Compared to a play or concert, a novel can give us three times as many hours of entertainment, at a third or less of the cost. At the end of a show, we spend 5 minutes either clapping politely or stamping and cheering; shouldn’t we do at least as much for a novel we’ve just enjoyed? We can. It’s called writing an Amazon review.
We can, but only a tiny percentage of us ever do – and even these wonderful people (ahem) let good books go by un-applauded. Why?
- “I’ve left it too long, and now can’t think what to write.” (Uh, this is me)
So write less! It’s better than nothing. Guilt: how could I not leave a review for Tony Parker’s Lighthouse? Invaluable research, and I adored it. [Spends 5 minutes giving it a short but heartfelt 5-star review]
- “It was only OK. Nothing wrong with it, just not my thing.”
But it might be someone else’s; they need to know about it. Give 3 stars and get on with it. The writer won’t mind; Amazon works in weird ways, giving a book with fifty 3-star reviews more visibility than one with ten 5-star reviews.
I usually save 1 or 2 star reviews for electric blankets, but once in a while I feel the need to share that a hyped-up novel was a massive disappointment.
- “I didn’t buy the book from Amazon.”
It doesn’t matter, you just need to have spent at least £40 through your Amazon account. Nice try.
- “I don’t know how.”
Meaning, “I don’t want to look thick among the blogger/author/pro reviewers.”
Do a refreshingly minimalist one then, or see REVIEW PLAN below.
- “NO, I REALLY DON’T KNOW HOW.”
Good grief. OK, here goes:
Click: the book -> Customer Reviews -> Write a Review.
Click on the stars. Careful – it’s amazing how many people dither here and end up writing a glowing but ONE star review.
In Write Your Review, say what you liked / didn’t like in anything between 1 sentence or a mini essay (see below). The Headline for Your Review can be a phrase you’ve just used. Press SUBMIT. DONE!
PLAN for the perfect Amazon/Waterstones/Goodreads review (IMHO):
- 1-2 sentence intro. Perhaps what attracted you to the book, and your overall gut reaction.
- A brief summary of what it’s about, without spoilers (I once had a reviewer give a detailed account of my entire plot AND subplot). Crib from blurb.
- What you liked and didn’t like – rather than how you ‘just couldn’t put it down’, or – my pet hate – found it ‘a really good read’ (like a bed is a really good sleep). How about the writing? Story? Characters? Setting? You’re not writing a bloody English essay, so not all of these, just whatever sticks out.
- Try to remember that the review isn’t about you (so what if you usually read dystopia?) or the author (and how she taught you GCSE English in a decade that she’s now claiming to have been born in). It’s about helping your fellow readers decide whether it’s the book for them. Hopefully widening the readership for the author – who has spent a year or more writing the novel when not at work, mopping up pet/adolescent spillages or doing her multi-profession tax accounts.
- I like to add little quotes from the book to give people a flavour. For example, reviewing Avril Joy’s Sometimes a River Song, I put ‘Despite the ever-present sense of danger, there are plenty of moments in which ‘my heart felt warm as a new laid chicken egg.’’
- A final comment, perhaps saying who might enjoy it. For example, ‘even those with just a passing interest in lighthouse keepers – or human beings in general – will find this fascinating, entertaining and moving.’
OK, this kind of review takes a little longer. But sometimes you want to do a standing ovation.