read scary) to think that after all these years,I'll finally have a book reviewed in RT this fall. ;)

Mary Curry/Cate Nolan

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Leslie and welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for giving us such great information about reviews.

Have fun today and thanks again for posting with us.

Pam Hillman said...

Good one, Marianne! :)

Heather Klitsch said...

Leslie, you are an oustanding reviewer & editor. I love reading your reviews. Any author should be excited to have you do your "magic". You have finally found your "happy place"! Keep up the great work.

Pam Hillman said...

Have fun Wilani!

Pam Hillman said...

Mary, you just look like a guilty person. After all, you DO advocate shooting characters for a living....

Mary Connealy said...

But only if the plot is sagging. surely I get some credit for that!

CatMom said...

Welcome Leslie!
This is very interesting information, and I'm glad to finally understand the "star" system used by RT. :)
Sounds like you have a wonderful yet challenging job.

On another note, I had to laugh as I read your comment about the plastic storage tubs in your garage. Oh my, I think I've kept those manufacturers in business over the years, as I have more than my share, LOL. ;)

Thanks again for sharing with us today.
Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

Jennifer Smith said...

Leslie, thanks so much for this information! I appreciate you explaining what the star ratings mean. I review books on my blog (and yes, what a special treat to get free books in exchange for your opinion!) and I'm glad to see I've been rating books in a similar way to what you've outlined. :)

Leslie McKee said...

Very cool! I did not know you were a reviewer there. I don't have a say in some of the books I review, as I do two series lines and I review whatever is released for them. However, I do have a choice with the books that I review for the other sections.

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome. Yes, that is true about needing thick-skinned, too.

The First Saturday classes sound interesting. I've never heard of those. I wonder why they stopped doing them? Was that before they began the conventions?

Congrats!When is your book coming out?

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for the welcome. It's a good way to spend my day, especially as it is snowing again :-(

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks so much Heather :-)

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome. Yes, it does have its challenges at times.

About the plastic tubs, so true! Between those and sticky notes, lol :) My husband says I keep them both in business. I'm glad so many books are going electronic, as I'm not sure how many more times I can get my husband to move my plastic containers.

Thanks for being so welcoming :)

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome! Those books certainly are a nice perk :-) I'm glad to see that I was able to reinforce the system you've been using. What's your blog? I will have to check it out.

Sally Shupe said...

Enjoyed this post! I love doing reviews. But I have noticed, I'm not reading the book to enjoy reading it. I am taking notes of things in the book to comment on, how the characters came across, did the story keep my attention, did I learn something while reading the story, were there major inconsistencies, what themes were presented, etc. I primarily read and review Christian fiction. I want to see how it impacts me. I love kindle because I can put notes in as I go.

I don't like reviews that retell what is on the back cover of the book or everything that happens in the book. If I am checking out a book whether to buy it or not, I have already read the introduction and I don't want spoilers. I want to be able to enjoy reading the story without knowing what's going to happen. I also don't like it when someone reviews a book and gives it a 1 or 2 stars, but doesn't state why. If you're going to rate it that low, state why you feel like that's the best you can give it. I saw one reviewer gave a book a 1 because it was an inspirational story, and then didn't say anymore. Maybe they didn't realize it was inspirational before they read it?

Thanks for this post and please enter me in the drawing!

DebH said...

thanks for this post today Leslie. I'm not good at reviewing books, although I do try to post something on Amazon - especially for the books I win from Seekerville (or buy 'cuz of a post). I've always felt bad because my reviews are never long winded and I never do a blow by blow account of the story. I just say how much I like/dislike the book and why. I always include the why. If I don't happen to like a book, I usually offer a if you're a person who likes "x,y,z" then this book may be for you - because I realize that it takes all types to like different books.
I liked your explanation of the rating system. that may help me figure out how to scale my reviews in the future. I like my reviews to be helpful to other readers. I just need to be better at getting said reviews posted. Real life gets away from me a lot. (No, I'm not ADD, oh look...something shiny!)

Tracey Hagwood said...

Thanks for this post about reviewing, I have reviewed a few books and some I reviewed a long time ago before I had a good handle on the right way to go about it. (I've deleted some of those too) I have a question though, I did read a writers blog last year concerning some reviewers "downing" books and being so negative, so were do we draw that fine line between honesty and being negative. I will usually avoid a review rather write a bad but honest one.
Could you share your thoughts on those 1 and 2 star ratings being posted. As a reader I am influenced by them somewhat and appreciate other reviewers honesty if kindly said.

Caryl Kane said...

Leslie, thank you so much for this article regarding reviews. I've only recently begun to post reviews. I found these guidelines very helpful.

Thanks again! Have a wonderful Wednesday! :)

Carolyne Aarsen said...

Thanks for the post. Always good to see another side to the reviewing process. I used to avoid reading reviews that gave me a low rating but I've learned, over time, that reviews are one measure of a books quality. And even a less than stellar review can teach me something about my writing. I read one review that was very negative and I had to filter some of the things through my "my editor won't let me do that" filter. But what she said I had read before in another review. So I took note.

Courtney Phillips said...

I hated writing book reports in school, but I do like reviewing them now. I'm in the Bethany House blog reviewer program. Can't beat free books from an amazing publisher. I also post reviews for books written by authors I especially enjoy.

10-15 book in a month! Goodness!
So fun to see what those stars specifically stand for!

Sherida Stewart said...

Leslie, I've been anticipating your post since Tina mentioned a reviewer was scheduled to visit Seekerville. Believing a review is the best way to show appreciation for an author's book, I review on Amazon, Goodreads, and my own blog. I want to learn to do thoughtful reviews, so your insights are valuable. Thank you!

I do not like the "star" requirements for review sites, but understand this is necessary to filter the reviews. I would rather just mention what I liked or didn't like about the book. I do like to highlight an important sentence or two from the book.

"Leslie wants to help readers obtain books that will entertain, educate, inform, and inspire them." I will keep this in mind as I review and promote Christian fiction. Thank you for your very helpful post!

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks! I completely understand. While I enjoy reviewing, it does take a bit out of the "reading for pleasure" factor of the book, as I am taking notes as well. Most of what I read is Christian fiction, too. When I have the opportunity, I do review books in the mainstream, romantic suspense, and mystery categories as well. However, I still tend to look for the "clean reads."

Exactly! I'm sure there are books that do deserve lower ratings at times, but it is not beneficial to anyone, the writer or fellow readers, for a reviewer to just state, "I didn't like it." Unfortunately, I see a lot of those reviews on sites such as Amazon. I wish they would change their policy a bit so that people will required to give some sort of backing for their rating. Perhaps that's the case that they didn't realize it was inspirational before they read it, though many books do give hints about that in the blurbs provided when you purchase them.

Leslie McKee said...

You're welcome!

That's a great way to do the reviews. A long review does not necessarily make it better. And you are correct. I have given it reviews where I have stated things like, "if you are a fan of..." you may really enjoy this. That way it gives people a heads up going into the book.

I'm glad you found the explanation helpful. I understand what you mean about getting the reviews posted. As I mentioned in another comment, I'm relatively new to Goodreads. I'm trying to keep up with more recent reviews, but I just have so many of them that posting them everywhere takes so much time. I occasionally post links to my magazine reviews, but I don't want the readers to always have to look elsewhere to find them.

Lol about the ADD. Unfortunately, I can identify with that just a bit, too :-)

Meghan Carver said...

Good afternoon, Leslie! It was wonderful to share a table with you at ACFW. I had no idea reviewers attended the conference. Even better that you're here today, sharing freely of your wisdom and experience. Thank you!

I review books occasionally on my blog, and I'm never quite sure what my focus should be. Your list is quite helpful. And the number of books you read every month? I want to be just like you when I grow up. :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Leslie, welcome to Seekerville on this side of the page!

First, thank you for your book reviews of my stories, you've blessed me and DIDN'T CHARGE ME A DIME!!!! SUUUHHHWWWEEEET!!!!!

Second, I love you words that reviews, especially now, are a necessary evil.... and here's my take on the evil side:

If the story is good enough, the goods will far outweigh the bads and give the readers/consumers credit to figure that out.

I'm late to the party because we had a funeral at church this morning, but I'm back home now and ready to feed the folks of Seekerville!

I'm feeling a Beignet and fried shrimp kind of lunch, with creole style jambalaya.... and pralines!!!!!

Nancy Kimball said...

I really enjoyed this post, ladies. Like Melissa, I too read all of my reviews. On Amazon and Audible. Learning in the critique process that the reader is never wrong, even when they're wrong, helped prepare me for that as an author. Looking at what the reviewer has also reviewed and how helps me understand if they were in my target audience in the first place and perspective on their feedback. When I'm reading reviews to buy, I only read the low ones. I heard this is true for lots of online book buyers. I struggle sometimes now as an author to have to leave a critical review and still share what I found that was praiseworthy, so I can now better appreciate what a tough job you have Leslie. Thank you for sharing.

Connie Queen said...

Good morning Leslie.

I'm impressed at all the reading you. Does it ever get old?

I don't envy your job. I've helped judged the Genesis the last couple of years and I always fret about my scores/comments. If an entry has a lot of flaws (not grammar) I begin to wonder if it's just me. Will the other judge score them high and I'll be the reason they don't final. I do try to find as many positives as I can.

But at the end of the day, it's just my opinion and that's what I give them.

Feel free to toss my name into the hat...

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for asking. I personally have never given a one star review to anything, and I have only given a two star rating once. I look at those ratings as closely as I look at giving the 4 1/2 star top pick ratings for the magazine. After all, some publisher felt that it was worthy of being released. I look at my own views going into the story. I try to decide if it's just a topic I'm not personally interested in, which wouldn't necessarily make it a bad story for other people. I don't want that to sway my review. I believe some people are not able to always take that factor out of the review. I will try to include in my reviews things such as "if you are a big fan of antiques, this may be perfect for you", or something similar. I personally may not be interested in that area, but I don't let that sway the review. When it is a topic that I'm not particularly drawn to, or an area that I'm not as familiar with (such as science fiction), I really make it a point to focus on things such as character development, descriptions, etc. Even if it is not my favorite genre to read, those are things that I can still use when evaluating the book. I don't believe bashing a book or the author is beneficial to anyone. As I write reviews, I tend to look at reviews from others a bit differently because I know some of the things that could be going into that rating. I will consider what is said, but I do not let it be the entire deciding factor for me. I think there is always a way to use the criticism in a constructive manner.

Leslie McKee said...

You're welcome. I'm glad you find them helpful. Best of luck in reviewing excavation point

Missy Tippens said...

I really like having half stars as well!

Melissa Jagears said...

TINA IS BUSTED!

Leslie McKee said...

Very true. That's what some of the authors I spoke with at ACFW told me. They try to look at it from the constructive aspect to see how they can grow in their writing based on that negative review instead of taking it personally. And then again, others told me that they just don't bother reading the ratings at all. They focus more on the actual feedback they receive in emails, Facebook messages, etc. and take note of how the readers say that the story impacts them.

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm a big fan of book reviewers. I shared 5 Reasons Book Reviewers Rock right here on Seekerville in a post I wrote for their 6th birthday bash back in October 2013. The post focuses on individual reviewers. They do a great deal to help promote books and make a big difference. Even so, I don't know a romance author who doesn't wait with baited breath for the review of their books to appear in RT Book Reviews. Those 100-150 words you craft with such care have been known to make the day for many an author. Thanks for all you do and for the thought you put into every one of your reviews, Leslie.

Leslie McKee said...

Bethany House does have some great books :-) I've reviewed a number of books from them for RT. I've never heard of that program, but it sounds fun.

Naomi Rawlings said...

I wish that RT reviews were as unbiased and well thought out as you make them sound. You actually sound like a very fair, wonderful reviewer, and I hope you keep it up, Leslie. We need good book reviewers! That said, RT seems to rank inspirational novels with strong spiritual threads low. It's a conversation I've had with several other multi-published authors. In general, the stronger the inspirational component of the novel, the lower the rating. And when I say this, I'm not talking about any of my own novels. (I did have an low RT rating once where the reviewer complained about the setting. Not the writing, not the characters, not the plot. The setting. I ended up shrugging it off, but it seemed an odd and biased thing to complain about.)

Have you run across novels with heavy spiritual components getting low ratings from RT on a regular basis? Do you have any reasons why this might be the case?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I see a lot of sense in Melissa's words.... and what is she THINKING trying to whisper in Seekerville? First, Tina hears everything and if she can't hear it, she installs a portable magnifying device (she found them on Amazon) so that she can pick up even the teeensiest, tiniest whisper. She is sneaky.

I love the story of why there is no 5-star.... I think paying tribute to a lost leader is a wonderful thing. But I'd like to see the 3 1/2 too, that shows maybe not quite to compelling... but better than average.

I think there are a lot of stories that would fall into that category, but having said that if that drops my 4's down to 3 1/2's then DON'T CHANGE A THING, HONEY!!!! :)

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome :-)

I don't really care for the stars either, but I suppose they needed to come up with some way to do it. It would be more beneficial if there was a bit more consistency to it, though.

I enjoy reading reviews that incorporate sentences from the book, too. I'm not always able to do that in my reviews, as what I receive are not the final copies. Therefore, we are somewhat discouraged from doing that as things may change slightly by the time the book actually hits publication.

I'm glad I was able to leave you with something to keep in mind in your own reviewing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, just add my Creole deliciousness to the Panera spread brought earlier!

Leslie McKee said...

It was great meeting you there as well :-) I was actually there representing RT magazine, though I am a member of ACFW. There was an article in the February issue of the magazine pertaining to the conference. Another reviewer was there as well, and we wrote an article about our experience. If you happen to check out the magazine, it's on pages 26-27 :-)

Thanks! I'm glad you found my list helpful. Aww...that's so sweet of you to say :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Heather I'm so glad I can boss you around!!!! I'm so delightedly happy right now! :)

And you got in just fine! Leslie, I'm glad you did, too, Blogger is a little temperamental, but generally reliable. I'd rate him a 3.5!!!! :)

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for inviting me to be here :-)

You're very welcome. Your stories have blessed me too, especially as you mention places that I am familiar with from my childhood. I'm able to connect to them on a different level than some readers due to that fact.

I like your take on the evils. Very true. Readers are a lot smarter than some people give them credit for.

Sorry to hear why you're late to the party, but glad to have you back! Enjoy your lunch :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Leslie, is there a process to have independent novels reviewed by RT? I've seen a few but I have no idea how that happens.

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome, and thanks for your input. Yes, it can be difficult leaving some of those negative comments, but as long as they are done in a helpful manner it makes a big difference. There is no reason the review can't be balanced.

Natalie Monk said...

Oh dear. I think Blogger ate my comment. I'll try again.

Hi, Leslie! What an exciting look into professional book reviewing!

I've only reviewed books for my blog, but I try to do a breakdown of what I liked, what I didn't, the characters, plot, setting and pace, and the overall impact.

Considering points of review when writing is such a great point! It's the reader's enjoyment we're after, so it's great to think about what a reviewer might say about the way we've written a certain scene or plot.

I've always thought reviewing books professionally would be fun, but then you mentioned your word count limitations . . . Yikes! :) I lean toward the wordy side, especially when I like something or am trying to mention a book's flaws without hurting someone's feelings. Your job must be tough!

Thanks for sharing this insight today!

Would love to be entered for the gift card.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'll let Leslie address this from the RT perspective, but Naomi, I haven't noticed this to be the case. Having said that, I haven't been a subscriber to RT this past year because a lot of the pics are objectionable when I've got a house full of little kids... But before that while I might have disagreed on some reviews, I didn't see any link between the spirituality and the review.... I did see the reflection of either weaker story-telling and/or characterization with the reviews. But I'm no expert on the topic.

Mary Connealy said...

I've got one book free on all ebook formats right now and it's been interesting because the reviewers who, from what they wrote, appear to have finished it, they usually say if they don't, often aren't my target audience.
So their opinions are sometimes dismaying, "Too Much God" or some version of that. But also sometimes they're interesting and even helpful.
I'm pretty tough at this point so I can handle most any review I get dealt.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

We do learn to toughen up, don't we? We pull up our big girl panties and move on!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh my!!!! Checking in on my lunch break and my first thought... NEED MORE FOOD!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Lol, Helen!!!

Leslie McKee said...

Actually, no it doesn't get old. I've always loved to read, so it's a perfect fit.

I'm a newbie to the judging, but I enjoy that, too. I think they try to do the ratings so that it balances things out in the end. I have wondered myself if I am a bit too picky at times. However, like you said, all you can do is give your opinion and supportive reasons.

Leslie McKee said...

I missed that post, but I will definitely go check it out!

That's so sweet, Keli. Thank you :-) I know how much they mean to many authors, so that's why I do my best to provide honest, constructive reviews.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Always good to listen to the Big Guy, lol

Tina Radcliffe said...

I look forward to attending an RT conference some day!!!

Carolyne Aarsen said...

It's yogurt and strawberries up here in the Great White North. Though I might wait until the bread I've got baking is ready and have a piece of that with an egg. Decisions, decisions.

Leslie McKee said...

Naomi, thank you so much :)

I haven't necessarily noticed that, but it may be more the person reviewing it versus the magazine in general. I find it a bit odd that an inspirational reviewer would rate it lower because of the strong inspirational theme, as that shouldn't be all that surprising. Perhaps it was someone reviewing it who isn't as familiar with the genre or a newer reviewer? While I don't know the reviewers personally, I know that many of the inspirational reviewers tend to review a lot of books in that genre. However, on occasion, there may be people filling in. I know that I do that with some of the other sections myself, when I have a chance. That is one reason why I steer clear of reviewing some categories, such as science fiction/fantasy. It is not an area I have read a lot, and so I'm sure that I might have questions and concerns that people more familiar with that genre would not have.

I haven't personally noticed this issue, but now that you have brought it to my attention I will be on the lookout for it.

I'm sorry to hear that you had a low rating due to the setting. That is kind of an odd reason. I think that in general most reviewers try to come up with a more solid reason behind their lower ratings.

Leslie McKee said...

think the Panera spread is probably almost finished up by now. I know I enjoyed the asiago bagels and brownies :-)

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Thank you for your informative post, Leslie! I review books on my blog, Amazon, and Goodreads all the time, so I really enjoyed reading this one today. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

You bake bread??? Well, Carolyne, it's loaves and fishes time! Ha!

Janet Dean said...

Writers would agree, too. The reason Top Pick is so coveted.

Leslie McKee said...

We are working to get more of these covered. If you (or any of the rest of you reading this) have an independent release coming out, please contact me and I will see what I can do about getting it reviewed. We are not always able to get them into the magazine, as we have a limited amount (25, at the moment) that we can do for each section/issue, and many of those are predetermined. While we may not be able to get the book reviewed in the magazine (though that may be a possible, but not during the month it is released), there is a good possibility we could get it covered as a web-only review. You can find my contact information on my website.

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome :-) It sounds like you are hitting the key points with your reviews!

Yes, the word count limitations can be challenging at times, especially when trying to give a nice balance between the summary and the opinion. That's what's fun about posting some reviews on my blog, Amazon, and Goodreads. I can make them as wordy as I want :-)

Leslie McKee said...

I like your perspective on that, Ruth!

I do find it odd when people comment on the "too much God". It's not like authors are trying to hide the fact that inspirational books are inspirational. Perhaps some readers and reviewers just don't look at the descriptions before starting the book. However, I have read some reviews where people didn't realize it was an inspirational book but were pleasantly surprised. I think there are a number of readers out there who don't mind it, they just may be fearful that the author will try hitting them over the head with religion, taking away from the story itself. I have rarely found that to be the case.

Leslie McKee said...

We sure do! What did you bring?

Leslie McKee said...

That bread sounds yummy, and I bet it smells even better :-)

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome :)

Leslie McKee said...

Sounds good!

Leslie McKee said...

Lol, Ruth! I don't think they would listen to my opinion, anyway.

Leslie McKee said...

It's definitely something I think everyone should try and attend at least once.

Leslie McKee said...

That's part of the reason I set my blog up on Blogger. Once I got things figured out on here, I didn't want to have to learn another system.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

That's so good to know! I'll do that with the next release, Leslie!

Pat Davids said...

Hi Leslie,
It's good to see you here. I don't believe I ever took the time to thank you for your review of my book, A Home for Hannah. I'm glad you liked it enough for 4 1/2 stars. I believe we met briefly at the RT convention in KC, but I was so nervous about giving my acceptance speech that I could hardly remember my own name. Thanks for all your hard work in doing reviews.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Aren't we amazingly dense when we get nervous????? I'm raising my hand to join that team!

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks. We did meet briefly at RT. I totally understand, not a problem at all. I was very touched by your acceptance speech. I had no idea what had been going on "behind the scenes." I was glad we were able to get a picture together.

You're welcome, and thanks for all you do, too :-)
(That last part goes out to all of you authors, actually)

Donna said...

Leslie, thank you for these great pointers. I try to leave a review for all of the books I read, but I agonize over each one not knowing what to say! I'm going to print this post and refer to it when I write them. It will no doubt save me a lot of time!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Leslie,

So nice that you could join us in Seekerville today. It was a joy meeting you at ACFW. Will you be attending RWA this July?

Thanks for writing such great reviews! You capture the essence of the story and add praise, no matter the number of stars...and all within 100 words. That's a real talent.

I've been an RT subscriber since 2007 when my first book was published. Love getting my print copy. I read the magazine from cover to cover--the LI, LIS, and LIH reviews first--but also enjoy many of the other genre reviews. Hope to get to an RT Conference someday, although I do wonder about the number of readers attending who are interested in the inspirational genre.

Please know that writers appreciate what you do. Thanks for spreading the word about our stories. It means so much to us.

You mentioned being an editor. Do you freelance?

Waiting for the next issue of RT! Hope it will be in the mailbox today.

Hugs!

Julie Lessman said...

LESLIE!!! Welcome back, girl, and WOW, what a clear and concise breakdown of the reviewing process -- THANK YOU!!

I'm totally am on board with the following statement: "Not everyone is capable of providing praise and criticism in a tactful manner."

Oh, AMEN to that! Being a good reviewer takes real talent, sensitivity, and insight that not everybody possesses, which makes me appreciate people like YOU all the more!

You also said: "In general, I believe most reviewers try to find at least one positive thing to say about each book they review."

LOL ... I believe that's true, or at least it was in the case of the 2-star review I received from another RT reviewer for A Love Surrendered. I can smile about it now, but at the time, it stung. Even so, this reviewer DID start off the review with one positive thing just as you said, for which I am truly grateful. The review began as follows:

"Despite two truly masterful plot twists, the third novel featuring the sprawling, brawling Irish-Catholic O’Connor clan cannot overcome its many excessively long scenes of domestic nattering, not to mention its inaccurate portrayal of early 20th-century Catholic spirituality."

So ... since all things work together for good for those that love God, I zeroed in on that first phrase like a laser and turned around and posted it on my website as follows, which I have to admit, helped alleviate the pain immensely ... ;)

"Truly masterful plot twists ..." Romantic Times. ;)

Thanks, Leslie, for coming back to Seekerville to share your wealth of knowledge as a reviewer!

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

LANI ASKED: My question is this How badly does a 3 star rating affect the author's sales. Was I wrong to write the review?

Gosh, Lani, I can't imagine it would hurt the author's sales much at all if she or he has more 5- and 4-star reviews than 3's. I even feel that way about 1-stars as long as they are in the extreme minority because one really tense 1-star can actually stir interest in a book in some cases.

It sounds to me like you wrote the review with complete honesty and sensitivity, using positive points to balance out the bad ones, so good for you, my friend!!

LANI ALSO SAID: "I have decided that if I ever have to write a 1 or 2 star review I would talk to the author before submitting the review."

BLESS YOU, girlfriend!!! I cannot express HOW much I would appreciate that as an author, truly. I actually had one very respected reviewer do that with me, emailing me with her review before she posted it, explaining why she wrote it the way she did and hoping it would not upset our friendship. It did NOT upset our friendship for that very reason -- her honest approach, but I guarantee you it would have if she'd just posted it and not talked to me about it first.

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

LANI!!! Good for you, my friend -- happy trails!!

Hugs,
Julie

LoRee Peery said...

Leslie, you've a lot of comments to read. I noticed that you didn't say anything about five stars... Thanks so much for breaking this down and letting us know about you.

Julie Lessman said...

LOL ... I guarantee you that "one" was not me, but don't think I wasn't tempted ... ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Valri said...

I love writing book reviews! I feel that if the author took so much time to write the book, I should take a short amount of time to offer my opinion! It's the least I can do! I adore reading and I love to help out authors any way I can!

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome, and I'm glad you found the pointers helpful.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks. It was great to meet you, too. Unfortunately, I will not be attending RWA.

Thank you so much for your kind words. That's what I try to do, so I'm glad to know that I am succeeding.

As I stated earlier, I think that RT convention is something everyone should try to intend at least once. However, as I found in September, it truly is a different world from the ACFW conference, in many ways.Not just the market, but the fact that one is more geared toward writers and one is more geared toward the readers.There are a number of inspirational readers that attend RT, and a few even recognized me from my reviews. I'm not sure how many inspirational authors actually put in bids for workshops. Perhaps as those increase, attendance will as well. I know I still had an enjoyable time attending events put on pertaining to other genres. It was just nice to attend some which related to books (and authors) I was more familiar with and have read.

Yes, I am a freelance editor. I work with individual authors, as well as various publishing houses (large and small). So, if you (or anyone you know) is in the market for an editor, please check out my website and get in touch with me! (I believe it's listed at the bottom of my post.)

I just received my issue of RT a few days ago, so it should be on its way. If it isn't there, let me know and I could send you a copy of my review for "Stranded".

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for the welcome! You're very welcome :-)

I'm glad to see that you are able to focus on the positives in that review and focus on it. That's a very good way to look at things!

Leslie McKee said...

I didn't really address anything pertaining to five stars, as I primarily review for RT Bookreviews magazine and they do not use a system that includes five stars. I'm not sure why some sites use five stars while others do not. Perhaps some believe that nothing can be as perfect as five stars? Sorry I'm not able to give you more information on that.

Leslie McKee said...

I'm so glad to hear that! That's a wonderful way to look at it. As you can tell by the comments above, it's something the author truly appreciates :-)

Debby Giusti said...

So glad to hear that you're freelancing, Leslie!

Thanks, ahead of time, for reviewing STRANDED! My copy of RT always seems to be late arriving. Must have something to do with the Atlanta area and our postal service.

We'll miss you at RWA.

Heidi Robbins said...

I started writing book reviews to fund my reading habit- I just wanted more books than I could afford! Reviewing has opened up a whole new world to me- not only access to more books, but getting to know authors, learning about publishing, being on promotion teams, and having to "read deeper"- looking for themes and identifying what resonates with me specifically so I can share those thoughts in my reviews.

I'm one who will rate a book by what I honestly thought of it because I want to be able to look at my goodreads account and tell if I liked a book but wouldn't necessarily recommend it to a friend (3 stars), really liked it and would recommend it (4 stars), or absolutely loved it and insist that they read it! (5 stars). I've given a 2 star rating on rare occasions because I think readers will trust my opinion if I can feel free to say that a book was just okay. I personally have a hard time relying on reviewers who gush over every single book they read- I like to be more discerning.

Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Carolyne should send bread. I think that's important.

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for this post. There is a lot to consider for both a writer and a reader. I have only written a couple of reviews for Amazon for Seekerville books I have won in the drawings. I am not very good at writing these and knowing what I should say other than that I enjoyed the characters and the story. I want to try to include a bit more in the reviews I post.

Please enter me into the drawing for the Amazon card!

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insight. It certainly does ease the book buying budget a bit :-) And it is a definite perk to get to know the authors a bit better, be on their street teams, etc.

It sounds like you have a nice, consistent system that you use for reviewing. That definitely adds to your credibility when you give some of the lower ratings. I agree, not every book is deserving of top ratings (unless they are in the Lego movie, where everything is awesome!). When reviewers do that, it does tend to decrease their credibility a bit, at least in my opinion.

Leslie McKee said...

You're welcome. Good luck on your future reviews!

Kelly Blackwell @ Heres My Take On It said...

Leslie, I really enjoyed your post especially your pointers on what to look for as you review. I review here and there on my blog as well as on Goodreads, New Release Tuesday & Amazon. I initially began reviewing books on the advice of a friend of mine who is a published author. I asked her what would help me be a better writer, and she strongly encouraged lots of reading. In order to fit that into my budget, I began reviewing.

I have slowed down a little bit in the past few years as time became tight, but I have been easing back into it.

I like what you said about reviews being given for the sake of the reader. I believe that is vital. I spend a lot of money on books, and I trust fellow readers to be honest but also kind. I don't want an author to be hurt by a review (and I have seen some mean spirited ones out there), but I also don't want to have a book given high marks when it clearly is because someone wanted to be nice. I love your idea of balance.

Thank you again. I am definitely making notes of your pointers.

Thanks for the generous giveaway.


Pat Davids said...

I would love a copy of that picture if you access to it.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks! I'm glad I was able to give you some tips to help you in your future reviews. I agree. People spend good money on books, and those of us who love reading spend a lot :-) I want to make sure that I am giving an honest opinion so that the reader is able to determine whether or not they feel the book is worth spending money on and if it is a good match for their interests. I am glad to see that you want to focus on those same things, too. As you noted, balance is definitely the key. Unfortunately, I have seen the mean-spirited reviews too. They are really not beneficial to anyone.

Leslie McKee said...

Nope, it wasn't you :-)

Leslie McKee said...

You're very welcome :-) You can feel free to contact me on Facebook, too.

Leslie McKee said...

I found it in one of my Facebook albums. Can you email your address so I can forward you a copy? It's a bit fuzzy, however. My email address is: lmckeeediting@gmail.com

Leslie McKee said...

I really enjoy doing it, Debby :-)

You're very welcome. If you want me to take a picture of the review and send it to you, just let me know.

Thanks, I will miss seeing everyone there, too.

Leslie McKee said...

Thanks to everyone for stopping by... and to Tina for convincing me to be here today. I had a lot of fun. Have a great evening!

The Artist Librarian said...

What perfect timing! In my Collection Management class, we have an assignment coming up to write a professional styled book review. I remember when I first got a goodreads account, when I bothered to write a review, they often came across as "fangirling" ... A bit *embarrassing* but ironically, they got the most "likes" from other members there. Now that I have a book review blog, I do try to write more critically. I have a couple of blogger book programs I'm involved with that give me a copy of the book in exchange for a review, but I normally only choose books that I think I will like, so I haven't had to write a super critical review yet.
Since I'm just starting out, sometimes I find them hard to write --someone mentioned they had trouble with summarizing --me too! I think it will get easier the more I write.

The Artist Librarian said...

I've heard all about Panera's ... they don't have one here, so I'll try some *virtually* ;-)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Sorry I'm late! Too much editing to do! What a coincidence.. Yesterday I bought Feb's RT magazine to read my very first review, which the lovely LI ladies told me about. This is a whole new world to me and I was thrilled to receive 4 1/2 stars and then I noticed the name of the reviewer --- and here you are!!
Thanks for the review and thanks for the peek into your world!
Cheers,
Sue

Naomi Rawlings said...

Thanks for the explanations. I could well be noticing the exceptions and rather than the norm, and it's encouraging to know that you haven't personally run across anything, Leslie. You probably pay a lot better attention to the reviews in general than I do. But I will admit to being surprised on several occasions when I've looked up an RT review for a book I loved and found the rating and review to both be unfavorable. I mean, RT gave A Passion Most Pure three stars. That's probably my favorite inspy novel ever. How is it possible to give APMP three stars? Goodness!

You know, an honest review doesn't bother me, even if it's not all fluff and praise. It's the reviews that seem either mean (not a problem with RT that I've noticed) or unfair that irk me.

And Ruthy, I'm right with you on some adds being inappropriate. I don't get RT, but I'm debating cutting my membership with another organization because I really don't want my boys seeing the ads in the magazine they send out.

Mary Curry said...

Leslie, sorry I didn't get to respond earlier. My book (Christmas in Hiding by Cate Nolan) is out from LIS in October.

The First Saturdays were in the early 80s. I don't remember exactly when they ended, but I think for a time, RT was doing both. The Saturday classes were held at the Roosevelt Hotel if I recall correctly.

Thanks again for everything you shared today. Fun to read all the comments too.

Mary Curry said...

What a small world, Susan. Congrats on the great review!

Tina Radcliffe said...

What an amazing day. The food is gone and the coffee pot is empty but wow, what a great day! Thank you, Leslie!

Deanne said...

I love to read but not review a book. I think what spoiled it for me is reading so many reviews and seeing they are more like a book report than a review. I don't want a retelling of the story or spoilers and that is mostly what I see. I don't even read book reviews any more.

Carolyne Aarsen said...

I would if I could! I like baking bread. It's all stored in the freezer now though. You all might just have to come up here and I'll even make cinnamon buns!

Mark Abel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sherri Shackelford said...

I think a true, thoughtful review is incredibly difficult. If someone takes the time to point something they liked/didn't like - I take the time to look. Sometimes I learn something - sometimes I don't. My all time favorite review quote is:

"Ultimately, I did not hate this novel."

I keep it up on my bulletin board and it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Leslie McKee said...

God's timing is pretty incredible! Best wishes for your reviews.

Leslie McKee said...

Welcome to the party! Wow, that is a really cool coincidence :) You're very welcome!

Leslie McKee said...

I review the LIS line, so I will get to read your book in a few months.

Thanks for explaining the classes. Too bad they stopped.

I enjoyed being here. Thanks for stopping by :)

Leslie McKee said...

I had a great time!

Leslie McKee said...

Unfortunately, those types of reviews do exist. I don't enjoy them either. If people are going to do that, I prefer them giving a heads up at the beginning so I know to stop reading.

Leslie McKee said...

That's a good one! I can see why you keep it up on the board :-)

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

Sometimes I think it's easier to write a 3-star review over a 5-star. With 3-stars, I tend to be less interested in the story itself, so I become a more critical reader, making note of the things I don't like, and in turn looking harder for the good to balance it. With a 5-star book, I can get drawn a lot deeper into the story so that I'm not thinking critically about it, so when I'm done I have an overwhelming sensation of "this was a marvelous book and I want to read it again and again," yet have significantly less concrete evidence to back it up. Thus sometimes the 5-star reviews are more work, as I don't have that established list of pros and cons in my head when I finish the book.

Edwina said...

I'm not a professional reviewer, but I've reviewed a number of books over the years. I always try to find something in the book I can compliment, And that's not so hard because there are such great writers of Christian romance today. On those occasions when I can't find anything good to say and the author is expecting a review, I will contact the author and as kindly as possible tell them why I can't review their book/article. Thankfully, those times don't happen very often.

Tanara McCauley said...

Great insight, Leslie. I've done some reviews but generally try to stay away from them, especially if the star rating is less than 4. I read that it's frowned upon for writers to give other writers bad reviews. Fortunately I haven't encountered very many books that I'd label awful, but they do exist. It's good to have a resource like yours where concise, unbiased reviews are available.

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