This post has to be directed correctly, so I’ve split it by subtitles. There may be some duplication, in thought principle at least, between the two parts, and I hope you’ll permit me those, in this instance.
So you’ve read that book. I acknowledge that the sense of accomplishment in dong so varies from reader to reader. Some may be speed readers, consuming books at a rate that I could never comprehend. Some may be like me, digesting each sentence like a meal for the mind, making slow, gentle progress. Many more will fall between these two extremes. Nor would I wish to ignore those readers who must battle some impediment to their reading. To these last, the greatest respect must be given!
Now, with the book closed for the final time (for now, at least), the question is: what do you do next? DO you set it aside and take up some new book? It’s a simple thing to do. You’ve drawn your pleasure from that collection of words and, like an empty bag of sweets, the remains can be discarded. But wait. Ask yourself just one question: did you enjoy it? Having considered your answer, is it overly demanding of the author to ask you to let them know? All that’s really required is a few words about what pleasure you derived from the book, or not! If you expand upon the simplest answer, explaining how you reached your reaction, then that’s even better. You really don’t have to go into things too deeply. A review can be anything you like, though something a little more expansive than “I liked this book” or “I hate this book” takes your response out of “yes/no” and into a more genuine review.
I admit that there are numerous guidelines floating about the internet, exhorting reviewers to follow a particular format in their reviews. Of course, the formats being put forward vary, which demonstrates the fact that flexibility exists. Personally, I say: write what you feel like writing! I doubt that an author would be offended by a 200 word review and respond by demanding one of 2000 words. They really just want to know whether you enjoyed their work or not, and maybe a hint as to why. Anything beyond that starts to drift out of “review” and into “critique”. Of course you can opt for writing a critique, but nobody’s expecting you to.
Finally, please copy your review to whatever locations the author lists (if they don’t offer a list of locations, then all you can do is to place your review on the site you bought the book from, your blog, or maybe Facebook if you bought it from a bricks-and-mortar shop).
Your book is out there, available to a wide audience. It may be available only from a bricks-and-mortar shop, or perhaps it’s also available online. Maybe there’s an ebook version. Anything is possible. The important thing is that it is out there. Presumably, you would like some feedback from your readers. The question is: what do you do to obtain that feedback?
I know I’m just as guilty as any other author. We want to hear the thoughts of our readers, or even just a simple expansion on “Like/Hate”. But what do we do about it? Do we include anything that guides the reader to places where reviews can be posted? It’s quite simple. All you need is a principle site that carries the necessary information. That site should have links allowing the reader to post their review to as many locations as you think helpful, alongside a suggestion that all they need to do is to write a brief review, once, and copy and paste it to each location, not forgetting to also register a rating if that facility also exists.
This is theoretically where ebooks have an advantage. You can include a clickable link that smoothes the process. And I’m not suggesting including that list of locations! You just include the principle link. Physical books have a slightly harder job, in that the reader has to be persuaded to enter the principle site’s URL. It is obviously much easier if you can keep that URL as short, and simple, as possible.
Assuming that you can persuade even some readers to submit some kind of review, you need to think about what you expect or hope to get as feedback, and how you treat such feedback. You will get some negative feedback, even if you’ve written the greatest masterpiece of all time! You just have to accept the fact that you can’t please everybody. Do not get involved in a dispute with such respondents! And don’t take it to heart. If you can honestly assess their comments and find some merit in at least some of their remarks, then take them on board and let them help you become a better writer. Equally, if you have enormous praise piled upon your work by a reviewer, be wary. Don’t think that their effusiveness is indicative of you having achieved something truly extraordinary. It takes more than a handful of such reactions for you to be even thinking that you may have achieved something significant to anybody but yourself and these few fans.
One thing I ask of you: please don’t issue demands that willing reviewers adhere to some arbitrary minimum standards! A review of any kind is all you should be asking for. Don’t supply a “format guideline”. A review is, after all, as personal a work of writing as your book! Respect the reviewer and their right to do things their way. And remember: the majority of your readers who do provide reviews, do so voluntarily – they aren’t being paid.
For the years that I was just a reader (before I became an editor), it never occurred to me to post a book review. I was just one of those happy-go-lucky readers. If I’d known how valuable constructive feedback is to writers, I would have done it–especially if the writer asked for feedback in the book itself. Thanks for considering this from both sides of the fence, Steve.
Thanks for your comment 🙂 I just felt that, being gyulty of failing on both sides of the issue, I should write something that (hopefully) will provoke thought – and maybe encourage better understanding, and practices 😉
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