How to Write and Get Great Reviews — With Examples of a Book Review
A lot of authors think that getting many five-star ecstatic reviews will help make more book sales, so they get their family and friends to post rave reviews. The problem is that browsing readers can detect false praise a mile away, so if you just help guide the reviewer on how to sound authentic, your reviews will in fact help you make more sales of your books.
When I evaluate a book that looks good, the first reviews I look at are the one-star reviews. I carefully scrutinize what the reviewer writes.
Why do I start at the one-star reviews? Because I’ve already got the impression the book may be worth getting, so I want to know what’s wrong with the book. You know the expression, “Too good to be true?” I come to a book that looks promising while thinking of that expression.
Since the one-star review doesn’t make the author happy, I know the reviewer’s not a close friend or relative of the author, so whatever the reviewer has to say may be more trustworthy. Also, I like reading one-star reviews because it can be fun to see someone ruthlessly tear a book apart if they do it with wit and humor.
If I get the impression that the reviewer is being biased or unfair, or their reason for not liking the book is insignificant, then I might look at the two-star reviews, and I’ll soon go to the four-star and five-star reviews.
Ideally, you want a review that combines both the excitement of how good your book is with the honesty and credibility of a one-star reviewer.
What Makes a Good Review?
Like I said, when people see five-star reviews with praise, they often think the reviewer is a friend of the author. Browsers of books will then dismiss those reviews as being biased. So actually, those are not good reviews. The best reviews are ones that sound sincere and come from a place of authentic criticism.
From beginning to end, here’s what a good review should have:
1. Typical Reading (To show where the reviewer is coming from)
The reviewer should explain where they’re coming from. Do they usually read science thrillers? Erotic romance? Knowing what the reviewer usually reads helps us know through what lens they’re looking when they comment on a book.
2. Pleasantly Surprised (To show that the reviewer can be trusted)
If the reviewer says they knew the book was going to be great because the author is their son, we won’t trust the review. But if the reviewer says they didn’t think the author or the book would be all that interesting, we feel like the reviewer has confided in us.
“I was pleasantly surprised” is a great comment. When a reviewer says she wasn’t expecting much and was pleasantly surprised, that tells us we can trust her. She’s being honest. As prospective buyers of the book reading her review, when we learn that we can trust the reviewer, we’ll be willing to read what else she has to say.
3. Reader’s Experience
Phrases like “I couldn’t put the book down,” or “It had me routing for the heroine,” are very useful. The overall experience is a great way to convey not only the value of the book but also what experience one can expect when reading it.
4. Specific Praise
It’s good to have content like, “This was a good book, I liked it a lot.” But it’s better to have specifics. “The writing was captivating,” “The characters were believable and I cared about them,” “The plot had so many twists and turns I couldn’t put the book down.” Specific praise helps browsing readers get a better sense of why your book is so good.
5. The Worst Problem (Back to the trust) + 6. The Best Part of the Book (To counter the one problem)
Why mention the worst problem about the book? By allowing the reviewer to reveal the worst problem of your book you gain two things. The superficial advantage is that the browsing reader will trust the review more. (We assume that anyone that mentions something bad about the book is being completely up front.)
The best advantage of revealing the worst problem with the book is that you reduce the risk of having someone who dislikes your style of book read it and give a harsh review of it. Is the problem that the characters are too stereotypical? Any reader who hates stereotypical characters will avoid the book and the only readers the book attracts will be ones who don’t mind stereotypical characters.
Better to prepare readers on what the biggest problem of your book is so they can decide if they’re willing to dismiss the problem and enjoy everything else your book has to offer.
Robert Cialdini, a man who got a degree in the psychology of influence, pointed out to me that one method of influence is to call out the worst part of the product and then hit them with the best. Have you heard the commercial for L’Oreal products? “It’s expensive, but you’re worth it!” so the reviewer should list the biggest problem, such as “I thought the characters could have been described better,” and then end with the best part about the book to show why the big problem doesn’t matter: “But the journey the story took me through was worth it.”
When the reviewer ends by saying she’d recommend the book to others, it’s an opportunity to clarify the kinds of readers who’d love the book. By stating something like “I would recommend this book to anyone who likes paranormal romance,” the reader can immediately know if they fall in the category of people who would like the book.
(You can edit before posting.)
Examples of a Book Review
Here are examples of a book review pulled from combinations of actual reviews I received for The Torah Codes with the corresponding numbered parts of a good review:
(1.) I did not expect to enjoy this book so much as it isn’t my usual genre. I did read The Da Vinci Code so was curious about the comparison. (2.) I think Mr. Barany’s book was far better written. (3.) Once I started The Torah Codes I couldn’t put it down and read it in one day! (4.) The book was well-paced and has a certain rhythm to the story lines. Skillful writing, realistic as well as unique characters (especially the hero), and a plot full of twists and turns puts The Torah Codes in the top of my “Best Books I’ve Read” list. (5.) The author takes some liberties in logic and there are a couple of “he did not just go there” moments, (6.) but his writing style overcomes any of that kind of criticism. (7.) This book is one that most Dan Brown fans will really enjoy.
(1.) I’m not much into the subject matter that the title suggests. (2.) I was a little concerned that this book was going to have an agenda about Torah codes, but I was pleasantly surprised. (3.) The Torah Codes has a compelling story line and was actually hard to put down. (4.) The character Nathan is likable and often very funny, and the action kept me turning the pages. (5.) I must nitpick on one issue, though. Sophia, the main female character, is a Tarot card reader, which although an interesting twist to add, I would have liked the real meanings of the cards to have been used, not strange ones that are never used. (6.) This however, probably won’t affect the majority of the audience, so it’s definitely not something that should deter anyone from reading the book. This is a fun, quick-paced story that will not disappoint. (7.) It’s a fun book to share with a special friend.
How do you get the reviewer to write a well-written review?
When you request a review, offer to send them guidelines. If they respond by saying they are open to guidelines, list the above seven parts as questions for them to answer.
- What books do they usually read or like to read?
- What pleasantly surprised them about your book, and what experience did they have reading it?
- What specifically worked for them? The characters? The plot? The writing? How so?
- Also, what was the biggest aspect they didn’t like?
- And what one thing, the biggest praise they have for the book, made the aspect they didn’t like meaningless?
- Lastly, who would they recommend the book to?
Send them a few examples so that they get the idea. Also, I believe browsing readers like to read short reviews. So tell them it’s okay to keep it at about 300 to 500 words.
For those extra busy readers who are open to having you write the review for their approval, practice by writing one for your own book in the comments below! Include a link to where we can get your book!
Book marketing mentor, Ezra Barany is the author of the award-winning bestseller, The Torah Codes. Contact Ezra now to begin the conversation on how he can help you. You can connect with Ezra via Facebook, Twitter, contact him through this blog, or by email: EZRA at THETORAHCODES dot COM.