Guest Post by Lynn Goodwin – Share Your Opinions: Why Book Reviews Matter and How You Can Help 6

Together we can change the world, one good deed at a time.   —Anonymous

WHETHER YOU’RE AN AUTHOR OR NOT, one of the kindest gifts you can give to any writer is a constructive, honest review. It doesn’t have to be long or literary or quote specific passages unless you’re writing for a site that expects that.

Not only will your comments please the author, but your words might help her see her work in a whole new way. You’ll be helping readers who depend on reviews to make a choice. That’s good for everyone and a lot to get out of a few minutes of reacting to a story that grabbed you and/or made you think.  

Quick, short reviews can be very effective — especially on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Simply tell why you recommend the book in one or two sentences. If you want to add plot summary, analysis of writing style, or who the ideal audience is, feel free. It’s nice but not necessary.

Short reviews can be very effective. Click To Tweet

If you decide to write a more detailed review, start with the themes an author explores and then talk about how and why the story sheds new light on a familiar subject or opens your insights.  Often I start by articulating the questions that the author is exploring:

  • What if you have a gift that no one can accept?
  • Ever been puzzled by a partner’s behavior?
  • Ever wonder how others handle the costs of their bad decisions?
  • What happens when family and ambition compete?
  • What does it take to survive?

Another approach is to tell people what the book intends to convey and how well it does its job. This works for a two-sentence review or a longer one.

I usually include a brief summary and identify the author’s strengths. If something bothers me I’ll mention it briefly as long as it’s not a story spoiler. If I can’t write something good and make the review at least 80% positive, I move on to the next book.

If you look at the reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, you’ll see that lengths vary. I’ve written one-sentence reviews and I’ve posted reviews of 350 words or more. Generally, less is more. Many people have short attention spans.

Once you’re satisfied with your review, it’s easy to copy and paste into Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

  • Go to the site where you want to place your review.
  • Find the search box.
  • Type the book title and/or author and hit return.
  • When the correct page comes up, scroll down to the box that says, “Write a Customer Review” or “Add a Review.”
  • Click on the box. Amazon asks some questions to guide you. Barnes & Noble doesn’t. You can simply rate the book and paste in your review, because you are prepared.

Often the sites will notify the author when a review is posted. Not always. It’s all controlled by algorithms beyond our control. Here’s what’s within your control:

  • You can write a review.
  • You can read other reviews as samples.
  • You can post a review.

You can practice on the last book you read. Or the one you’re just finishing. The author will love you for it.

Another way to help authors is to recommend their books to your friends, writing peers, and book groups. Word of mouth is excellent publicity. Paying it forward matters. Right or wrong, the number of reviews you have on Amazon also matters, so the important thing is to write honestly and share your thoughts. They’re just as valuable as anyone else’s. You never know where a review might lead, and posting book reviews is a great way for writers to build community.

Not sure where to start? Not even reading a book right now? I’d be delighted to have you review my memoir about love, acceptance, and much more. It’s called Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. 

It’s a quick, easy read, and I’m perfectly happy with either a short or long review, as long as it’s honest. You can post it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, or all three. 

Lynn Goodwin owns Writer Advice, Her memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 came out in December. She’s written You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers and Talent, which was short-listed for a Literary Lightbox Award, won a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist for a Sarton Women’s Book Award.

Goodwin’s work has appeared in Voices of Caregivers, Hip Mama, Dramatics Magazine, Inspire Me Today, The Sun, Good, Purple and many other places. She is a reviewer and teacher at Story Circle Network, and she is an editor, writer and manuscript coach at Writer Advice.


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6 thoughts on “Guest Post by Lynn Goodwin – Share Your Opinions: Why Book Reviews Matter and How You Can Help

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    In today’s world in which people have so many choices to make and are overwhelmed with the number of self-published and traditionally published books, I truly believe that readers make their reading choices based upon digital reviews–the technological equivalent of what we in my generation called word-of-my advertising. So making a review is not only kind but also spreads the news about a story/book that touched me. I write reviews more often than I once did because I have a responsibility to do so.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Sara, you are so right. Just this morning, I made a choice NOT to buy one book because of the reviews on it and DID buy a different book because of the reviews. I rely on what people say about a book to make an informed choice. So, reviews are particularly important for new authors. Like you, I write reviews more often now that I am myself an author and understand the impact they have. (Sometimes we have to live it to understand it.)

  • Roland Clarke

    Good advice, Lynn. I write reviews, but I struggle to find the time to do justice. My latest ‘ploy’ is to write a brief three sentence review on Goodreads, then update it whenever I manage to write a longer piece on my blog.