Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Understanding How Book Reviews Make You A Better Writer

Back in 2010, I wrote an article titled The Elements of a Good Book Review. Working in online book promotion at the time, my hope was this would encourage more bloggers to review our clients' books.

A review is one person's opinion of a book they have read. It is not a play-by-play description and it shouldn't contain spoilers. The information contained in a review can also give the author a glimpse into her strengths and the areas that might need some attention.


Here are two of the blurbs from reviews of A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing in 2012:

I appreciated the simplicity of the story that had such a powerful message wrapped up inside it.

It is not often that a simple children's book can nearly bring me to tears, but this one succeeded.

These reviewers appreciated the simplicity of the story, but were touched by its message. What did the author (me) learn? Keeping it simple for first time readers is important, while the adults are able to understand the message behind it and use it as a teaching point.

Here's a review blurb from my first book:

...this is the type of book that I would read to little children versus letting them read the book themselves. Only because there was a lot of words and children do not have a huge attention span to read all those words. 

Compare the two: one is said to be a simple story and the other was found to use too many words, therefore, making it harder for young children to read by themselves. Did I consider that reviewer's feedback when I wrote future books? Of course, because my market is children and those who buy for them.


 Here is part of a review I wrote about The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood:

There is so much to enjoy in this novel: the well-developed characters, the neat inventions, the antics of Lester’s bumbling thugs, the craziness caused by Jinx's “little problem,” and so much more... It didn't take me long to finish this one because I never wanted to put it down. I also really felt the selected font was perfect for the story, so kudos to the book designer.

Wood got to know the age group he was writing for and it showed in every page of this story. This book was so fun to read. Then the designer used a font that matched the vibe of the story perfectly. Should the author consider what the designer is doing? I think so. He might not have the final say, but a book is a package deal from outside to inside.


Here's a blurb from my review of The Undercover Kids' Holland Adventure - The Trunk in the Attic by Gloria Smith Zawaski:

The one thing I found confusing is that the book starts in present tense, then changes to past tense and occasionally switches through the story. This interrupted the flow of the prose at times.

This is a middle grade adventure story, so complexities are expected. You just don't want to lose your reader over them. Sometimes when you're working on a manuscript, you've read it so many times you don't see some of its challenges. It happens to all of us. That's why critique groups and editors are so important.

Reviews, while subjective, can be helpful to the writer who uses them to build upon her strengths and fine tune areas that come up as challenges for readers time and again.

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