I spend a lot of time reading reviews left on Amazon for assorted books that I feature on Clean Indie Reads. My objective is always to find something quotable and useful in order to help my readers find their next favorite book. Sometimes I find gems–reviews that have me clicking to buy right away. Other times I find comments that give me sage warnings against a book. But often I am stuck reading completely useless reviews. They tell me nothing. Here’s how to emulate those terrible reviewers, so you can drive other book-browsers nuts. (Or be a rebel and do the opposite.)
Say, “I loved it” or “I hated it” and leave it that.
See, I loved the chili I had for dinner last night, the cute cat memes I saw on Facebook, and going caroling with friends. But that doesn’t help you taste the dinner, see the adorableness, or hear the harmonies. All you know is that I enjoyed it. Big whoop. Maybe you would have loathed it. Good reviewers actually give specific reasons for why they like or dislike something. They’ll talk about the characters or the plot. They’ll describe the writing style or the themes. They’ll explain why they did or didn’t connect with the story.
Repeat the book description.
Surely nothing tells a reader more about a book than reading the dust jacket twice? No. This doesn’t tell a reader anything more than they already knew when they looked up the book in the first place. Good reviewers may include additional plot or character details, or at least hint at pieces of the story not included in the product description.
Don’t compare it to anything.
Little recommendations like, “If you like caramel, you should try toffee” are meant to help make new things familiar, but if someone were to do that with a book review, readers might actually find a new series that’s similar to their favorite. Good reviewers liken the book to a well-known reference, be it another book, movie, TV series, etc. so that readers can recognize if the taste of the reviewer matches their own.
Talk about the whole series in general instead of the book in question.
“I’ve read all four books in two days and can’t wait to read the next one!” definitely shows that the book probably has a compelling characteristic, but it doesn’t tell the reader what it is. Otherwise, it could just be that the reviewer had nothing else to do all day, and hence the eager reading. Good reviewers explain how each book fits into the series; for example, it might explain that the characters are developed further in this sequel, or that there is a cliff-hanger that requires rapid purchase of the next book.
Use terrible spelling and/or grammar while complaining about poor editing.
Nothing says “this book is badly written” like an angry rant: “i cant belieeeeve i read past the second chapter its so bad so many misteaks!!!!” Of course, it isn’t necessary to comment on the editing in a book at all, but if you choose to do so, be sure to slaughter your own credibility by speaking in 3rd-grade text-ese. Good reviewers may or may not point out proofreading problems, but they are careful to write clearly and coherently.
Include a ton of spoilers.
Everyone loves to have the ending of a book ruined because it saves the time of them having to read the book themselves. Be sure to give away as many plot twists and character surprises as possible so that the reader will know if it’s her kind of story. If she likes unraveling mysteries or love triangles, be sure she knows exactly what the answer is. Good reviewers side-step revealing too much of the story and still make their points. Or, at the very least, they use a blatantly obvious warning like **SPOILER ALERT** before divulging the story’s secrets.
… and my personal favorite …
Don’t read the book before reviewing it.
Now, I realize this seems counter-intuitive, but it is actually a surprisingly common practice. Apparently, downloading a book–or glancing through its preview–provides sufficient authority to pass judgment on a tome of any size. So, if the cover bothers you, or you don’t have time read it, or you can’t pronounce the author’s name, then by all means, give it one star. Or, on the other hand, if the model on the front is attractive or it’s your favorite genre, just say, “This looks good. I’ll read it next month” and give it five stars. Good reviewers make a serious attempt to read the book. While some may not be able to finish because the content or writing offends or bores them, they explain the reason for stopping early. Otherwise, they review the work as a whole.
Any other tips for writing a crummy review? Please share in the comments!