What is considered a good review?

For many people, after they've purchased something, whether it be a book, a blender, or anything else, once the purchase has been made then that is the end of the transaction. The only caveat to that is unless there is a problem. People will generally voice their complaints about a bad product, bad service, etc., after the fact but it is growing increasingly rare to have positive experiences recounted at a later date.

I have noticed a growing trend of companies emailing consumers to prompt them for reviews of their purchases days or weeks after the purchase was made. Authors like myself are constantly using our social media channels to encourage readers to leave us reviews. Some authors, myself included, run promotions to give away free books to potential readers who might leave a review.

Product reviews are a constant struggle to obtain but even when reviews are left there are different qualities of reviews.

So what makes a good review?

Well, that varies depending on the product. If you bought an electronic device then the review might include details about battery life, display clarity, ease of use, ease of setup, etc. If you bought a pet food bowl then the review might include details about the quality of the materials, the durability of the product, how well it matches the description. If you bought a clothing item then the review might discuss how well it fits, how accurate the sizing guide is compared to standard sizes, or how timely the shipping was. 

All things relevant to that individual purchase.

But what about reviews for books? What should those reviews contain?

Ideally, the review should be at least 40-50 words. Anything less than that is likely not to contain much value for prospective buys beyond “good read” or “do not buy” which does little to explain to potential readers why you feel that you. Not only that but retail sites like Amazon do not give much weight to reviews of only a few words. Retail sites like to promote goods with detailed reviews over products with simple reviews.

So what should those 40-50 (or more) words in a book review include?

Most authors would prefer that any review NOT include spoilers. Try to avoid telling anything too specific about the plot. Which characters die or don’t die, who is the killer or anything like that should be left out. Potential readers are not reading reviews to find spoilers but to understand what you, as a previous reader of the book, liked or didn’t like and why you feel that way.

”I really enjoyed this book. The author managed to tell an engaging story while keeping me guessing about the killer’s true identity. The descriptions of the clothing and environments made me feel like I was walking among the characters and the pace of the story kept me involved. I could not put the book down and the engaging storyline kept me hooked from start to finish. I was both excited and sad when I finished the book. The ending was unexpected but satisfying. I was sad though because I had become emotionally attached to the characters but now there was nothing else to explore with them. I hope the author writes a sequel or something because I enjoyed this story, the writing style, and the characters involved.”

Something like the above review would be ideal for most authors. The reader describes what about the book they enjoyed, how it made them feel, but never disclosed any specifics that might spoil the read for others.

”This is a good book. I was surprised when Snape killed Dumbledore. That was a very unexpected direction in the story. I had expected him to kill Harry but or to let Draco kill Dumbledore like his dad had commanded him to do. I guess that’s one way to get the Elder Wand away from Dumbledore since nobody else knew he possessed it.”

The above review is something almost no author would like to see for their book. The review does little to discuss the pros and cons of the book or the reader’s opinion about the quality of the book. Instead, the review simply goes into significant detail about key events in the story that the author would probably prefer not to be public knowledge. This is like walking outside a movie theater after watching a new movie and telling those waiting in line for the next showing how the movie ends or what big twist happens.

For most people, such spoilers are considered rude and only take away from the enjoyment of the target material. Why would someone feel the need to purchase a book when the reviews summarize the key plot details and spoil the different plot twists and reveals?

At the end of the day, reviews are personal to each reader who opts to leave one. But that doesn’t mean that authors don’t desire one type of review over another. As an author, I’d rather have a good review that doesn’t ruin or spoil the story for others but at the same time, I’d prefer a review that contains spoilers over no review at all. 

Some discretion is desired and should be something of consideration when leaving any review, even a negative one. If you had a bad experience, detail the experience, not the plot. If you find a story unbelievable or not enjoyable then just say that. Others may like the story but may not appreciate you spoiling it for them with a review. Reviews help authors but also help other readers. Be courteous to both with the contents of your review.

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