Dodging the Flying Poop


How Do You Determine Whether A Book Review Is Good?


Should an author be like an ostrich and stick his head in the ground and refuse to look at the reviews of his book?

Should she consider only her best friends’ (and those of whatever group she belongs to) reviews of her book and not accept the general public’s reviews?

Are we so vane as to believe what we produce is the best example of grammar and literacy and storytelling on the market and is above criticism?

I am not talking about criticism from Neanderthals who attack the genre the author chose or those who attack the character of the author.

So, what makes a review good enough to please every author—and prospective reader?

I think that’s relative; that’s because I believe we all have our preferences, whether it’s action or romance or whether it’s meaning behind the action and action behind the characters. However, if there is no character development or if it is weak, that is as legitimate a criticism as a weak plot (or a lack of plot, yes, I’ve read too many short stories with this problem).

Anyway, in my humble opinion, a book review is not a synopsis. Editorial comments are fun to read and some even make me laugh, but unless they offer something of more value, then I might assume the reviewer has no idea what the book was really about. A review is also not the place to state whether the reviewer loved or hated the book—unless that statement also includes that it’s the reviewer’s personal response and nothing more.

And, I would like to add something else here, something that these days has absolutely no meaning for me anymore because I know how many authors get their friends and their specialty groups to give them high praise and likes and “tags” and “stars” when those friends never even read the book.

Is this dishonest? Or, is merely hype, marketing, building the brand to compete with what the BIG 6 publishers do?

It is my opinion that a reviewer should never use these sort of stamps because reading is a very personal thing and one reviewers 5-star review may be another’s 1-star review, and when an author is faced with seeing several 1- or 2-star reviews, their ego is bruised. Hey, we all have pride of authorship, it’s not wrong to say those kindergarten “stars”, or lack of them, hurts feelings. So do the kindergarten tactics of saying a book is worth or not worth a single “turd”.

I will say one thing about Amazon and that is they have added to reviews “Amazon Verified Purchase” so that the prospective buyer can determine for himself/herself whether the “stars” are likely valid or not.

I think a good reviewer will be able to:

  • provide his or her overall assessment of the book in qualitative terms
  • provide a general idea of the storyline—the basic plot at least
  • identify the genre
  • provide a brief analysis of the characters
  • provide a sentence or two about the author’s style (and not that the reviewer “hates” the author’s style…just what it is)
  • provide a quote to illustrate a point is good
  • and if it’s a long review, provide a summation of whether it successfully achieved what the author set out for it to achieve
  • provide an idea of the emotional impact the book had
  • provide a recommendation for the type of reader who would enjoy the book

I think a good review will provide enough of the story and character information to interest a prospective reader without giving the story away (remember I stated a review is not as synopsis).

  1.  Is this the kind of review that you, as the author or the prospective reader, would like to see?
  2. What makes a good book review in your opinion?
  3. What is your suggestion for a means for an author to get legitimate reviews for his/her book before it hits the stands, and where would you like to see those reviews? On some web page or in the book?


2 thoughts on “Musings – DODGING THE FLYING POOP, or…

  1. I agree with most of what you outline here. Reviews are just that: an objective opinion. I will say, however, that most New York Times reviews never state “in my opinion.” That, I think, is a given. If a reader doesn’t understand that, then that is their shortcoming.

    • You’re right…the NYT reviewers do not say “in my opinion” — unfortunately, i do not work for them, so i should make the clarification that the review is my opinion and let the reader know they should read the book and judge it for themselves.
      Thank you for taking the time to read this article. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s