Tuesday, July 7, 2015

5 Ways your Online Review Screams You’re a Writer and not an Ordinary Reader

with guest Melissa Jagears.

 I know I’m not the only one who has her eyes glaze over when reading influencers-who-also-happen-to-be-writers’ Amazon reviews. I’ll totally skip reviews that look like a writer (or a friend of the author) wrote them because that’s not what I’m looking for as a reader (or even as an author, frankly). So I’d like to share some things that make me bypass a writer’s review.

Fellow writers are necessary influencers, don’t get me wrong. But writers need to write their Amazon reviews so readers connect with them. When writing reviews, you need to remember what it was like when you used to be just a reader sharing your favorite book with another reader. Because when my eyes begin glazing over, or your review makes me think you’re the author’s friend, well . . . . that isn’t exactly conducive to persuading me to purchase the book. [A book review on a writer’s blog is different from a store product review which is what I’m addressing.]

The reason readers check out reviews before they purchase is to find the opinions of other readers. If I think a writer wrote it, I don’t trust them—even if you don’t know the author from Adam, I’m going to think you do. Because all authors know each other, right? Amazon sure believes we do, hence taking down reviews on other authors because we’re either sabotaging our competition or we’re BFFs working the system, of course!

How I can spot a review written by a writer (Besides recognizing the name). 

1) Writer-reviewers use story craft jargon. 

Do you remember how lost you were when you joined your first group of writers and they casually chatted about GMCs, interior monologue, and backstory dumps? How many of you had to sheepishly ask, “What does Deep POV mean?” 


This is a writer-review: “Likeable characters, with an intricate plot in a setting unusual for the genre with a surprising antagonist, this second book in the series earns the awards it’s been garnering. This sophomore novel is better than the debut. You don’t want to miss out on the heart-racing action, the endearing characters, and the great message about forgiveness found in this book.”

This is a reader-review I pay attention to: “I loved the characters and I’m SO glad it wasn’t a Prairie book! I totally didn’t figure out who the bad guy was. I’ve read books by this author before, and this is my favorite. Matthew and Izzy’s difficulty in forgiving each other made me think about my own problems with forgiveness, so it really touched me.”

[Aside: Yes, I know that some of you saw that I write prairie books and groaned, that’s all right, I don’t fancy your WWII settings, so there. :)]


Writer-Review: “The turns of phrases were cleverly done, not a cliché in sight, but the author took it too far, too many adverbs bogged down the story’s pacing. And at the end of the book, I think one of the plot twists didn’t work because the character arc didn’t support the heroine’s choices, which made it slightly unbelievable.”

Reader-Review: “The writing was beautiful, made me feel like I was really there, though after a while the over describing grated. And there’s a part at the end where I didn’t quite believe something the heroine did, but overall I liked the story except for that.”

2) Writer-reviewers use the word, “Debut” and other industry jargon. – If you know the book is the author’s debut, you’re most likely on the inside—a friend of the author or a fellow writer. 

Even if a reader happens to know it’s a debut, they most likely won’t use the word. 
PLUS it’s sort of insulting. It’s like saying, “This is my 5 year old’s debut signature. So of course you can’t expect much, but it’s a great debut anyhow. You can make out each letter. Impressive!” STOP IT. Stop using the word “debut,” just review the story’s merits, debut or not.

3) Writer-reviewers focus on the author instead of themselves – A product review should be about whether the product made the consumer happy or not.  

Writer-reviewers/Friend-reviewers praise the author; Reader-reviewers talk about themselves. Break out the I’s! This is the place to be focused on self. What was your personal experience with the book?

Writer-reviewer: “This is the third book in Melissa Jagears’s Unexpected Brides series, though you do not need to read the first to understand this book because Melissa does a very good job of giving you just enough background to make sure you understand what’s happening.”

Reader-reviewer: “I always love this author’s books. But I think you should read these books in order, because I found myself a bit confused about the other couple in the story because I read the third one first.”

4) Often (and I mean crazily often) a writer-reviewer resummarizes the plot. (It’s as if we’re practicing writing a short synopsis with every book we read!). 

The only time I want this information is if the product page has no book description. Save yourself the time and don’t write it. If you’re copying and pasting from your blog review, cut the description. Because I’m not going to read it anyway, and you risk that I’ll skip to a shorter review that promises me an opinion. Only tell me plot points (not spoilers) if it directly explains why you liked or did not like something about the book.

5) Writer reviewers are writers, so they like to write looooong reviews. The shorter the better, try to keep to two paragraphs—unless you are an absolute riot as you totally decimate my book. 

{By the way, please don’t do that to me :) . . . Well, unless you’re truly, truly funny and/or you use animated gifs. I told one reviewer that if she ever hated one of my books I’d have to read it anyway because I’d be laughing though my tears with her clever use of snarky gifs...though maybe only people who really enjoy snark would torture themselves by reading someone making fun of their book that way....so if you ever want to personally email me about what you hated about my books, please include some animated gifts, ok?}

So how do you keep from writing reviews like a writer/friend?

Before you write a product review, pretend you are simply a reader again advising other plain Jane readers whether or not this book is worth the money and the hours they will invest into it. How would you have shared a book with your friends before you started writing for publication?

Perhaps the book has some writing flaws, maybe there’s some head hopping, maybe there is a weak plot arc, but turn off your editor jargon and talk about the book like a reader. 
If you posted reviews prior to writing seriously, compare those reviews with your current ones. Has your style changed? 

Here are some of the things I’m looking for in reader-reviews:

-I want to know if there’s an aspect of the book that might turn me off. i.e. Sexual detail, whether the religious aspect/author’s agenda is heavy or light, tropes I don’t like, copy editing problems, etc. Or things that trip my trigger, tropes I DO like, messages that resonate with me, what kind of romance is in the pages, etc.

-Comparable books/authors or books they think did a better job. (I don’t know how many times I could kiss readers for mentioning books they thought were similar or better.)
-The reader’s emotional reaction to the story elements/what details they enjoyed and what they didn’t. Vague “I loved it” does nothing for me.

I asked a reader’s group about what they like/don’t like about reviews on Avid Readers of Christian Fiction so you don’t have to take my word for it. 

(If you’re not on this FB group, you really should be, lots of talk about Inspy books from readers you can listen in on. Though if you join, PLEASE avoid answering all the questions with your own books on every thread halfway related to your books or that you’re tagged in. I promise it looks TONS better to let readers bring up your books without you hovering. BTW, if you want to listen in on a discussion topic but not comment on it, click the little down arrow in the upper right hand corner of that specific post and choose “Turn on Notifications” and then you can go back after their conversation has died down and see what they say.)...... Anyway, their answers boiled down to:

-No spoilers


-No repeated Blurbs/Overviews

-Honest opinions, Pros/Cons

-How the reader personally related to the story

-Story elements, issues, bugaboos that make it appropriate for them (or not)

Question: What makes you skip a review for another? What are you skimming reviews to find?

And of course, this month, I have two new books I’m hoping will start to accumulate some real reader reviews! I’ll give one commenter A Bride at Last and one commenter The Convenient Bride Collection.

Also, right now I have a Loaded Kindle Fire Giveaway going on with the nine other authors. Most of you probably already like our Facebook pages and things, so go claim some entries!

OH! And if you’d like to practice your reader reviewing, I’m holding an ongoing monthly contest on the Inspirational Historical Fiction Index where the most helpful reviews get thrown in a hat and the winner gets whatever Christian Historical Fiction book they want. Seriously, whatever is available as an ebook could be yours for writing a quick 
recommendation. See Official Rules.

Melissa Jagears is a writer who has to rein in her snark and her bossiness so people will like her. She comments really late at Seekerville, mainly because she’s procrastinating writing. Because it’s hard, ya’ll. See all the other social media places she procrastinates on  at www.melissajagears.com


Tracy Krauss said...

Ouch!!! I recognize some of these examples in my own reviews! Now that you've pointed it out its glaringly clear. And I agree totally that when reading reviews of a book that I am interested in, I want honesty and transparency, not 'hoity-toity' sounding jargon!

Terri said...

Whoops, I know I've said debut! I do try and refrain from writing a synopsis of the book. As a writer and reader I find that annoying. These are great tips, thanks for an totally unique post.

Vince said...

Hi Melissa:

I think we may have a little difference of opinion about reviewing. This should make for some interesting comments today.

To intentionally write a review to make it appear like you're someone you're not, well I'd give that approach only 1 star!

Make the review honest, tell what the author does best, say who will most enjoy the book, and if it is a debut book, it is honest to mention that fact.

I also like to point out that debut books are often the best books authors will write for years afterwards. An author can spend 10 years writing a publishable debut novel but only have 6 months to write the second book. I try to read as many debut novels as makes sense.

My view is whoever you are, if you say it is a great book, explain why. Give facts, show examples, in this way it will not make any difference if you are an author or the author's friend.

Most reader reviews are not worth very much unless you know the reader. I try to avoid reader reviews unless they are over 200 words long and make sense.

Here's how I tell author reviews:

they are not verified.

This is pretty much a dead giveaway.

Also, if you've read the book, it's obvious that the reviewer hasn't!

I can spot reviews that were written from the blubs from ten feet away. I remember one author who wrote in a review what a great rock star the hero was when they whole idea of the book was that the hero was a washed up old country music singer. Too bad what kind of singer the hero was was not mentioned in the blurbs!

I don't care who writes reviews: friends, authors, or authors trying to look like ordinary readers. I'm going to judge the review based on the merits of that review. Is that such a novel idea? : )


Mary Preston said...

I tend to read reviews that are just a few sentences in length. Just to give me a feel. That's the kind of review I tend to write as well.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome back Ms. WIT AND HUMOR. I love, love, love this post. Why because Vince, I think it is spot on.

Although I love reader and writer reviews alike, I believe the mass reviews by writers for their friends must cease. I think it has since Amazon threatened to pull unverified purchase reviews.

My problem is I am so far behind on my reading I don't review often enough.

By the way, KUDOS to Villagers who review their giveaways. I think you should get points for that. Like SeekerBucks. Good or bad reviews, as long as they are honest and kind.

Tina Radcliffe said...

That is a brilliant idea. SeekerBucks. Must go to the laboratory and think on this.

Oh, and I brought Cinnabon Coffee, Chai Tea and cinnamon muffins. Yes, it is theme day.

Jackie said...

I read the shorter reviews. If a review is too long, I skim it and look for the next review.
If I read four short reviews all saying the same thing (great story or terrible story), I get a good idea whether I want to buy the book or not. However, if it's one of my favorite authors, I'll buy it regardless of the reviews.

I also check out the stars, and if I can't give a positive review, I won't write anything.

Mary Curry said...

Good morning, Melissa and friends.

You gave me something to think about, Melissa. I'm guilty of not writing many reviews. I guess they remind me too much of having to write book reports. That said, #4 really resonated with me. I definitely skip the reviews that summarize. If I'm going to read the real book, I don't need the reviewer to tell me what I now don't need to read because I already know the plot.

I'm going to agree with Vince on the point of saying who you are - sometimes. I recently wrote a review as a writer. I don't know the author personally though we have crossed paths in cyberspace. The thing is, her book was so good it allowed me to overcome all my writer-as-reader problems (You know, the ones where you can't get lost in the story because you're so busy analyzing POV and plot structure). I was honest in my review and said that I was writing it specifically because it took me out of my writer's head and that wowed me.

As a writer/reader I would appreciate a review like that because we writers are a different breed of readers.

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Mary Curry said...

Seekerville, the board game. Earn your SeekerBucks as you make your way through the publishing maze.

Kav said...

I'm with Vince on mentioning a debut author. Maybe that's a librarian thing, but I know a ton of avid readers who are excited about debut authors. We're always looking for our next new favourite so it's a thrill to be in at the beginning of an author's career. Plus, I like to support debut authors since they obviously don't have the same following a multi-published author has.

Mary Hicks said...

Hmmm, where to start . . . I didn't take it that Melissa said to 'be someone you're not' when writing a review. I got the message to switch hats and write a review to inform the average, non-writer reader about a book they may be considering.

For many years I was a mom, a wife, a sweetheart, and all around flunky running a household. I had to 'switch hats' many time in the course of a day. But I remained the person I was—nothing false to any of the roles I filled.

I skip long drawn opinions on anything—by anybody—except the apostle Paul's or all the other worthy writers in the bible.

Good article, Melissa—I'll remember the points you made.:-)

Wilani Wahl said...

Thank you for this post Melissa. It is spot on. sometimes I wonder if I am doing something wrong because my reviews are shorter than most because I don't tell all about what is in the book. I have been guilty of using the term debut author but in the sense that it is such a great book.

I have a question for any about a new aspect of reviews on Amazon. I have been asked to mark about the writing, what pov etc. I usually ignore it. The type of questions would indicate that you are a writer. I don't see any indication that any of the answers are posted anywhere. Is this something I should continue to ignore or should I start answering it.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


You're so right, and I'm raising my guilty hand! Next time I review (and I am a totally slacker friend, I will own that outright, I rarely do reviews because I'm a wretchedly mean person who forgets) Anyhooo.... next time, I'm going totally down-home Ruthy!

"Youse will love this book! It's crazy fun, a total riot-ride, and I can't wait to read it again!"

Or this:


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Another word: None of this should ever, ever, ever apply to Vince. Vince's reviews rock, he's spot on and nice, and he exudes enthusiasm. His sound like professional reviews I'd read in the Sunday edition of the NY Times, and I love that. I think when folks see that kind of review, they realize and recognize the professionalism and intelligence behind the review.

But I've watched authors pepper their reviews with friends' reviews (often other authors and not always by name) that's pretty obvious.

I don't know if they know it's obvious... but it is to me.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Melissa,
I could not agree with you more. Like Mary Curry, #4 really gets on my nerves. I see reviews like this and they get lots of thumbs up as helpful which has me wondering about the whole system!?

I appreciate the guidelines for what makes up a good review. I try to be as honest and positive as I can. I read a post once by MaryLu Tyndall on why do reviewers felt the need to write bad reviews trashing a writer's work, and made the decision then if I couldn't give a book at least three stars why bother to write the review at all? Just my 2 cents.

I don't care for long reviews either, being long-winded doesn't insure a good review. Better that reviewer should write there own book, lol.

I'm trying to do better about taking the time to review, especially for giveaways, but if I truly love a book I usually can't wait to say so in a review. No additional incentives needed :)

Kav said...

Wilani, I've noticed that Amazon feature too. At first I thought you had to do it and I found it really annoying...and redundant. Then I tried skipping it and found the review would still go through so I stopped and from the looks of things most everyone does the same thing. Have no idea why they added so many more questions and what they feel they'd gain from people answering them.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love it when winners take the time to review. That means so much to an author.

BUT... if for some reason you hate a book, take a minute before you unleash years of pent-up frustration at your husband, mother-in-law, sister or best friend who just ran off with your no-good, low-down, no-account husband... and think is it the book that stinks? Or did it hit bad nerves with you, personally?

I had to learn to do that, to step away from the book and reason why I didn't like it. Sometimes it's just not my cup of tea and that doesn't automatically make it bad! Silly me for ever thinking that way!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

For my first book, a bunch of family and friends commented, reviewed. They were adorable.

But once the print edition sold out, all of those nice reviews (and only a few were family/friends) disappeared. Only the reviews of the Kindle edition remain.

Now that's sad, because it's the same book and I think there were a dozen nice reviews for Winter's End... gone. On the wind, just... gone!

So that's weird, right?

DebH said...

hi Melissa
I feel much better about my reviews now. For Seeker books, I tend to gush about how I love the author. I usually put it as - disclaimer: I LOVE this author, just so you know... But I always say what I like about the hero or heroine, whether or not the book made me laugh/cry/both, and they are usually short and don't sound all that Vince-like. (wow, are his reviews awesome and a bit intimidating)

When I read reviews - I go to the 1 stars first. If they are really snarky, I tend to think the book may be worth reading. Sort of like movie reviewers. If the movie reviewer hates the film - that usually means I'll love it. (weird, yes?) I sort of skip the 5 star reviews because I figure those are the super fans and friends reviews. Four star reviews seem to give me the best info. And I really dislike the whole retelling the book in review types. SKIP!!!

I've written one gusher review for your Love By the Letter, btw. I still owe you one for your first book. I'm woefully behind. I really need to catch up on those reviews for the books I've won here - Lord knows I've had wonderful reading experiences because of them.

Good fodder for thought post. Thanks!!! Oh, I do like knowing if a book is a debut book...

kaybee said...

MELISSA, I'm snarky and bossy too.

Kav said...

Ruthy -- you mean to say that the reviews posted on Amazon are by publication type rather than title? That's so wrong -- and I'm always very careful to select 'paperback' edition before posting a review because I want to show that people are still reading 'book' books.

kaybee said...

MELISSA, I really needed this because I'm just getting started as a professional reviewing other professionals. I know I used the word "debut" in my last requested review. Not sure about the rest, but probably! I'm going to save this one. Ew, ew, ew.
Kathy Bailey
No longer using author-speak in NH

kaybee said...

KAV and VINCE, maybe we could call it "first-time author" instead of debut and get the point across without jargon. On account of I basically agree with you, but the jargon is what gets in the way.

kaybee said...

I think we should review as writers writing to readers. If that makes any sense. Don't use the jargon EVER, it's like telling a non-Christian that you are "washed in the blood of the lamb," but change the wording to tell what works and doesn't. It's not talking down to them, it's talking TO them.
I do summarize plot in longer reviews, but just enough to get people interested. I NEVER reveal the ending.
My two cents' worth.
Got to go back to day job, will check in later.

Cindy Regnier said...

I'm not a published author, but I guess I still write "writer reviews." I'm not sure it's such a bad thing. I always search for the so-called writer reviews because they hold more credibility to me. So I'm probably not a majority there. Melissa, I loved your books and I hope I didn't leave reviews that were too 'writerly.' Thanks for your eye-opening post.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Melissa, Thanks for joining us here in Seekerville with such an important topic. I love your comments and personally like short reviews. I think I might be guilty of a couple of those no-no's. sigh. But you are right. A reader wants to know the emotional impact of a book. And I really hate when they reveal plot or the ending.

I empathize with Ruthy. Amazon doesn't transfer reviews to other editions of the same book. For example, I have a lot of reviews for Love's Miracles in ebook, but they didn't transfer them to the audible version. I found that strange. Audible is really easy to write a review because all you do is answer three or four questions and put starts. They do ask for a review of the narrator so I guess that might be why they don't transfer, but stil.....

Thanks again and have fun today in Seekerville.

Deanna Stevens said...

Thank you for the tips.. As a reader/reviewer I am learning that authors don't need another blurb they want to know if & what I liked in their book. The publishers want longer reviews so sometimes my reviews just have to have some book details included..

Pam Hillman said...

Great stuff. This is one of the reasons I don't review. I'm a writer, not a reviewer. I mostly just say, "I loved this book. Get it!" lol

Several of these points had me nodding in agreement, but especially #5.

5) Writer reviewers are writers, so they like to write looooong reviews. The shorter the better, try to keep to two paragraphs—

Short reviews, AND short, succinct sentences give the author great fodder for quoting you. In a recent RT review, I found no less than 5 gems that could be isolated as tweets. #Happy! :)

Mary Curry said...

Some of you have raised a difficult point. I can probably only be objective about it because I don't have any reviews yet. ;)

I DO sometimes appreciate the negative reviews in an "am I the only person who didn't like this book" way. When you're reading a book that everyone is praising to high heaven (and you're kind of wondering if it's like the emperor's new clothes), then the occasional low review at least lets you know you're not alone. I'm not talking hate-filled, take out your angst on the author reviews, but polite, this wasn't for me type.

I may totally change my mind about that come October *g* but that's my thinking right now.

I generally am of the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" school, but I also feel burned by reviews that rave about books that are poorly written.

I'd love to know how others feel about this.

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks so much for this perspective on writer reviews, Melissa! Raising my hand to admit guilt on a few of these writerly-sounding phrases, but as others have confessed, I'm not very consistent about actually posting reviews.

Also, I have to agree with TRACEY, who said, "if I couldn't give a book at least three stars why bother to write the review at all?" I have no interest in bringing down my fellow authors with a negative review. It's probably just my opinion anyway, and if the book is really not that great, there are enough readers out there who don't shy away from writing 1- and 2-star reviews.

And like DEBH, with any product I'm considering on Amazon, I go to the lowest reviews first to see if they're just snarky or if they point out a flaw I really want to be aware of.

kaybee said...

I agree with Tracey. I would rather not review something I don't particularly like. This business is too hard without that on top of it. I feel empathy for the writer.
I feel adventurous today. Here's one I just did for a friend. Pick it apart. I already know about "Debut," sorry.

Clarice James’s debut novel, “Double Header,” starts out as a bubbly tale of two siblings, co-writers of a sports column. James pits hyper-organized Casey Gallagher against her brother, laid-back Griffin McGee, for laughs and smart dialogue. But the story turns into an exploration of loss, regrets and reconciliation, as Casey learns that there are aspects of her life that she can’t—and shouldn’t—control. James skillfully and seamlessly explores these emotions, bringing Casey and the reader into a wider place.


Sherri Shackelford said...

First - I advise new authors to *quit* writing reviews. Someone will always assume you are a *friend* of the author. As though we all know each other!? You know, how we hang out Stephen King's house over the summer holiday? An author who writes a review risks inciting an internet mob. Even though Goodreads has been somewhat tamed, Booklikes and Amazon forums love, love, love to find an author they can label as 'behaving badly.'

Second, I agree with Vince - often a debut novel is significantly better because there was no deadline attached, no expectations to fulfill, no "oh dear, how can I top the last book?" angst from the author.

As a reader of reviews, I automatically throw out the top and bottom 10% and anything that attacks the author/maker of the product, rather than critiquing the book and/or product.

I have definitely learned from reviews. If someone takes the time to write a thoughtful critique, I listen.

But as authors, we're always tempted to look at a book and judge it from how 'we' would have written the book, rather than the author, and that's not necessarily helpful to a reader.

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

I'm more apt to read a long review than short, provided it appears to be a review and not just a long summary of the entire plot. If the review is only one paragraph long, I don't read it--it probably won't contain what I want to know: emotional impact, what the author did well, etc. And I also rarely read 5 star reviews; I generally rely on 3 star to give the most impartial information.

And I think so many people write a short summary because back in 8th grade English, when book reports were all the rage, a summary was essential to a good book review, and some of us still have trouble disobeying our teachers 15+ years later. Though these days I generally only include a summary if I think the back blurb is misleading or inaccurate.

Caryl Kane said...

Hello Melissa! Thank you so much for this very helpful post. As a reader, I seem to struggle in this area. I am NOT a wordy person. So I don't think I do the author justice by my "short" review.

Tracey Hagwood said...

On the subject of summary use, I should have clarified I do summarize, briefly I hope, in my OWN WORDS as this will include why I like the book. What I have a problem with in reviews is when I see a reviewer quote verbatim the publishers book blurb like they wrote it themself.

When I first started writing reviews I had no clue how to write one, I just did what I saw others do. I'm still learning to writing them, but you do figure things out as you go along. I'm hoping to write more accurate reviews, armed with the do's/don't's list. So thank you for helping this newbie along.

Mary Curry said...

Rachael, that's an interesting comment about book reports. I teach 4th grade and we do book reviews rather than book reports.

We do an intro paragraph stating whether they liked or disliked the book. Example one of my children did "The BFG by Roald Dahl was the most splendiferous book I ever read."

They do one paragraph of a VERY brief summary with no spoilers. One of the hardest things for the children to get is how to write a 2-3 line summary.
They choose one of the characters to discuss in the next paragraph.
Then there's a paragraph about why they liked or disliked the book.
Finally, they write a conclusion indicating what audience they think will like this book.

It's definitely a jump from the typical book review, but it helps them think critically about why they liked or disliked the particular book.

Myra Johnson said...

I love that approach, MARY CURRY!

Melissa Jagears said...

Gah! I always expect to be here bright cracking early but I forgot to check last night, of course that's my night to come on.....

Tracy, then I have done my job. Go forth and review jargon-less! :)

Terri, there are so many book synopsis writers out there. I think it's because a lot think it's book report time?

Julie Lessman said...

Uh-oh ... guilty as charged!! I'm one of those "writer reviewers" who always posts the endorsements that I write as reviews, so they're always spiffed up from a writer perspective, I suppose. But I can't tell you how many times Amazon has sent me an email stating my review prompted someone to buy the book (or some such language), so I do think an author's name may carry some weight with his or her own readers, but probably not the bottom-line readers like yourself that want the cold, hard facts. :)

Personally, I look at the percentage of 5-star reviews to everything else on a book that I want, and if it is 4.5 or higher with more than 100 reviews, I am definitely prone to buy it, regardless how sophisticated the reviews are. But I also check out the 1-stars to see just why the reviewers didn't care for it, and if those reviews represent a different opinion than mine (i.e. they accuse the book of being too focused on romance or too over-the-top with mere kisses, which I like), then cha-ching -- it's a sure sale! ;)

Great blog, Melissa -- you always have a bolder and more unique perspective on things. :)


Melissa Jagears said...

Vince, it's all right to disagree. :) But I don't think I'm asking anybody to pretend to be what they aren't, I'm asking them to remember to put back on their reader hat when they are reviewing at online stores. Not that they have to, write however you want, BUT if you WANT to help other readers, well, you want readers to read it, right? I plain don't read anything that sounds like a friend/writer is reviewing it and the above are my tip offs. (I assume, rightly or wrongly, that there is a high likelihood that these reviews will be biased toward the author because friends and co-workers are not going to publicly call you out on things, so I try to put on my reader hat when writing reviews so readers will actually read it, otherwise, I'm wasting my time.)

You can nix craft jargon by putting it in layman's terms, you don't explain story arc to your granddaughter when you're telling her about a good story, it just helps her understand; nixing jargon doesn't make you someone you're not. Remembering to keep your focus on your experience with the book doesn't make you someone you're not. Keeping it short and sweet doesn't make you someone you're not. It's just a change in approach.

I think we forget after awhile what it's like to be just a reader. We're entrenched in the writer culture that we forget that not everyone knows what we know.

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE SAID: "I also like to point out that debut books are often the best books authors will write for years afterwards. An author can spend 10 years writing a publishable debut novel but only have 6 months to write the second book. I try to read as many debut novels as makes sense."

I swear, Vince, you are one of the smartest men on the planet!! That is brilliant and very often true. I often noticed with one author (who always won tons of contests) that while her book started out wonderfully and even carried through most of the book, it always seemed like her endings dropped off a cliff, like she ran out of time on her deadline. Which is the same premise as yours because writers edit those first 50 pages like crazy, so they are near perfect, but then the rest of the book not so much.

AND YOU ALSO SAID: "My view is whoever you are, if you say it is a great book, explain why. Give facts, show examples, in this way it will not make any difference if you are an author or the author's friend.

I do agree with this also, which is what I try to do, especially since it is difficult for authors to endorse friends' books when they aren't wowed by them. In cases like that, I focus on the part that did wow me, and fortunately for me, most of the books I have endorsed have done so in some form or another.


Melissa Jagears said...

Mary, brevity is DEFINITELY what draws me. Those are the readers who are simply giving their reaction. (Unless they have a beef with the book, well, then they can be nice and long.....) And the longer they are, the less of "a feel," as you put it, that they give off and instead they usually head off into the spoiler, or telling me too much, territory.

Julie Lessman said...

Whoops ... forgot to answer your question. You asked:
Question: What makes you skip a review for another? What are you skimming reviews to find?

I hate long reviews. Go figure. Because I write long books, long blogs, long Christmas cards (which is why I gave them up years ago ... I had to start in July!). So it makes no sense, but I will generally not read a long review.

But I also hate short reviews -- three words or so. Give me in one or two sentences what you loved and/or hated about the book.


Julie Lessman said...

MARY PRESTON SAID: "I tend to read reviews that are just a few sentences in length. Just to give me a feel. That's the kind of review I tend to write as well."


TINA SAID: "Although I love reader and writer reviews alike, I believe the mass reviews by writers for their friends must cease. I think it has since Amazon threatened to pull unverified purchase reviews."

I am finally in agreement with you on this, Tina, but only because I don't have the time to do it, and I read approximately 8 books a month. But I do post my endorsements because the writing is done, so why not??

TINA!!! SeekerBucks for those Villagers who review their giveaways is a FAB idea!!


Tina Radcliffe said...

BTW ask Mary C about the review she gave me!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Wilani, I love your reviews, so don't change a thing. You are kind and to the point. What more could we ask, dear lady?????

I don't know about the questions thing, that's getting pretty subjective to ask the reader... however, with indie publishing, then the reader's point of view is critical. Not all indie works are vetted by editors, and not all editor-reviewed works are beloved, so that's a murky area!

Melissa Jagears said...

Thanks for all the cinnamon, Tina! Seekerbucks sounds fun!

Jackie, I find that the 3 stars seem to be where I can find a good idea about what the flaws and good points are, I read all of the three stars if I'm checking out reviews. They weren't totally in love with it and therefore can see the cons, and they didn't totally hate it so much they can't see the pros. If all the 3 stars agree, I have a good idea of what to expect. BUT! I've also learned that reviews can mean nothing whatsoever to whether I'll like it or not, so I read the 3 stars to see if a con that I hate reoccurs in those reviews that BACKS UP what I was already thinking after I read the sample chapters.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kav, I don't think they always were or are. But I know for Winter's End, all those reviews disappeared.

Maybe it was because things were newer then? Maybe they hadn't homogenized the systems?

Okay, they're back, LOL! I'm so sorry, they weren't there a couple of weeks ago, and the only reason I noticed was because a reader sent me a note...

They're there and the paperback edition is there, and it was totally gone.

Do not listen to me. I'm clearly WRONG about almost everything! I'm going to put away the Christmas stuff on my beams (yes, it's true!!!) before my boys come home this weekend and just shake their heads. :)

Melissa Jagears said...

Mary C, but that WAS a reader review. Your experience with the book was influenced by the fact that you are a writer and you told me about YOU.

Kav, I guess I don't know the readers who are excited about debuts. I just want to know if it's good regardless of it being their first or their one-hundredth. :)

Kathryn Barker said...

Great post, Melissa. I know reviews are necessary, but I don't like to write them. Sorry. After reading your suggestions, I might try again, but I'm overly conscious that my opinion is really subjective. I think the love of books and food is similar...I love tea, the steeping, the aroma, the taste...but a coffee fanatic is unlikely to try a cuppa based on my impression of a Darjeeling.

Someone mentioned writing is tough, (oh, yeah!) and most authors work hard to birth their pride and joy. Who am I to say, "That's an ugly baby!"

I rarely read reviews. They confuse me!! I've made a few lousy purchases, but a review wouldn't have helped. Perhaps because my taste in reading is extremely eclectic and I don't stick to one genre, I don't know what I'm supposed to be looking for. I only know if I liked it or couldn't finish it. I rely on recommendations from my dear mother (87 years old and a prolific reader of varied genres), my daughter, a few friends, and Seekerville commenters. (I've come to trust Seekerville...thanks!)

Mary Curry...love your format for book reviews for fourth graders!

Happy Tuesday...

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra and Tracey, I agree. I see no purpose in smacking an author. If I can't give it at least a three (3), I just quietly walk away.

No one needs a Ruthy diatribe on anything. I do enough of that here!

And why deliberately hurt someone's feelings?

That's just not nice and every once in a while, I try to be nice! :)

Melissa, I love this conversation, I love Tina's treats, and I haven't seen pictures of the big boy toddler in a while. I miss him!



No, I just went and checked, PHEW!!!! :) Laughing!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, great post Melissa!! I've been guilty of some of those. But most of all I'm relieved that you've relieved some of my angst. I always have a hard time summarizing a story (it's as hard as writing a blurb!). So now I don't feel so bad about my reviews where I just stated my feelings about the story. :) I always thought I was doing a bad job! hahaha

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, and it's also the reason I love Goodreads. Because I can just give a star rating.

Melissa Jagears said...

Mary Hicks, YAY! Glad that you got the switching roles thing! I talk church financial jargon with the financial committee, but when I'm talking to others in the congregation about how the church's finances are going, I take a different approach. Still me, I just consciously take into mind who my audience is before I start talking. And I wish I was a "sweetheart" around the home, I'm a bit prickly.....

Tracey Hagwood said...

Kathryn Barker,

Lol, love your quote, "Who am I to say, That's an ugly baby". So funny, you made my day!

Melissa Jagears said...

Wilani, I've seen you reviewing all over the internet, thanks for doing that! And you are not doing something wrong being shorter than others, I think you're doing something right! That's what readers actually looking at reviews want! I too have seen the strange story craft jargon questions from Amazon and I looked and saw NO WHERE these answers are being displayed.....which made me wonder if it was their sneaky way of deciding if you are a writer....I'd continue to ignore it unless Amazon makes a case on why on earth they need that info or it becomes mandatory. At least that's what I'm going to do, because if the review isn't going to show the answer, what am I answering it for????

Missy Tippens said...

It's interesting to get the perspective of librarians about the debut thing. I usually like to know that. It makes it fun for me to know someone has made his/her first sale.

Missy Tippens said...

BTW, I LOVE reviews of my books no matter what type they are--reader, writer, long, short, good, not so good!!! Every single one is a blessing.

Janet Dean said...

Melissa, thanks for giving us lots to think about when giving reviews. Yes, I've used a few author terms, but not many, I hope! I will be aware to remember the point is to connect with readers, which is the wonderful point of this post. I've not been good writing reviews because I over think it and that takes a lot of time. So what that means is I'm judging my writing, instead of keeping it simple.

I don't care for reviews that retell the story. I want the reader's reaction, how the book made them feel, what they love about it. If the review sounds like a writer that's okay with me, but then, I'm a writer. LOL Still, if a writer loves a book, doesn't that carry some weight?


Melissa Jagears said...

Ruthy, and those type of reviews you just typed up would make me smile and get an idea of what kind of emotions I'll get out of reading it! That's a reader!

Tracey, I don't know why the long spoiler summary reviews get thumbs upped! I've recently got two or three that wrote out well....everything! I was like "if I read that before reading, there'd be no need to read my book anymore!" so yeah, the longer they are, the more likely they'll tell you more than you want to know, so those posts train you to skip over to the short ones. The short ones get read!

Vince said...

Hi Melissa:

I think I break every rule you have. I'd love to get your take on one of my very recent reviews for a book that just blew my socks off!

My view is that the reviewer should bring to the review the best of what they have to offer. Some readers can only bring personal reactions. Some have read over 1000 romances. If their reviews were basically the same, I'd think something important was missing.

Now for my review of "Justice Burning". How bad is it? I am willing to improve.

"Justice Burning" is the most Refreshing & Enjoyable New Romance I've read in Years!

Make no mistake about it, "Justice Burning," is unlike most other romances you'll find on the market today. While this story is a bonafide genre romance (with the kind of ending that delights romance fans), it reads like the most captivating action/mystery/adventures.

Honestly, I was not ready for the unfolding of this romance. The story opens like a Lee Child or David Baldacci action mystery. I was four chapters into the story, totally enjoying the expedience, when it occurred to me: 'shouldn't there be a heroine in here somewhere?'

Of course, as soon as it occurred to me that this was not a stock-genre romance opening. where the hero and heroine 'must' meet on the first page, presto: the heroine appears!

And what a heroine! I just fell in love with her.

I found that,"Justice Burning," delivered both mainstream excitement and unpredictability along with all the warm feelings you expect in a genre romance.

By 'mainstream' I mean genuine 'mainstream' elements. For example, there are at least four different points of view. That means there are scenes in which the hero and/or heroine do not appear. I've read over 1,500 romances and this is not typical in the standard romance novel. In fact, having scenes in which the two main characters don't appear allows the author to create a much richer reading experience. The writing in this full-bodied novel is much truer to real life than usually found in limited two person only POV fiction. I felt this difference right away because I read a lot of romances and mainstream fiction.

Also, in "Justice Burning", the plot is superbly worked out with a firm foundation for future developments that play fair with the reader and allow the story to end without any loose ends. The writing style is a refreshing delight to read. The author has a crisp new voice that I am sure will be enjoyed by her many new fans to come who will want to experience her fuller, less predictable, romantic reading experiences. At least, this has been my experience.

Wonderful book. I look forward to many more like this one!

I could not be happier that of all the books I could have bought (the cover captured my attention), I bought this one.

Justice Burning! A Joy to Read! 5 Stars!

BTW: I don't know this author except that she appeared on Seekerville and mentioned this was a debut book. I love reading debut books. I hope to find the next J. A. Jance or Nevada Barr and then follow her career for years.

Missy Tippens said...

You know, I've heard some conversation lately about reviews being taken down or not being posted because of a connection between the author and reviewer. I need to go see if any of mine have been taken down. (I haven't posted any in a long time!)

Janet Dean said...

Tina, I love the idea of Seekerbucks! Villagers who go above and beyond by reviewing the books they've won deserve some points.


Janet Dean said...

Mary C, tell us about your review of Tina's book. Please.


Melissa Jagears said...

Ruthy, that is weird! Why would running through a print edition make you lose all your reviews? I'd have questioned Amazon. But maybe it was because you should merge your paperback and kindle copies together on Amazon?

DebH, glad to make you feel better! And I start with the one stars too. Because, what can I say, I get a kick out of the grumpy sometimes? One of my one star reviewers can't take kitten jokes....KITTENS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER! :) And yeah, professional movie reviews are almost a guarantee that I'll feel the opposite.....back when I had time to watch movies....

Melissa Jagears said...

kaybee - "It's not talking down to them, it's talking TO them" Exactly! You're writing for a particular audience. You want them to read what you write, so give them what they want!

And hey, maybe I'm wrong about the debut thing. I don't mind seeing it on a blog focusing on book reviews. I mean, I expect Relz Reviews to know it's a debut, she's in the know, and I know she's in the know and yet I still follow her blog. But I guess on Amazon and other review places that I go to find READERS reviewing, that makes it suspect, and with all the other reviews to read, I can skip it for one that isn't suspect.

S. Trietsch said...

LOL! I skip the synopsis reviews too and I hate spoilers! I can read the back cover for an overview and I don't want to know what's going to happen!

I experienced the nicest review related surprise. I wrote a review on goodreads.com and received a thank-you from the author. Now, granted it may have been a standard message (though it did note a positive review which mine was) but I was startled by the 'recognition and thanks'. I visited her website and after reading a couple of blogs I signed up for her posting notices.

Thanks for sharing Melissa!


Melissa Jagears said...

Cindy, hey, I'm just glad you write reviews! :) But if you're seeking out professional like reviews, that's not a bad thing (As I said in the post, I'm not talking about reviews on book review blogs, etc) but if you go somewhere to find reader reviews (the best place to find them is at online stores where they sell the product) those that don't look like reader reviews will get skipped if that's what they're searching for.

Deanna, I think the publishers asks for longer reviews because they'd probably gotten short reviews like "I really enjoyed the book." Yeah.....that's not helpful, so if they can require some more words out of you, I think they're hoping the reviewer stumbles upon sharing something good. :) However, I've seen those reviewers SUMMARIZE the whole plot and then still say at the end "I really enjoyed the book. Thanks for the book publisher." :(

Keli Gwyn said...

Wow, Melissa! Your post came at just the right time. I finished a book last night that I read as an influencer and didn't know how to go about reviewing it. Thanks to you, I do now. I don't have to go all writerly. Instead I can have fun sharing my thoughts about a great story and not get carried away with craft. Yes, I'll admit it. I'm guilty of writing writer-style reviews in the past, but that is about to change, thanks to you. =)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Connealy not Curry. Safe in the Fireman's Arms.

Melissa Jagears said...

Pam, short reviews as tweet fodder! Good insight!

Mary Curry, I ignored the "don't write bad reviews" comments because I don't think what I'd say is popular, but I appreciate them. I too have read books with high praises and gone, "Am I the only weirdo who has no idea how anyone would give this more than 3 stars????" What I hope that means on really awful books is that readers who thought it was as bad as you, quit reading it and thought "I didn't finish so I can't review it" I see a LOT of reviewers taken to task for writing a review if they mention at all that they couldn't finish.....but if it's so bad you can't finish, that to me says something. However, as a writer, I don't leave 1 or 2 stars anymore (unless it's like on a classic where I know the author is dead) because I often know the people or might in the future, may come off as arrogant or boastful or sour grapes, or just because I am WAY MORE picky than I use to be as a reader-only person and I might be way more harsh than ever I was before. I only remember 3 books that I disliked enough not to finish when I was just a reader. Unfortunately, that's not the case anymore. :( But a few one and two stars don't kill it for me, all the best books have them!

Melissa Jagears said...

Myra, yes! I don't want to add my 1-2 star reviews because I hope enough reader only types will do so if it merits it. I know that I am not just a reader-only reviewer anymore and I KNOW that I rate books lower now than I did before I started writing. And yes, the one and two stars are good places to look if there is a bugaboo that you want to avoid. If a lot of them mention the book is steamy and you want to avoid steam, then that's where you'd get clued in on it. THOUGH if that's not a common thread through the majority of them, I'd not necessarily rule it out. There are reviewers out there that call your books soft porn just because your character has a thought about sex! So definitely don't take one person's word for it!

Tracey Hagwood said...

Okay TINA, you made me go look. I love Mary's review, all 25 words of it :)
In fact, if it'd would speed things up, I'd come help her too!

Melissa Jagears said...

Kaybee, you said you're doing professional reviews now? I think using debut in a professional review is just fine! and your example sounds very professional and yet is short and sweet, and tells me the story without spoilers. And I don't think you should be as a professional doing the visceral "this is how it touched me" kind of review, but you did put in some opinion "laughs and smart dialogue" and "skillfully and seamlessly explores these emotions" and "bubbly tale" that gives me an idea of the quality of the book. So I think it's good for the tone and audience it's supposed to reach. However, I have no idea how a book takes a reader into a "wider place" ..... I don't know what a wider place is so the end sort of just fizzled because I don't what that means for me to expect...

Julie Lessman said...

MELISSA SAID: "Mary, brevity is DEFINITELY what draws me."

Then tune in tomorrow, girl, because my blog subject is "The Beauty of Brevity."

And no wisecracks, please! ;)

I did the best I could ...


Sandy Smith said...

This was a most helpful post, Melissa. Thanks for the great suggestions on how to review. I have to confess that I am guilty of not writing many reviews for the Seeker books I have received and I feel bad about that. My problem has been I don't feel very competent at writing reviews. Therefore, it takes me a lot of time and I don't usually have much extra time. But I will try to do better. You gave some great tips. I am more likely to write short reviews, though. I'll try to make it more helpful. I have wondered how much summarizing of the story I should do so it is good to know that my own thoughts are most important.

I like to look at the reviews of a book that my book group reads which helps me find points to discuss. I usually look first at the 1 and 2 star reviews. I like to do that when there is something I disliked about a book to see if I was the only one. I agree that it doesn't make sense to write a trashy review just to be negative. So many times the reasons are just personal, such as they didn't like the fact that it had Christian elements. If someone just didn't like the theme or plot line, that is simply a personal opinion and has nothing to do with the quality of the book.

I have also noticed on Amazon that sometimes the reviews are not for the book itself, but the quality and condition of the actual book they received. If the book arrived all torn up, they give a negative review. Also, I was puzzled one time when I read a one star review by a lady who loved the book and wanted to read more in the series. I figured she must have thought one star was the best rating.

Please enter me in the drawing.

Melissa Jagears said...

Sherri, I agree, new writers are also rather giddy in all their new found writer knowledge that they just can't help themselves in pointing out all the flaws. :) Even if there aren't any per se, but more a "that's not how I'd write it" kinda way, like you said.

And yes, I think debuts that have had a lot of time to simmer and stew may be better than some following ones, but then, why assume that they can't get better? Maybe that book isn't one they've worked on for ten years, I certainly didn't work on any of mine for more than two, I listened to professional writers talk about their professional life and decided to train myself to keep up a production schedule similar to published authors because I wanted to be there some day and didn't want to die under the strain. So every year, I wrote one, planned one and edited one all at the same time in about 6-8 months so if I ever got that contract, I knew I could survive. Also a good way to rack up those "million words" you're supposed to get under your belt! :)

I guess when I say I don't like "debut" it's because I don't want to judge a book by where it comes out in the author's lineup, I think it deserves to be judged on its own merits as a story.

Melissa Jagears said...

Rachael, I agree, if you can find the gems of long opinion that don't spoil, those are great. They are also rare! I also agree that those 3 stars are the most impartial, they weren't so in love they couldn't see the cons, they weren't so in hate that they couldn't see the pros. And I like the thought of adding a bit of blurb if you thought the blurb provided was inaccurate or misleading.

Melissa Jagears said...

Caryl, authors love reviewers even if they aren't the best...it's better than being ignored! :) But being short in and of itself is not a bad thing. Droning on and on when you haven't anymore to say is!

Melissa Jagears said...

Mary Curry, I too made kids do book reviews instead of book reports! A much better learning experience anyway. Makes them think!

Sandy Smith said...

I wanted to add that I was interested to hear that 3 star reviews might be more helpful. My feeling in reviewing the Seeker books that I win is that I don't want to hurt feelings by not labeling a book a 5 or at least a 4.

Melissa Jagears said...

Julie, Um, yeah, If I saw Julie Lessman loves this book, I think your name alone would prompt me to like it.....so maybe once you get out of the lowly writer stage and become Julie Lessman you can write reviews however you want! ;)

I also agree, if I see that tornado shape on Amazon, I don't really need to read too many reviews. Maybe the one stars to see if there's something I don't like (or that I do!) and maybe some 3 stars if I'm on the fence after reading the excerpt. So, just because some of the reviews aren't the greatest in regards to getting readers to read it they are VERY IMPORTANT DEBRIS IN MAKING UP THE all-important AMAZON TORNADO!

As for being bolder and more unique.....I think you just called me weird. LOL!

Sandy Smith said...

What is the Amazon tornado?

Melissa Jagears said...

Kathryn, you don't have to write the most awesomest review ever, but it's lovely to get more reviews because the more reviews the more readers see that the book is actually being read! That's important! And reviews are totally subjective, that's okay, I want to know what it did for YOU anyway!

Melissa Jagears said...

There is no way I'd unfriend you Ruthy! Check out my FB cover photo, scroll one back from the swing picture and you get to see my toddler's handsome cheekies! Oh wait, I'll just go tag you!

Melissa Jagears said...

Missy, so glad to relieve your angst, throw summarizing to the wind!

Janet, YES YES YES. The point is to connect with readers. Forget about how your writing comes across, tell them what they want to know. What would you have wanted to know about that you'll get out of this book before you read it that would have made you purchase or move it to the top of the TBR pile? That's all they want to know! And as I made mention with someone up there that said "I made mention that it kept my interest when it's very hard to do now that I'm a writer" that IS a reader review. So yes, if a writer has a EMOTIONAL reaction and love for a book, that's wonderful. But if they just come across as they're trying to dissect their comparables as a writer that's different, nuanced different, but different. In my opinion anyway.

Melissa Jagears said...

Stephanie, that reach out by the author is nice isn't it! A good interaction with an author can really color how you see them......which makes meeting readers in person all the more scary for me, I am not a good people meeter. But I'm good online, so I'm all good with the social media thing.

So I apologize in advance for all readers/writers who meet me at conference and leave wondering what planet I'm from....

Melissa Jagears said...

You said, "Instead I can have fun sharing my thoughts about a great story and not get carried away with craft." PERFECT! If you're having fun sharing about the story, I'm having fun reading it!

Mary Connealy's review:
5LOVED this book!
ByMary Connealyon June 29, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Radcliffe can't write fast enough to suit me. I should offer to come to her house and cook and clean so she can write FASTER

Doesn't that just make you smile! :) See I smiley emoticoned, it was necessary.

Melissa Jagears said...

Sandy Smith, you're going to get a lot of disagreement on 3 stars....not many authors like them because they think it's a failure. Obviously don't give them a three star just to get into the three star zone, but if you'd truthfully give them a three star and you can write your review nice and politely, it's not going to hurt. Readers look at them, I do! That's usually were I find the best overall picture.

What I'm calling the Amazon tornado is the visual bar graph you see at the top of the reviews. If it doesn't look top heavy and turn spindly at the bottom, that clues me in to there is likely a problem. If a book has 50 one stars, that might not actually be that bad if it had 2000 five stars, it still looks like a nice proportionate tornado at a glance, like most other well written books. But if the Amazon rating bar graph tuns into a wide hipped woman, then you've likely got problems.

Melissa Jagears said...

Julie, I said a prayer for your brevity post on the weekend edition comment section. :)

Melissa Jagears said...

Sandy Smith, just saw your other comment. I'm so glad you feel more equipped to write a review, yes, your opinion is MOST important. And I LOVE the thought of getting book club questions from reviews. I often go read them after a book to see what I didn't see or if anyone saw what I did. Good discussion fodder!

And yeah, there are some crazy reviews on Amazon sometimes. I think sometimes they might be writing on a mobile device and mess up the stars and don't realize it and never go back to look at what they put up. And the book condition reviews annoy me to no end! Crazy people.

Jan Christiansen said...

Great post! Will have to keep this in mind when I do my next review. Thanks, Melissa.

Sarah Claucherty said...

Tina, SeekerBucks!! Fantastic idea, my dear Seeker!

Julie, I'm looking forward to your post this week! Brevity, huh? Should be interesting and wonderfully quirky ;)

Melissa, thanks for the reviewing post! Great tips and thoughts, especially since I j recently started a book review blog. Not published myself, but hoping to be sometime in the future, and I love sharing my perspective and reviews with whatever audience may wander into my blog. :)

I like writing a little longer than 2 sentences in a review, though they vary in length frequently! I include my thoughts, a recommendation of who would enjoy or not like it, etc. I skip reading ones with spoilers or a lot of story summary, and I like ones with honest opinions and little to no hyperbole or ranting. (3-4 star reviews are often the most calm writers with valid points, though I do check the numbers of higher ratings for whether a book has a lot of supporters.)

Thanks Melissa!

Sarah Claucherty said...

I bow to the snarky gifs :) Singing in the Rain!! Mary Poppins!!

Melissa Jagears said...

Vince, this is a professional sounding review that I would expect up in the editorial reviews part of Amazon. That's where I'd look for this sort of thing, or on a review blog that's geared toward writers, but if I saw it in the customer review area I'd skip it. Length for one and because you sound in the know on how to write and like a professional critic.

If it were me, (which is the only way I can give out an opinion, right? :) I'd not want to spend anymore time writing a review for Amazon since I'm sure that review took you quite a bit of your time, and I want to save you time to get to your fiction writing, yet still put out a review in the customer section that might get read by readers wanting to know what's in it for them......

Think of it in Vince terms. Rewards per Page is your term, yes? Let's call this, Promises per Sentence. What can you promise readers will get if they pick up this book? How many of those promises can you pack into a few sentence? Make it short so it "packs a punch."

Promises being things like quality, what kind of emotional ride, favorite tropes, appropriate/inappropriate topics, hot button issues, how the book leaves you feeling, etc. Look at the list I got from the readers group.

So, me wanting to get you back to fiction writing, I'd take your professional review and whittle it down to what a reader wants to know about THEMSELVES (what they're going to get out of it, not how the story is crafted so they'll get what they get.)

Okay, Blogger says I'm too long, so look for the next comment for the splicing and dicing!

Melissa Jagears said...

So I'd cut it to this for online reviews, this is what I was interested in as a reader:

"Justice Burning" is the most Refreshing & Enjoyable New Romance I've read in Years!

While this story is a bonafide genre romance, it reads like the most captivating Lee Child or David Baldacci action/mystery/adventures. It's fuller (since you can see the story from more viewpoints than just the hero and heroine), less predictable, but still warmly romantic! The writing style is crisp and new. I fell in love with the heroine because.....(TELL ME WHY VINCE! I want to know if this is the kind of heroine I will fall in love with too!) The story ends without any loose ends.

See here is the list of promises you packed into 5 sentences. (AND I'm not having you to pretend to be anyone else, just you, narrowed down, focusing on this particular audience. And giving them as many promises as possible in just a few sentences.)



"in years" - makes me think it's going to be better than what's been out for years, so high quality.

"genre romance" - If I hate or love genre romance, you told me right there.

"captivating" - means I won't want to put it down

"Lee Childs or Baldacci" - This means nothing to me now (it may mean something to others), but if I choose to read this book and LOVE it, I'll come back to see these other two names again and want to kiss you for pointing me to other books like this.

"action/mystery/adventure" - again, genre preference for me will dictate whether or not I'll likely like this.

"fuller with more (POV)s" - I took POVs out of the actual review because not all readers will understand that, but they do know if the story is told by one or more characters. And some readers that love genre romance are NOT going to like multiple POVs, some will, so you told me that.

"less predictable"

"warmly romantic"

"writing style is crisp"

"I love the heroine for XYZ" - ONCE you add this, then it's a promise. Is she spunky and sassy and ahead of her time, that appeals to one reader, is she the Proverbs 31 woman with few flaws and a lot of faith, that will appeal to another... is she a maverick, a steady rock for the hero, the most intelligent character you've come across in a long time, or what????

"no loose ends" - so people who don't want a cliffhanger get there answer here.

That there just packed your 13 promises of what THEY will get into 6 sentences!

Bettie said...

Thanks for the helpful information. I've never done a review before. Guess I'll have to give it a try. Please enter my name for either book.

Melissa Jagears said...

Sarah, I agree the 3-4 star people are the calmest ones. :) And two sentences is quite short, I didn't say two sentences did I?........Oh good, I said two paragraphs, 5-15 sentences range is probably really good. That no hyperbole is a good rule too! I should've included it! :)

Melissa Jagears said...

Oh Bettie, I can't wait to have you do your first review! The author will love you, it's so hard to get them, and when all you have to do is tell me how the book made you feel and what fun stuff I can expect from it, it's not that hard! No book report needed!

Kathryn Barker said...

Ok...I've had a change of heart. My eyes have been opened. My feeling about reviews is modified. I'm a convert! Thanks, Melissa Jagears for your response to my comment...I never thought about "more reviews means the book is being read." And I never really thought an author was "interested in what a book did for me."

Love Keli Gwyn's idea of "have fun sharing my thoughts about a great story." A Mary Connealy style review is definitely a lesson in brevity is beautiful!

Thank you, Tracey Hagwood...it's good to laugh once or twice a day! LOL

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie is writing the "Beauty of Brevity"?

An epiphany, mayhap????

Becky Dempsey said...

I think I might do a combination of a writer/reader review. I usually copy and paste from my blog onto Amazon. I didn't think about cutting out the little description of the book. I will do that from now on!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Melissa, I brought sweet tea for the teeming masses, yearning to be free!!!

And fresh cinnamon cookies, in keeping with the theme, although it is National Strawberry Sundae Day.

I'm just sayin'!

Debby Giusti said...

Interesting post. Thanks for the review tips. I've been clueless about what works and what doesn't. Hate to say that I put off reading reviews...although I appreciate everyone who has left a review for one of my books. Maybe I'm a bit fearful of what folks will say. :)

Glad you mentioned that a reviewer does not need a plot summary. Hate spoilers too!

Now, I'm headed off to Amazon to read reviews. I'll know what to look for and who's a writer and who's not. Very insightful, Melissa!

I've been out of town and trying to catch up. Doing laundry. Grocery shopping this AM. Why is coming home so much work?

Watermelon at Kroger for 99 cents. Who wants a slice?

Melissa Jagears said...

I have a convert??? I feel all important and stuff now!

Yes, part of getting reviews is just a simple show that more than family and coworkers have been forced to read the book! You can have all 5 stars, but if there are only 5 of them, I'm going to be more leery of that book than if a book has 5 one stars but plenty of 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s to go with it. Then I know that it's gotten out into the world! The more star ratings, the more readers who found it worthwhile to read through and the less likely they were forced by the author to read it. :)

Melissa Jagears said...

Becky, thank you for reviewing! And yes, a simple delete of your book description summary will up your chances of not being skimmed over for another review!

Melissa Jagears said...

Oh, I figured if anyone comes back to read my nattering, you should check out one of my absolute favorite book reviewers.

They're a bit longer than the two paragraphs I recommend, but part of the fun is her "voice" as she reviews.
The Historical Christian Romance Review

kaybee said...

MELISSA, Thank you for your review of my review.
By "professional" I meant that other writers are asking me to review their books. That's all. My friend Clarice asked me for 75 words and I obliged.
Thank you for these tips, I will definitely be using them.

Melissa Jagears said...

kaybee, I think you could loosen up some more then, esp if you're going on to Amazon and B&N etc. Wiggle those shoulders and blow out a breath, put on a smile and tell people what they're going to be rewarded with if they read this book! If you're not as thrilled about the book, you can still tell them what they'll get. Negatives can even be told nicely:

"Though there were some editing issues that confused me occasionally, I loved that the heroine did this and this" (Couch it in that dependent clause, that flaw didn't ruin everything, and yet you warned them of the flaw"

"This romance is very light, not much physical contact or emotional love talk or thinking, but you're happy they end up together" See, to me, that means I'll pass up that book, especially if I'm looking for a romance read, BUT there are others that would Zoom in on that one because that's what they want. But I didn't say that I hated the book for being so, I just told the reader what kind of romance they'll get with this one.

Sherida Stewart said...

Melissa, I'm so guilty of almost all of these.....except I haven't included spoilers.

And yes, I used debut in my review of your first book.....but it was at the end. :) I just get so excited when authors publish their first novel!...but that must be the writer in me.

Thanks for the good advice on how to make my reviews more reader-friendly.

Dana R. Lynn said...

OOps, guess I have been told! Seriously, this is very helpful.

I would like to be added in for the giveaways. So I just comment, right? :)

Vince said...

Hi Melissa:

I think you're a genius!
I totally agree with your editing of my review. Also I should have said why I loved the heroine. (She was my type but I didn't think that would carry over to women readers.) However, I was so taken by the unique approach to writing this novel that I short-changed areas that are usually better covered in a review.

I really like the idea of telling the reader about the many potential rewards of reading this book. I was trying to get those rewards included -- you just did it a lot more efficiently.

I'll cut and paste your revision and try to implement your suggestions on my next review.

BTW: I love prairie books! My last one was “His Beloved Bride” by Ruth in the "With This Kiss" historical collection. Maybe I could practice a new style review on one of your prairie books. Which would you recommend?


Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

On a Potential Review Problem

I thought that print editions and Kindle editions shared each other's reviews. I'm sure I've seen the same review on both versions of some books; however, the reviewer might have posted separately to each in those cases.

So what I did was find my old review of "Winter's End" and post it, with slight additions, to the Kindle version on Amazon. I quickly received an email saying it was posted. However, when I went to Amazon -- it was not posted.

I went back to my email and hit the link to my review and it took me to the review on Amazon but that review seems to be only accessible by the link they sent me.

Would you check out your reviews on "Winter's End" and see if you can see my review? I'm thinking maybe if you've once reviewed the paper copy, any attempt to post it on Kindle will be sent to the paper copy. Of course now the paper version is not up any longer so my review may have been sent to Limbo.

BTW: the link I received was:


and it takes me to the review dated today.

Wow! I had not read this review since 2010 and it is shocking! "Winter's End" was very different. I was not prepared for Ruthian Romantic Reality. (Today I look for it.) Perhaps you don't want it up with your Kindle reviews. Let me know. I call it my '5-star tough love' review. We could always leave it in Limbo.: )

Vince said...

News of Reviews!

I received an email notice today from Amazon saying that my pre-ordered copy of "Viking Gold" was just released and I could download my Kindle version! This is by a good friend of Seekerville, L.A. Sartor, so I downloaded my copy hoping to be able to place the first review.

But no!

Audra had already posted a review! That's another sign of a friend or author. The review is posted the day the book is released. And a verified review at that. Excellent!

Also Audra's review of "Viking Gold" seems to meet Melissa's review criteria to perfection.

And yes, I have already clicked the 'yes' button saying the review was helpful to me. It was. It makes me want to go back to Norway!

Melissa Jagears said...

Glad you liked my edit of your review. It's saying the same things, but I wouldn't have skipped over it as a reader. And as long as your type is beyond "blond hair blue eyes" describe her character and then we'll know if your type is our type. Of course from a female reader perspective it's a touch different, but we have our favorite kind of heroine characters too.

Which book of mine to recommend? Gosh, I don't know. The novella is free and the 2014 Carol Award winner. Love by the Letter

Walt Mussell said...


How can you not like WWII where every woman looks like Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) or one of those amazing 40s pin-ups dressed like USO show girls in red, white, and blue? (Maybe a little sexist. :-) )

I was upset when I saw that Amazon announcement, as I try to write reviews when I can, and I've started paying particular attention to reviews in my genre. I do know a few of the authors out there writing Asian fiction (from an online group called Authors of Asian Fiction) and one of my reviews for author Jeannie Lin did disappear from Amazon. I hope it doesn't keep happening. The reason I started focusing on reviews for Asian fiction is that, at least from a you tube video I saw, is that writing reviews in your genre gets your name connected when people do searches on genre. It also helps to promote the genre.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Announcement:For those who do not understand my humor. Seekerbucks was a joke. I don't have extra time to create a monetary system and open ATM's for Seekerville. Maybe the next generation can aspire to creating a unified country called Seekerville the Kingdom.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Some of the best reviewers (and not just because they loved our "With This Kiss" collections) I've worked with are Noela Nancarrow, Bonnie Roof and Carrie Fancett Pagels on their Overcoming With God blog.

Those women not only read the books/stories/novellas, they write beautifully woven reviews and then do giveaways on their blog AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE.

Honestly, they're not only talented writers themselves, they're loving, giving people with a great blog. Overcoming With God Blog

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love Melissa's bio. (Talking like she isn't in the room). And she has a bossiness and snark twin too.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And I don't mean me or Ruthy..I mean her CP.

Tanya Agler said...

Melissa, I had never thought about reviews sounding like an author wrote them before. I went back and looked at some I've posted (all prior to the summer, I can't seem to do a lot of social media when the kids are home for summer). I think I've broken everything you've said. My reviews tend to be long, I did use the word debut, and I have warned that I was about to spoil something. I also noticed I was a little too snarky. So it was a good thing I read this so I went back and looked at what I've written because I hope to write more reviews when the kids return to school.

Thanks for the post because I definitely needed some review pointers.

Patricia W said...

Lack of time was one reason I stopped reviewing books, but clearly deep down, I knew the reviews weren't quite right. I'm happy I fixed some of the things mentioned here, but sadly, a few never occurred to me. If I ever review again, I'll remember this post. Fantastic!

Patricia W said...

Lack of time was one reason I stopped reviewing books, but clearly deep down, I knew the reviews weren't quite right. I'm happy I fixed some of the things mentioned here, but sadly, a few never occurred to me. If I ever review again, I'll remember this post. Fantastic!

Melissa Jagears said...

Walt, yes, lets build up our genres! So sorry your review was taken down, stink.

And I think WWII just feels too modern for this historical reader, there's airplanes in it. And I knew people who fought in that war, so I know Vietnam isn't "historical enough" to be historical, but for me, WWII isn't historical enough.

Melissa Jagears said...

But Tina, I have a stack of Seekerbucks already. I just accepted them from Vince as payment for editing his review. Are you telling me you aren't going to honor them?

Melissa Jagears said...

Patricia, I hope you start reviewing again, a few paragraphs, short and sweet doesn't take to much time. If it feels too hard or is extremely time-consuming, stop and reassess, you're probably doing it wrong. :) (Unless it's a professional review, I'd hope that takes a bit more thought though.)

Melissa Jagears said...

I agree Ruth, those OWG girls are awesomely sweet!

Vince said...

Was it P. T. Barnum who said: "There's a Seeker born every minute" or was that T. Russo? I get them mixed up. : )

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOLOL. Vince!!!!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I will honor them. Trade for chocolate.

Heidi Robbins said...

Thanks for the great reviewing advice! When I look back on the first review I wrote on my blog I have to laugh :) I love the animated gifs!!! Now I will waste a few hours I'm sure looking for some favorites...

Please enter me for The Convenient Bride Collection (already have your other book!) Thanks!

Julie Lessman said...

MELISSA SAID: "Julie, Um, yeah, If I saw Julie Lessman loves this book, I think your name alone would prompt me to like it.....so maybe once you get out of the lowly writer stage and become Julie Lessman you can write reviews however you want! ;)"

Aw, that is really nice of you, Melissa, and I kind of wish it were true, but unfortunately I consider myself still IN the "lowly writer stage," which is a pretty great place to be, actually, because God exalts the humble, right???

You also said: "As for being bolder and more unique.....I think you just called me weird. LOL!"

LOL ... nope, just special! ;)


July 7, 2015

Julie Lessman said...

MELISSA ALSO SAID: "Julie, I said a prayer for your brevity post on the weekend edition comment section. :)"

LOL ... thanks, sweetie, but I think God was taking a nap when you asked, as you'll see when you check my post out. :)

SARAH SAID: "Julie, I'm looking forward to your post this week! Brevity, huh? Should be interesting and wonderfully quirky ;)"

Thanks, Sarah, hopefully so because it sure ain't brief ... ;)

RUTHY SAID: "Julie is writing the "Beauty of Brevity"?
An epiphany, mayhap????

LOL, no, Ruthy, a joke, which you'll see tomorrow. I tried, honestly, but I just couldn't do it ... ;)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Laughing at Seekerville the Kingdom.

Vince, I wonder if your playing initiated something, or what, because when I went back to Amazon, the print edition (and the reviews) was there. It had been a few weeks, and I'd only noticed incidentally... but I wonder how that all came down?

And I love that first review, I felt your AGONY FROM YOUR TOES, LOL! I'm still chuckling over it.

Have you ever noticed I don't use chuckle or gasp in my books, unless it's in abstract or extremely rare? And my characters never whirl.

There are some commonly used romance words that I never touch because they make a book feel intrinsically like a romance novel.

And if someone sighs in my books... I usually punch them.

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

This morning I went back to Kindle "Winter's End" page and my review was up!. I can't get to the print page anymore because when I hit 'other formats', Kindle is the only option now. But the review is up. Strange: when I could not find my review yesterday it said that you have seven reviews. Then today when my review is up it still says you have seven reviews. I've never tried to put a review on both Kindle and print before. Maybe that should be done from now on.

Come to think of it, Amazon may have to keep the print and Kindle reviews separate. I reviewed a book that was fine in the print and all scrambled up in the Kindle. It seems the author did the Kindle formatting poorly and all the many footnotes were placed right in the middle of the text and the Kindle version was almost unreadable. Also Kindle graphs and charts are very often so poor and light printed, as to be useless. Those comments might hurt the print sales.

Do you think Amazon really does know what they are doing? : )

Perhaps we need an old review reclamation project.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Melissa, thank you so very much for this. Ugh. I've been doing it all wrong and they were taking up so much writing time that I was procrastinating. You're a wonder!

Dana McNeely said...

What a helpful post and a lot of fun comments, although so MANY, I had to skip probably half of them. Mainly because I had to go find Mary C's review of Tina's "Safe in the Fireman's Arms". Here it is:

Radcliffe can't write fast enough to suit me. I should offer to come to her house and cook and clean so she can write FASTER

Love it! She's in such a hurry to get back to Tina's book that she can't even be bothered with a period at the end of the sentence! Totally Writer Incognito! :)

Ginger Solomon said...

I don't get over here to Seekerville often (it comes to my inbox for ease of reading), but I wanted to stop by today and thank you, Melissa, for this insightful article. I'm guilty of a few of these, but I HATE, HATE, HATE long reviews, which are mostly a retelling of the story. *Pet peeve*

Now on to write two reviews and make them sound reader authentic. ;)

Angela D. Meyer said...

Great post, Melissa! Thank you.

I have a stack of books I'm behind on reviewing. But now that I have permission to post a short reader review - it should be much easier to get to them! On my to-do list I often refer to them as book responses instead of reviews - that is more in line with what you're saying, so I guess I'm on track - at least in my head.

Someone pass the Chai Tea...or is there any left, Tina?

Melissa Jagears said...

Anita Mae, procrastinate no longer! I hope this makes it nice and simple and quick for you!

Dana, I like how you point out that her missing period is her "disguise" ha! No need for disguise though, right? We're all readers first and foremost!

Ginger, I feel special to bring you out of your feed and onto the web for me!

Angela, Permission for short reader review granted. Book responses is really a good term for what readers are looking for, at least I think so!

susanlower said...

Guilty, innocently so. I'm not one for long reviews, I like short and to the point. I appreciate you sharing these insights, it makes us stop and have to switch from our "writing" hat to our "reader" hat. I only wish I had more time to read more books.

Michelle F. said...

I have one of your books and would love to win another. Sometimes I like to read reviews after I finish a book so then I know exactly what they were talking about. I just skim reviews. I choose books to read based on excerpts.

Iola Goulton said...

I'm a reader-reviewer who commits three out of your five sins.

My reviews are rarely verified purchases, because I get review copies from NetGalley or Litfuse to review on my blog ... which is why I include things like a book description, it being the third in a series but can be read as a standalone.

And I write longish reviews because the blogger programmes (e.g. Litfuse or Blogging for Books) require at least 200 words excluding the description. As you say, this is a lot easier for books I didn't like.

Shirley Connolly said...

This was perfect! I don't often take the time to read these that come through to my Author's Page on Facebook, but my curiosity got a hold of me because of the subject. Your sharing the differences in the reviews certainly hit home; I feel the same way. If a review comes through from a REVIEWER, i.e., The Romance Studio or wherever, it is understandable that that reviewer would go into more detail. But when the reviews come from the average reader whose grabbed the book, I expect to read simple phrases. "This was so good. I can't wait to tell the others in my book club about (such n such). It's a story I won't soon forget" or whatever. Thanks for sharing your insights about online reviews. I'll just bet there will be more of my readers and friends who will stop and read your article when they come by my author page! Shirley Kiger Connolly