Tuesday, June 12, 2018

You, too, can write reviews!

by Melissa Riggio

You close the book (or click "exit" on the eReader). Satisfied with the story, you briefly think over the characters, the plot, and maybe one or two things you would have changed, but overall, it was a great read. You've got a bit of time left today before you tackle your responsibilities - perhaps time to start another book?

Or you could consider pausing to write a review. 

Reviews are a huge industry within the publishing world. From a one-line Goodreads review to a full-page review in the New York Times, a good review can boost a book up in sales - or plummet it down to obscurity. There are entire blogs dedicated to book reviews, down to specific genres (YA, urban paranormal romance, steampunk, LGBTQ - endlessly niche for every taste). Comic books (graphic novels, individual issues, tradebacks) also are items you can review.

Where does the average reader without a blog or following fit into this? They fit in quite easily, actually. There are plenty of platforms to leave a review, the most popular ones being Amazon and Goodreads. The reviews can be short - from one sentence to several paragraphs, to a whole page. 

So why should you write a review, even if you don't have the clout of a New York Times or NPR reviewer? 

It's useful for publishing companies and authors to see the reviews and use them for publicity, or, in turn, learn from them - if enough reviews say the same thing, it could affect the publishing of the book, for better or worse. 

Some tips for writing reviews

·  avoid negatively reviewing a book due to a shipping problem, or error with the online ordering service. 
·  avoid reviewing poorly based on a dislike of the theme itself - if you dislike horror, and read a horror book, giving it 1 star because you dislike horror is a discredit to the book for simply existing within its genre. (You may find this odd, but if you read through enough Goodreads reviews, you'll find people rating books very lowly because they "just don't like romance novels", and yet read an entire one and proceeded to review it poorly for being a romance novel.) 
·  if you're having trouble finding the words, just mention a particular passage, panel, or quote that struck you. For comic books, the artist and writer can sometimes be different, so commenting on them individually is something you can also do. 
·  "I couldn't put the book down" or "I read it so quickly because I had to know what happened" are valid reviews - it's not about the length of the review as much as the sentiment and thought behind it. 

Still a little nervous about writing reviews? You can mark certain reviews on books you've read as "helpful" or not on Amazon, which can push certain reviews to the top that you feel really help a reader decide if they should read the book or not.

If you've purchased books from Amazon lately, you can go through your back orders and leave reviews on those pages. It's been debated how much leaving a review can alter the ranking of a book, and if the review being a verified purchase matters or not (as in, purchased from Amazon under your account, thus proving you did have the item) but all of the other reasons to review still apply. 

If you're on Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr, you can take a picture of the book and tag the author or publishing company - reader pictures are great inspiration and motivation for authors. Seeing their book "in the wild" is something almost every author aims for. Some people "live review" books as they are reading them, quote lines, and post critiques as they go along, which is another way to have a reviewing experience with a book. 

So glance through your bookshelf (or Kindle library), see the books that inspired you or made you think, and take a minute publish a review! The authors and publishers will thank you. 

Melissa Riggio is a a local comics professional who works for Rosarium Publishing in the DC area. She is an avid Goodreads/Amazon reviewer and library fanatic who will be occasionally posting on here about topics related to comics, publishing, and reviews.

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