After I stepped into the writing world, I learned a huge number of things about the industry, the authors, Amazon and… reviews. I spent hours browsing for my peers’ work, reading review after review, and honestly, most of the time, I felt kind of confused and with a single question dancing in my head:
Why do you summarize the story in the review?
Do you think that’s how it’s done?
Did some crazy writer tell you ‘please, just summarize my story in a few lines, I want my readers to know what they’re getting themselves into’?
I love my reviews, both public and private, and I love talking about what people liked or didn’t like about my book. But you know, so do other authors. They know the story, they want to know what people think. And everywhere I turn, there’s a “Well, this is a story about a girl who loses her job, her friends, her cat and she also likes apple juice. Also, when she was young she had a pet turtle named Robespierre but little did she know that Robespierre was actually an enchanted beast who’s an enchanted prince. Also no spoilers, but I wanna know if those two people no one ever guessed would end up together, will they get married? No spoilers though!’
For the love of God, stop. That’s NOT a review. What happened to “Enchanting and captivating, the story encompasses so many things, I found my whole life in there” or “Mellow and boring, but that’s forgivable if i think about how many times I laughed out loud“, or even “This is bad writing and the story is rather predictable, but I guess two stars will suffice“?
What business is it of yours to retell the story, dancing around spoilers?
There are certain rules when writing a review, and not ones invented by me, but how I’ve seen it done in world-renowned magazines, papers and media in general. Maybe do the following:
1. Say how it made you feel.
Did you cry? Did you laugh? Were you bored like hell? Does the book practically scream that the writer is stupid? Or is it the best book you’ve read in the past ten years? See, this won’t let you say that Laurie and Robespierre the ex-turtle ended up together.
2. How would you describe the main character?
Is she/he so you? Deep? Shallow? Believable? Astonishingly crafted? Annoyingly predictable? Because, be careful, if you say ‘Awesome’, it would be nice to say why. Unless the book is so super-awesome, no other word can describe it.
3. Why should we read the book?
Yeah, really, why? Tell us! We shouldn’t? Why shouldn’t we? Do you know that you can change someone’s life by recommending a book? You can. Because books teach you stuff, and you can tell us what it taught you.
4. Are the supporting characters strong enough?
Do they enrich the story? Do they make the story? Do you want to know more about them? Do we?
5. How is it (not) different from others in its genre?
Unique and unexpected, or same old-same old? True, it seems like most of the characters and situations repeat in every genre, but why was this one special? Or, did it bother you at all that it was the same like the last 17 mystery-thrillers you’ve read?
Do tell if there are production/editing errors. We would cringe, yes, but we’ll re-read it that same evening with a magnifying glass, and we’ll improve it. You’ll be a hero and you’ll be able to take dip in our pool when we’re totally rich and famous (but no). And even if you’re doing it to be mean and go ‘fuck you, you error-making, self-published shit‘ and list all of the imperfections, you’re actually helping us, so that’s gonna be a little bit in your face.
And if someone writes, or has written a review like the one I invented up there, OF COURSE I still love you, babe ❤ . And I appreciate the time you spent reading my baook. I’m just saying, don’t tell people that Robespierre is a prince. Tell us how you felt about it.
P.S. The book about Robespierre the turtle is of non-existent nature.