It’s all about the reviews

What was the last thing you bought online?

Maybe it was an inflatable T-Rex costume, or a can’t-do-without banana-slicer. Was it a steering wheel tray table or that cute Elvis garden gnome.

Hey, I’m not judging!

Whatever it may be, I can guarantee you did one thing before hitting the buy button – checked the reviews.

Cartoon angel blowing trumpet looking right

Cartoon angel blowing trumpet looking left
Enter the blessed review!*

*cue angels and sounds from heaven

This important opinion from a past reader offers invaluable insight. They will tell you if the book is well-written, if it fits the genre conventions and if it aligns with your expectations and preferences. Their feedback offers an inside glimpse of the flavour and emotions the story may invoke. On platforms like Goodreads, reviews can also lead readers to other fans and authors of their favourite genre, as well as discussion groups and new recommendations.

Reviews are an important part of the decision-making process for most readers. In fact, I would go as far to say, readers would truly be lost without them. Even when I’m buying something from a company I have used before, I still scroll through to see what other buyers have reported for the particular product, and there has been many a time when I have not completed the purchase due to some iffy reviews.

Chicken and Egg
From an author point of view, reviews are key but one of the hardest things to build. There is no point advertising without a good handful of reviews (because people don’t like to take a risk), but you can’t get reviews unless readers know the book is out there!

Reviews increase visibility, crank algorithms and build social proof. At the beginning of the author journey, every review counts.

The feedback from reviews helps grow a writer. Whether the dialogue is inauthentic, the middle is saggy, the editing bad or a character is under-developed, all constructive comments offer valuable areas for the author to improve.

And great reviews are like a warm hug. I don’t know an author who doesn’t suffer from Imposter Syndrome, Imaterriblewriteritis and Whyonearthamidoingthis Mania. We all need some validation and a confidence boost; it can be a lonely world in the writer cave!!

Finally, writers sometimes run out of steam on things to say about the darn book! Reviews can be great for marketing and social media posts.

A Note on Stars

Giving a star rating is a quick and easy way to fulfil the review process, but reading the details of someone’s experience gives a true picture of the quality of the product. Even a sentence can let someone know if the book is for them or not. We writers know how hard it is to turn out a novel, we don’t expect one in the review!

So, we’ve established the importance of reviews… but actually writing one is more difficult than you think! It’s as hard as writing a novel with a marshmallow for an author to condense their whole book into a 150-word back cover blurb. Likewise, it can be tricky to sum up a story you’ve been deeply involved in for the previous week or so. I have created a handy form to help you but here are some initial tips.

Writing Review Tips

• Write it as if you’re sending an email or text to a friend who likes the kinds of books you like.

• I personally don’t like reviews that describe the book’s story arc in detail. Maybe a few words to sum up, but as a prospective reader, I just need to know if it’s good or not.

• Remember – it doesn’t have to be a novel! A sentence or two is fine.

• Mention a favourite character or part of the book and why you liked it.

• Did the book make you laugh or cry?

• Did the story grip you and keep you turning the pages?

• Was there anything that got on your nerves?

• Don’t be a spoiler!

Where to Leave Reviews
Everywhere! No, but seriously, it can be as tricky to find the review spot as it is to write them.

There should be a place to leave a review on the product page where you bought the book. I’m mainly dealing with Amazon and Goodreads, so I’ll talk about those here.

Goodreads logo – a brown letter g over a graphic book shelf
Now, you do need to be a Goodreads member to leave a review. If you’re not… why not?!

Launched in 2007 and bought by Amazon in 2013, Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. It’s like a social media library site. Their mission is to help readers discover books they love and get more out of reading. I love Goodreads as my online library of books read, want to read and new books. I can quickly look up the title and author of a book I’ve read (but can never remember the name!), I can read reviews, measure and track my reading, join discussions, get book lists, log books people recommend and get updates of my friends’ reading. You can access it on desktop and as an app. It’s free to join.

To leave a review:

1. Navigate to the page of the book you’d like to review (you can find it by searching for it in the search bar in the header).

2. Underneath the book’s cover image, hover over the stars until the desired number of stars is highlighted, then click on them to rate the book.

3. A pop-up menu will appear above the stars. Click on the Write a review text.

4. Enter your review on the following page, and click on Save to submit.

Amazon logo – black type and orange arrow underneath
The Zon
There are some eligibility requirements to leave a review on Amazon. Mainly, you must have spent $50 on, $50au on or £40 on using a credit or debit card, in the past 12 months. If you are reviewing a book you received for free, you do not have to buy the book to leave a review. However, a review left after the book has been purchased on Amazon will give it the red verified review tag. This gives the review more clout from a social proof/trust aspect and adds weight to the algorithm. Verified reviews are guaranteed, true reviews.

To leave a review on Amazon:

1. Go to the product detail page for the item. If you’ve placed an order for the item, you can also go to Your Orders.

2. Click Write a customer review in the Customer Reviews section.

3. Select a Star Rating.

4. A green check mark shows for successfully submitted ratings.

5. Add text, photos, or videos. (Optional)

6. Click Submit.

So, reviews are not quick or necessarily easy, but they are a big asset to you, the reader, and the author. If you have left me a review, I thank you from the bottom of my inkwell.

If not, I have a sheet that takes you through the process of writing and posting an honest and helpful review step by step. Send me your email and I will send it to you.

And if you still have the energy and inclination, please tell your friends, family and community if you enjoyed my book/s. That’s the best social proof of all, and let them know I can make it really easy for them to leave a review!

Happy reading and reviewing!