We’re so happy to welcome back the inimitable reviewer and author Sandra Murphy. Today she’s offering very wise words for both authors and readers. Take it away, Sandra!
Do’s and Don’t’s of Book Reviews
I review over 100 books a year for Kings River Life online magazine, cozies and thrillers, set in the present and in the not-too-distant past which means I spend seven or eight hours of time to read, review, and promote someone else’s book. There is no pay but the books are free to me from the publisher or author. Since the pandemic, the balance has moved to more e-books than print.
I make sure the names and locations are spelled correctly, there are no spoilers included. I tell what I like and am kind about what I don’t. Main characters are never listed as ‘TSTL’ aka, Too Stupid To Live for the extreme risks they take. Instead I say she acts impulsively and puts herself into dangerous situations. I don’t say the story is buried in details of what they’re wearing, eating, or who their besties are. I say, there’s more description than I care for and it sometimes gets in the way of the story. After all, there are readers who like characters who aren’t afraid to act impulsively and who enjoy knowing exactly what the character looks like.
If an author has more than one series, chances are readers will like them all. Here’s a sample of the ending of a recent review of Bayou Book Thief: “This is the first book in a new series. The epilogue promises an enticing twist. Hopefully, readers will find out more in book two, Wined and Died in New Orleans, available for preorder and shipping in February 2023. There’s a teaser chapter of it at the back of this book. Vintage Cookbook has been added to my list of favorite series. Byron also writes the Cajun Country mysteries (7), the Catering Hall series under the pen name of Maria DiRico (3). Ricki shares recipes from vintage cookbooks: French pancakes a la gelee (raspberry or current jelly suggested), Swedish salad (herring is involved), daisy canapes, gingerbread, coconut patties, and crawfish etouffee.”
Even if I don’t cook, only knit something that’s flat and doesn’t have to fit, or sew at all, I like to read about such things. Readers who are more talented or adventurous will buy the book to try them.
Readers: Don’t post a one-star comment on Amazon because the cover was damaged during delivery. Don’t blame the author for typos. They happen, no matter how many people proofread a book. Talk about the story, what you liked or didn’t. Be kind. What you didn’t care for will be the favorite part of the book for someone else. Don’t include spoilers!
Authors: I’ve heard writers say they never read their reviews because it might be negative. It’s insulting to ask time and effort from a reviewer if you won’t read the result. Read it, promote it, thank the publisher like Kings River Life, thank the reviewer. Follow them, comment, and share their posts. Promotion goes both ways.
And if you get a bad, awful, really terrible review? I find name-calling and liberal doses of chocolate to be soothing.
Readers, Readers, what do you look for in a review? Just the facts, ma’am, the reviewer’s opinion, or a combination of the two?
BIO: Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Gateway Arch in St Louis. She writes magazine articles, short stories, reviews, and edits the Writers and Publishers Network monthly newsletter. Her collection of 300ish quotes about cats, Happiness Is Listening to Your Cat Purr, is now available at www.untreedreads.com/author/sandrajmurphy/URP/1/ and the usual outlets. Her cat, Louie, swears he wrote the book.