How To Write A Great Book Review – Research by A.J. Alexander

Picture courtesy of: https://www.tes.com/lessons/IMa05aDDs32cog/digital-book-reviews
Picture courtesy of: https://www.tes.com/lessons/IMa05aDDs32cog/digital-book-reviews

 

Lately, I’ve been asked by a fellow writer if I read his book and would be prepared to write a review. Even though I know how much work, effort, and heart blood a writer invests into books, I know as well, a writer is honored by a review. I was told this numerous times already. I read truckloads full of books since my childhood and of course, couldn’t review all of them. (Let’s not talk about the school book reports). And I found, even if I didn’t like a book too much, it wouldn’t be nice to ‘rip it to shreds.’ It might not be a bad book – just not the right book to read for me.

I liked what I read this time, and I agreed to write a review. If I only knew how to do so. This needed some research.

I started and found hundreds of articles, books, blog posts and lists. Are they all different? No, more the opposite! They all seem to be similar, some more simple, some more detailed, some complicated and long, with little variations. So I picked what I needed from some of them.

 

  1. The purpose of a review

I find it very important to learn what exactly the purpose of what I’m writing is. What is a review for? One of the first articles, referring to “reviews” in general, more than book reviews, in particular, was written by Karol K, a freelance blogger, and writer. He writes:

  • to learn the pros and cons of a given product
  • to find out if the product is meant for them
  • to find out if the product is of high quality and easy to use
  • to find out about alternative solutions
  • to find out about other users’ experiences with the product
  • to ultimately learn if the product is worth buying.

With those needs in mind, let’s look at what you can do to craft a truly valuable review.

His entire article can be read on: http://www.problogger.net/how-to-write-a-must-read-product-review/

 

  1. Writing Amazon reviews

Neal Wooten, author, writer, blogger, and comedian published an article on the Huffington Post Website, using six tips to writing Amazon reviews and in my opinion did a great job. At least to me it seems valuable, especially considering the “start” use of the Amazon rating.

Additionally, he mentions something quite powerful: The responsibility that goes with writing a review. Let me give you a couple of examples I picked from his article:

What if a car manufacturer was to drop off a brand new car to a person’s home, completely at random, and explain they had 24 hours to drive the car? Afterward, they would take the car to another home at random and do the same thing, and repeat for three months. They only asked that the homeowners/drivers would write a review of the automobile. What do you think would happen?

I suspect most of the drivers would do exactly what they should. They would write intelligent and informative reviews about how it handled, how it drove, gas mileage, the comfort, the power, the sound system, etc.

But there would be some drivers who would abuse this privilege. It’s human nature. Some wouldn’t even drive the car. Some would complain about everything from the visors to the texture of the floor mats. Some would complain about the color of the free car they were provided. Some would get drunk, drive 100 mph, wreck the car, and then write a bad review.

And that sums up Amazon reader reviews. While most are very helpful, many are just people exercising their basic nature to be useless. So here are some tips.

Then his six tips follow. He gives simple, easy to understand and helpful advice. To read his tips, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neal-wooten/tips-for-writing-amazon-r_b_6959118.html

 

  1. What do I write about in my review?

Fran Stewart, the author of the Biscuit McKee Mysteries, writes in her “Southern Writer’s Blog”: Questions to Spark Book Review Ideas 

Her idea is, to ask the reader questions which I can build my review on. Her questions refer to the characters, the settings and the plot.

This, I decide, might be a great start for my review.

To see all of Fran’s given questions, please go to http://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com/2015/05/questions-to-spark-book-review-ideas.html

 

  1. Am I scared to write a book review?

You BET! I’m a writer myself, of course, I one day would like to get positive reviews for the book. I want to honor the author, his ideas, his talent, his magic, his story, his efforts, his work and his masterpiece. I want to make others read the book I loved so much. I don’t want to spoil it for the other readers.

Rosie Amber wrote four quick ways to overcome your fear to write a book review. It helped me a lot. If you are suffering from the same fears, read it here: https://rosieamber.wordpress.com/2016/07/25/4-quick-ways-to-write-a-bookreview-and-overcome-your-fears-mondayblogs/

 

  1. Rules for book review writing

These are the ones that are more or less the same all across the internet. One of the blog posts I particularly enjoyed reading, is the one Tara Sparling published:

5 Book Review Rules Which Could Make Writers Hate You Less

I think, the post is very helpful – and a great read too!

 

Oh well, I figure now I’m armed with the basic knowledge of book reviews. Let’s see if I really can get a review that is as helpful as I want it to be to other potential readers!

 


 

What is it that I’m writing?

I was invited to write a novella for a bundle book which I am very proud of. In fact I am working on it right now. Knowing me when I sink into work I won’t pay attention to anything around me until I think I’m done. Reason enough to decide in time to find out what a novella is and how it is structured. Working on my full length novel I needed to know how long it can/should be and if it’s supposed to have chapters.

 

I found different sources, each of them saying something else. Even though its content is hardly ever engraved in stone Wikipedia at this time seemed to be quite informative.

 

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A novella is a work of written, fictional, narrative prose normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. The English word “novella” derives from the Italian “novella“, feminine of “novello“, which means “new”.

A novella generally features fewer conflicts than a novel, yet more complicated ones than a short story. The conflicts also have more time to develop than in short stories. Unlike novels, they are usually not divided into chapters, and are often intended to be read at a single sitting, as the short story, although white space is often used to divide the sections. They maintain, therefore, a single effect. Warren Cariou wrote:

The novella is generally not as formally experimental as the long story and the novel can be, and it usually lacks the subplots, the multiple points of view, and the generic adaptability that are common in the novel. It is most often concerned with personal and emotional development rather than with the larger social sphere. The novella generally retains something of the unity of impression that is a hallmark of the short story, but it also contains more highly developed characterization and more luxuriant description.

Robert Silverberg writes:

[The novella] is one of the richest and most rewarding of literary forms…it allows for more extended development of theme and character than does the short story, without making the elaborate structural demands of the full-length book. Thus it provides an intense, detailed exploration of its subject, providing to some degree both the concentrated focus of the short story and the broad scope of the novel.

Dictionaries define novelette similarly to novella; sometimes identically, sometimes with a disparaging sense of being trivial or sentimental. Some literary awards have a longer “novella” and a shorter “novelette” categories, with a distinction based on word count. 

 

Word count 

The word count is the number of words in a document or passage of text. Word counting may be needed when a text is required to stay within certain numbers of words. This may particularly be the case in academia, legal proceedings, journalism and advertising. Word count is commonly used by translators to determine the price for the translation job. Word counts may also be used to calculate measures of readability and to measure typing and reading speeds (usually in words per minute). When converting character counts to words, a measure of 5 or 6 characters to a word is generally used.

 

In fiction:

Novelist Jane Smiley suggests that length is an important quality of the novel. However, novels can vary tremendously in length; Smiley lists novels as typically being between 100,000 and 175,000 words, while National Novel Writing Month requires its novels to be at least 50,000 words. There are no firm rules: for example the boundary between a novella and a novel is arbitrary and a literary work may be difficult to categorize. But while the length of a novel is to a large extent up to its writer, lengths may also vary by subgenre; many chapter books for children start at a length of about 16,000 words, and a typical mystery novel might be in the 60,000 to 80,000 word range while a thriller could be over 100,000 words.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specifies word lengths for each category of its Nebula award categories:

Classification

Word count

Novel

over 40,000 words
Novella 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story

under 7,500 words

 

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All right, so far so good.  I’m on the right track and have crossed the boarder from novelette to novella a while ago. I’m right within the frame.

And let me tell you: Writing a novella really is fun!

Picture courtesy of: http://tomhotovy.deviantart.com/art/The-Book-Of-Magic-258551483
Picture courtesy of: http://tomhotovy.deviantart.com/art/The-Book-Of-Magic-258551483

How to start your own Author Newsletter

Picture courtesy of: http://kerdukey.com/newsletter-sign-up/
Picture courtesy of: http://kerdukey.com/newsletter-sign-up/

When I started building my network on social media and created “Writer’s Treasure Chest” I was not prepared for this much more to come. There are many more challenges to face. One of these challenges is to create my own Author Newsletter.

I started research on writer’s newsletters.

There are as many hints, tips and tricks as newsletter owners, and I’m desperate to be as well informed as possible before giving it a try. I’d like my first newsletter to be a success, not some amateurish “good luck” try.

 

Tips & Tricks

One of the first blog posts about newsletters I read had been written July 5, 2013 by Steena Holmes. She provides a list of what a newsletter can be used for. Mrs. Holmes hands out warnings on what not do with newsletters. She as well dedicates an entire paragraph on and how to get people to sign up. I like her writing style very much and I recommend this blog post to every writer who’s just starting. Her entire blog post can be found here: https://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/the-how-and-why-of-author-newsletters/

 

Choose your Newsletter Provider

Steena Holmes mentioned one particular Newsletter and campaign provider: “Mail Chimp”. I did research on several providers and Mail Chimp seems user friendly and offers a variety of designs. I even found an easy to read and helpful “step-by-step” manual. It can be found here: http://www.authorsatlas.com/blog/author-newsletter-101. This valuable tool provides tricks and screen shots to guide me through the process.

 

Decide on a professional design

After reading these posts and articles I tried to imagine how to stay true to my brand and still deliver a professional looking and interesting newsletter for my future readers. The answer I found on wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Good-Newsletter. They even offer sample newsletters there which I found attractive. But the one thing impressing me most on wikiHow was their first paragraph. “Although images and layout are important, the written content is the biggest factor in whether your newsletter is successful. However, writing a newsletter requires more than just a good grasp of proper English grammar and extensive vocabulary. You need to be interesting, relevant, and easy to be read. Here are some simple steps you can take to write a good newsletter.”

 

The four types of Author’s Newsletters

Having a nice design in mind does not make a newsletter yet and found a blog post, written by Cheryl Reif. She offers four different Author’s Newsletters:

  • Chat & Conversation
  • News &Updates
  • Tools & Resources
  • Recycled Content

I need to decide now what type of newsletter mine should become. Cheryl Reif’s blog post can be found here http://www.cherylreif.com/2015/06/15/4-types-of-author-newsletter-how-to-pick-the-best-for-you/

 

What did I learn?

I will try to keep it short. I know, I provided a few links to read and all I do now is a quick bullet list:

  • Keep the feature article short
  • Add extra valuable information for your readers
  • Tell your readers what you will write about to keep them interested
  • Create a list of upcoming events (if you have any)
  • Don’t play “hard to get” – give full contact information
  • Combine great content with a professional looking layout
  • Keep your readers entertained with providing a quote.
  • Send out your electronic newsletter every 30 days
  • Watch your subscriber’s list grow
  • The next step for me now will be to start on my first newsletter. In case I’ve made you curious how it will turn out:
Please, click the icon to subscribe.
Please, click the icon to subscribe.

 

I’d be delighted to welcome you as my reader. Thank you!