What does a book reviewer do?

I thought I’d post up some information about what being a book reviewer is like, how I manage requests, and what I look for when I review. In this first part, I outline how I handle review requests and how I initially review a book…..

 

Firstly, let me say just how privileged I feel each time I receive an email from an author asking me to review their books. I have been receiving a steady stream of requests, and even nicer, I’ve been receiving some great feedback from authors on my reviews. I genuinely feel honoured to have been asked to read so many great books.

But, what do I look for as a reviewer?

Well, firstly it’s really important to send a formal review request… I receive a good number of requests and as I work full time I just don’t have the time to be searching Amazon to see if it’s a book I’ll like and to read the synopsis and learn about the author etc. So how can Authors help?

Well, it’s really helpful to follow the guidelines here. In addition to this, sending me your Twitter ID and a website/blog site address is also really helpful as it helps me to publicise your books. I try to publicise through Twitter as much as I can and include links to your website/blogsite in my reviews too.

When I receive a request I take a look and see if it’s the type of book I’ll want to read. I get back to the authors as soon as I can accepting the request or letting them know why I don’t feel able to accept the request. When accepting requests I’ll let the author know my twitter and blog details and also give them an update on how long my reading queue is. Each week I post ‘my week in books’ which will list which books I have reviewed, which ones I am reading, and which ones are in my queue. This will give authors an idea of where their book is in my queue. I read, on average four books a week. It does of course depend on what else I’m doing and on how long the books are, but four is probably the number I get through in an average week.

I log all the request details in a spreadsheet, load the book onto my kindle and try to read the books in the order that I receive the request. I figure this is the fairest way :-)

When I read a book, I try to look at the story construction, does it flow? Is it logical and is it consistent? There is nothing more frustrating when, as a reader, you notice an inconsistency. Sometimes this is as obvious as characters changing name early on or in one book I read a baby was due to be born in May, but was mysteriously born in February – with no explanation! The other thing that I cannot stress enough is good editing and proof reading. A good book can be ruined by poor spelling and editing – as a reader you become fixated on spotting the next error, rather than enjoying the story.

Secondly I think about the writing style; was it an easy read, did it suit the style of the book. Was the writing style different of unusual, if so why? Did the writing style work, and did it fit with what I expected?

I also think about whether the conclusion of the book is satisfying, were all the loose ends tied up? Was it a believable ending?

And finally I’ll go with my gut instinct – what do I think this book should be rated as?

 

 

My next post later this week will focus on my steps to writing a review.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “What does a book reviewer do?

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  4. I share Matthew Iden’s view that it’s unfair to criticize a book when it’s actually the format or genre the reviewer doesn’t like. I’ve reviewed many books and often ask myself if other readers might find certain qualities that I’ve overlooked. As an author myself, I’ve felt the sting—personally and professionally—of the occasional unfavourable review. It’s made me cautious in my assessments of other writers. There are many famous writers I can’t bear to read, but I’d be a klutz to suggest they’re not good at their craft. It’s encouraging to see your blog clearly laying out your reviewing criteria.

  5. Pingback: What does a book reviewer do…. Part two | A Kindle & Kittens

  6. Hi Sarah –

    It’s really valuable to hear what your criteria for review are…and to hear that they’re fair. By fair, I mean you’re evaluating the book on its merits of story, style, consistency, and professionalism (formatting/editing issues).

    What I don’t like are low ratings, reviews, or stars based on format or genre. For instance, I received a 2 star review from a reader who didn’t like “crime or scary stories” but otherwise found my work well written and entertaining. Since, in every description of my stories, I mention they are tales of “crime fiction, dark humor, and psychological twist”, I find it a bit unfair to judge the work on merits the reader already knew they didn’t like. Other authors, I know, have gotten low ratings for their short story anthologies by folks who “didn’t like short stories”. Er…well, don’t read them, then!

    When you put your review criteria on the table, however, and stick to it, readers and writers alike are going to know what your reviews stand for. That’s when book reviewing becomes a great resource for all of us.

    • Thanks Matt. It’s really important to be fair in reviews. I’m not out to ‘do anybody down’ or make them feel bad about their books. I’ve turned down a few books as I didn’t think I’d be able to review them fairly, I know that a fantasy book is never going to get anything about two stars from me as I just don’t get it, and I don’t feel able to judge it fairly.

      My next post on the subject is going to follow up with actually writing the review, providing feedback and then my top tips for authors… I’m busy tonight and tomorrow but hope to have it posted Wednesday or Thursday.

      I’ve had to give some reviews that have been less than the author expected, and it’s not nice, but I think its important to be honest and give writers hints and tips to tighten their writing and storylines up; I think it benefits them, and their readers, in the long run.

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