The Value of Book Reviews

I just attended the 4th Annual ACRA Bootcamp. This affordable and value-packed mini-conference is now a two-day writing event held in St. Augustine, Florida at a lovely hotel on the Atlantic Ocean.Of course I learned many things, but when publisher Belle Books editor and marketing guru Deb Smith brought up the subject of how valuable honest, well-written book reviews are to sales, I took some notes.

Among the men and women attending were several librarians and booksellers. These professionals unanimously pointed out that they must rely on book reviews to recommend unfamiliar authors to readers who make inquiries. There are far too many titles available and of course, they can’t personally read them all. So, they go to Midwest Book Reviews, Amazon, or B&N to get more information for their customer.

So, that stimulated another conversation: a) what distinguishes a valuable book review from a useless or even harmful one, and b) should authors be writing these reviews for one another?

The answer to the second question was, yes authors should be reading and reviewing other books every chance they get. It is a valid review provided by someone who has knowledge of the craft as well as an appreciation for the story, so as long as it’s well written, absolutely.

Then that editor told us to teach people how to write good book reviews. Obviously, if you don’t like a book, then don’t post a review. But if you find you liked a book, even if it had weak spots, then by all means, write that review. And mentioning the weaknesses in a professional manner is fine. If you felt the character’s motivation seemed a bit weak, but the story was one heck of an adventure, then that’s an authentic and valuable review. Picking apart hair color and locations you are not fond of, are NOT points that should be in a good book review.

Readers are looking for good writing, good pacing, characters they can care about and motivations and goals they can understand and relate to. Those are the things you want to critique in your reviews.

Are there readers in your life? Ask them to review your book for you. Teach them to make points about the plot and pacing and characters and leave out the fact that they may be a relative or best friend.

Writers are also readers. We have to remember to support each other in this journey. Read a good book lately? Be sure to let the author, and other readers, know!!

Until Sunday, keep reading and writing! NQ

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About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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