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It seems as if, when I bring up the subject of reviews and specifically the writing of them, a lot of otherwise intelligent people start flapping their hands about and going “Oh, I wouldn’t know how to write a review! I wouldn’t know where to start!”

Hence, Joey’s handy cut-out-and-keep guide to writing reviews (or at least, to how I write reviews – your mileage, as always, may vary.

1. Start off by talking a bit about the book – what was it about?  The Shopaholic Dragon (straddling that elusive chic-lit / fantasy boundary, obviously) is about a dragon that can’t stop spending money on clothes and shoes, and now his hoard is running low.  If I said to you “What are you reading? What’s it about?” – what would you tell me? (I’m currently reading a dark fantasy police procedural set in London, where a West Ham loving granny appears to have a double life as a serial killer.)  You don’t need too much detail, a couple of lines will be enough to give people a general idea.

2. Say what you liked about the book – what kept you reading?  Was it the lovable characters, the descriptions of mountains or blood arcing through the air? Was it the breakneck pace, or the way it had you sitting up ’til 2am and going to work the next day with your eyes burning holes in your head? Maybe you didn’t love it, but something must have kept you reading ’til the end.  What was it?

3.  So what didn’t you like about it?  Too slow?  Too gory?  Not enough puppy-slaughter?  Too much football? I’ve always found it much easier to lay into something I don’t like, but I try not to post negative reviews, on the basis that there are plenty of places you can go to on the internet to get your daily dose of griping and bile.  Don’t mix up “I don’t like the author / company I bought it from” with “I don’t like the book.”  I’ve seen one-star reviews given on Amazon because items had arrived badly packaged.  And everyone has seen one-star barrages given out to Someone Who Has Said Or Done Something Stupid.  You’re reviewing what’s between the covers, not the fact that the author got drunk and threw up on your boyfriend (Disclaimer – I have never done that).

4. The Star Rating – if you’re reviewing somewhere that has star ratings – have a think about what they mean.  Three stars on Amazon means “it was ok”, while three stars on Goodreads means “I liked it.”  Giving something a glowing review is kind of negated if you then only give it two stars – it’s the star rating people look for first, not why you gave it.

5.  It’s ok to write “It was good, I enjoyed it,” as a review on social media – a review is not a critique.  If you’re blogging you might want to make it a little bit longer, but even a couple of lines of review on Amazon or Goodreads is really helpful to an author, especially if you add the star!  It’s one of the best, cheapest and easiest ways to support authors you like, and to tell people about great books you’ve discovered.  And it’s not as hard as you think!

Ok, homework time – write some reviews and then link or post them in the comments – let’s see what you think of what you’re reading!