As an indie author, one of my most time consuming activities when trying to avoid writing is reading reviews for books I’ll never read. This might seem like a futile activity, but I like to think it gives me an idea of what readers are looking for, it allows me to avoid common pitfalls of writing a specific genre, or, failing those, it at least entertains me for a couple minutes. The latter is provided by what the internet seems to be best at doing: exposing me to the nuts out there and the stuff they want everyone to read.
In short, in the place of the three extra books I could’ve written during the time I procrastinate is up-until-now useless knowledge about what makes a reasonable book review.
Book review writing is difficult. I had a brief stint being active on Goodreads, and I wrote a few reviews. They’re shit. And not horseshit, which is almost pleasant when encountered on some country road, but the type of shit you might encounter in some inner-city back alley, which you can’t, to a reasonable degree of scientific accuracy, tell whether it came from man or dog. I totally understand that without the shit reviews out there, customers wouldn’t be able to make pseudo-informed choices about the books they buy. If only qualified people wrote book reviews, I wouldn’t have any, and I wouldn’t even sell the meager number of books I do. But what I don’t understand are reviews that fail on some basic level. Not able to articulate why the story about that wizard gave you a semi but you stated it anyway? That’s cool with me. But what I can’t forgive is writing a review that doesn’t meet the four requirements below. Book Review Writing 101 – shoot for horseshit, not human or dog shit.
When writing a book review, you should ensure:
- Your star rating is justified by your review
Along with writing the shit you write, you’ll be required to give the book a star rating. It’s important to make sure that if you, say, give it a three-star rating, you make sure you articulate to a reasonable degree of clarity why you knocked two stars off. I received the below review on Smashwords. It’s my first and only one on there. I appreciate her taking the time to write it. It’s a favorable review, but I can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t at least four stars.
Till the day I die, I’ll always wonder why baseball team A never won the Wold Series, how political party C made such a mess of country B, and why, despite my book being very entertaining, I didn’t inspire this reader to press that sweet five-star button.
2. You finish the book before writing a review
A book isn’t like a plate of food. You can’t take one bite and decide you don’t like it, unless that one bite was riddled with objective errors, like the chef used piss to thin out his sauce instead of water. Confused metaphor aside, if you don’t finish a book you’ve failed to attain the primary qualification for reviewing said book: you didn’t read the frickin’ thing.
When I go to my dentist, she doesn’t lean over, exposing her cleavage a little, and take one look at a molar and give me a clean bill of dental health. She looks at all of my teeth and then decides, based on the cleanliness of each individual tooth, that I do a bang-up job of brushing my teeth. I’m also a pretty decent flosser, but that is neither relevant nor contributes to the metaphor.
3. You don’t assume everyone has the same reading tastes as you
It may sound simple, but people like different stuff. While I’m not a fan of hotdogs, I quite like burgers. Some people watch football on a Saturday afternoon; I prefer to watch movies. The below review can be read in two ways. He could either be defining my target demographic somewhat or he could be saying that, because it features the subject matters stated below, the book is objectively bad. The fact that he gave it two stars seems to suggest the latter. I don’t like posing for pictures with a dog that looks suspiciously like me, but it’s not to say it’s an objectively bad pastime.
4. You know what type of book you’re reviewing
When reviewing a book, it’s important to know what category or subcategory the book falls into. You’d come across as a bit of a doofus if you wrote a review for Sharknado 3: The Third One based on its merits as a serious natural disaster movie. Equally, you’d come across as a doofus, at least in this humble author’s opinion, if you wrote a review of a comic mystery book (aka, bumbling detective) and you reviewed it based on its merits as an example of “noir detective fiction,” which is incidentally a non-existent, paradoxical subcategory, as I pointed out in a previous blog post.
That’s all I’ve got, which is to say it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m going to watch a movie while eating a burger. If you’re on the way to a football game and have a hankering for a hotdog, go fuck yourself. What you like is obviously shittier than what I like.
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The first in my series of comic mystery novels is perma-free on Amazon.com. Check it out here.
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