Jennifer Gilby Roberts

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit Author

Supercharge Your Book Reviews

We authors are deeply grateful for any reviews of our work, especially when the work is new out and we don’t have many (hint hint for After Wimbledon).  A rating and a sentence or two is enough to be valuable, if that’s all you have the time or inclination to write (it’s all I ever seem to manage!).

Many people, however, want to write more and better.  A while ago I linked to a great article on how to write a great book review and added my own comments.  I’d like to add a couple of extra things, which frankly only an author would think of, for if you absolutely love a book and you want to help it succeed as much as you can.

1. Keywords

We authors get slightly obsessed by keywords.  These are what you type into search boxes on Amazon, Google etc. when you are looking for something.  We spend hours trying to work them into our book descriptions so that when readers search for our type of book, ours come up high in the results.  No one knows how much weight Amazon puts on keywords in reviews (they are very secretive about their algorithms, which drives us all crazy), but including a few never hurts.

Useful keywords to include in your review are: the genre of the book (e.g. chick lit, romantic comedy), names of similar authors (e.g. Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes) and comments (e.g. laugh out loud).

If you want to be super helpful, type the basic keyword (e.g. chick lit) into Amazon’s search box and see what their search suggestions are.  The higher up the list the search term is, the more people are searching for it.

Alternatively, look at the book description and see how the author describes their book.  Their most important keywords will probably be in bold, italics, bigger sizes or different colours and in the first and last sentences of the description, since these are given more weight.

If you post your reviews on a blog, using keywords will also help attract searchers to it.

2. Sound Bites

Most authors include quotes from reviews in their book description and may also tweet them or use them in other publicity, even put them on their book covers, so these are super useful.

Good sound bites for books vary in style, but some classic ones are:

  • ‘I recommend this book for anyone who loves…’
  • ‘If you like…, you’ll love this.’
  • ‘If you’re feeling…, this book is perfect.’
  • ‘[Name of author]’s writing is…
  • ‘[Name of book] is…

They are usually a single sentence and use strong words (e.g. wonderful, brilliant, ideal) rather than lukewarm ones (e.g. good, nice, enjoyable).  They usually read best if they praise specific aspects of the book and explain why they are so good (e.g. ‘the plot had me hooked from the start,’ ‘the characters were well-developed and true-to-life,’).  If they include keywords, that’s even better.

So if you want to write a review that an author will adore you for, include some useful keywords and a sound bite or two.

[Useful keywords for all my books: chick lit, British chick lit, romantic comedy, women’s fiction, romcom, Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Jane Costello.  For The Dr Pepper Prophecies: laugh out loud, Jane Austen, Emma, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding.  For After Wimbledon: tennis romance, sports romance, tennis, Wimbledon.]

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Give a Review for Christmas!

The Dr Pepper Prophecies is currently at 94 reviews in the US and After Wimbledon has 3.  It would be the most fabulous Christmas present to get to 100 and 5, as those are big milestones.  I might just celebrate with a giveaway…  (My books in US, My books elsewhere)

In fact, I think we should all go and leave a review on a book we loved this Christmas, even those of us (including me) who usually don’t.  I’m going to write mine for 32 Going on Spinster by Becky Monson, which I finally found time to read!

Then I should probably wrap the rest of the Christmas presents, which are just a pile of Amazon boxes at the moment. 🙂

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Have You Joined LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers?

LibraryThing have a wonderful programme where you can get FREE advance copies of new books in return for reviews.  To join you need to sign up at LibraryThing (similar to Goodreads, if you’re not familiar with it) and then go here.

It is restricted to books from those publishers who have signed up to the programme.  They also have a Member Giveaway programme which is open to all publishers/authors.

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Tips for Writing Great Book Reviews

Popular Soda have written a great piece on how to write effective book reviews.

Their main points are:

  • Show that you bought the book (or explain where you got it)
  • Give examples and details to back up your points
  • Don’t be afraid to criticise
  • Write like you’re talking to a friend
  • Make reviewing a regular thing to give yourself more credibility.

They also include a cheat sheet of things to comment on.

Read the full article.

I’m no expert reviewer, but to me the ‘examples and details’ part is key.  When it comes to fiction, variations in personal taste mean that no book is for everyone, so a simple ‘didn’t like it’ isn’t much help.  The aspects you didn’t like may make the book exactly what someone else is looking for and vice versa.  For example, someone looking for an easy, comforting read may love to hear that you felt the book was ‘too predictable’.

I would also add to this list:

  • Always try to find something positive to say.

It’s rare to read a book you can’t find something good about.  Mentioning it makes your review sound fairer and therefore more likely to be taken note of.

So if you’re writing a review (and I’ll always encourage you to do so), please take a minute to add ‘because…’ and ‘however…’.

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