We all have opinions about reviews, whether we’re readers, non-readers, authors, or editors. I’ve been lectured on how reviews should be, or which people should write reviews (and which people should not. EVER. write. them.), what main points each should cover, or how they should be simple and honest. I’ve been told that if someone hated a book, they shouldn’t write a review — and yet also told that if you hate it, it’s your duty to write a review.
The fact is, people, there’s more than one type of book reviewer. There’s more than one system. More than one level of professionalism. More than one level of average-joeism. This break-down is, in no way, exhaustive, but here are the different types of reviewers I’ve identified:
Book reviewers who write for other readers.
These are the most common forms of reviews. They’re written for fellow readers: “Don’t read this book! You’ll be bored out of your mind!” or “I did not think this was my type of book, but it blew me away. Try it.” Sometimes they follow a general “system” by breaking down the plot, the characters, the message, etc. Many of these book reviewers will have review blogs and loyal followers who share the same tastes.
Positives: These reach and help a broader audience.
Negatives: The reviewer may not have the same taste in books as you do.
It’s essentially a recommendation (or warning) to other readers from readers. These reviews will have comparisons like, “Xena-warrior-princess meets Gumby!” or “The Help meets The Hunger Games!” I’ve found many of these reviews well-rounded, honest, and helpful.
Book reviewers who write for the author.
These people review in hopes that the author will read it and adjust their writing craft. (Or that an up-and-coming author will read it and learn what not to do.) These reviews can be a bit harsher. Many of the reviews are written by authors who have their “editor brain” on. Authors have seen the other side of book-writing, so things like showing vs. telling or character arc issues or POV inconsistencies stand out to them and they’ll mention those in their review.
Positives: For readers with typo-pet peeves, these are great!
Negatives: These are sometimes over–analyzing and nit-picky.
These reviews will help other authors find books to read — authors who just can’t stand typos or passive voice (aka. most authors.) but won’t be too helpful to anyone outside of the writing world. They still reach a reading audience, but it’s a little smaller.
Book reviewers who write for themselves.
This is where we’ll see the venters and haters, the fangirls and and gushers. These are usually the book reviewers who just need get their feelings…out. I’ve totally done this in a review, so I’m not judging. These range from five-stars-OMG-I-wish-I-could-give-it-1,000! to one-sentence-one-star-grouch-grouch-grouch reviews
Positives: Sometimes these are fun (and a way to vicariously vent with someone) and provide amusement.
Negatives: Sometimes these don’t make sense and aren’t thorough.
There are always the exceptions: people who write a review for themselves — just pure opinion — in the hopes it will reach another reader. This is where you find a lot of fangirls (and fanboys…you know you’re out there) with GIF memes every other sentence.
These reviews are often fun to read, but bring very little content or new information. (If I love a book, I’ll often go read some of these types of reviews, just to feel like I’m fangirling with someone else for a moment.)
Book reviewers who…don’t actually review.
This might seem like an oxymoron, but there are people who write, but don’t review. Those are the posts like, “Great read!” or “The character was interesting. I liked it.” or “Times New Roman is my favorite font!”
These types of reviews have “eighth-grade-school-assignment” written all over them.
Positives: Um…it bumps up the review count for the author?
Negatives: Zero content.
They’re more like votes for the book.
There are hundreds of blog posts out there on right and wrong ways to review, on why reviews matter (or don’t matter), on who should and shouldn’t review…but it comes down to different tastes. Funny how often that happens. 😉
I’ve purchased a book because over ten different reviewers said, “It’s not my type of book, but it was AWESOME!” (Cinder, by Marissa Meyer.) Then I’ve read a book where someone made a comparison (“Willy Wonka meets X-Men!” — referring to Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.)
The thing is, you don’t know which type of review is going to strike you. Too often, we judge a book by it’s review…because it wasn’t our type of review. (Tweet this) But maybe that means you need to look a little harder for the type of review your gravitate toward. (Don’t be ashamed if it’s the fangirling one!)
What type of reviews tend to help you the most?
Have I missed any?
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