4 Types of Book Reviewers — Which One Are You?

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.

Review for Readers 1These 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.

Review for Authors 1These 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 overanalyzing 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.

Review for Themselves 1This 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.

Reviews for No One 1This 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. 😉

Reviewers - Which Are You

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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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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20 Comments

  1. I’ve been all four of these types one way or another in my reviews. Sadly, I tend to fall into the “people who don’t review,” mainly because I’m a poor writer and get impatient.

    • I think I have been, too, Bianca. But, despite the angry looking stick figures (sorry, I drew them before I really fleshed out the article, LOL), I really wouldn’t say any of these reviewer types are bad. Each brings a different pro (no matter how small) and a different con. And, in the end, you NEVER know who will read your review and find it helpful, even if it’s one sentence long!

  2. I am more of a reviewer for readers, I think. I try to be balanced in my reviews and not just do a “gush fest”…even if I loved a book I attempt to find at least one criticism so my review doesn’t sound blindly in love. 😀 I usually don’t judge a book by the reviews at all…I read the description, look at the cover, and read the sample inside, and unless the reviews are overwhelmingly negative I will probably buy if I like what I see.

  3. I don’t review very often because I somehow feel inadequate as a reviewer … but sometimes something will strike me and I feel compelled. Often it’s something negative (I hate to admit that, but it’s true), and those fall into a combination of “reviewing for the author” and “reviewing for other readers.” Sometimes a book blows me away and I have to put in a plug for it, so that’s a “reviewing for other readers” review. I don’t think that I review just for myself, and if all I can come up with was a “loved the book!” I won’t review it. I know I want “meat” as a review-reader, so I’m not going to leave a “1 cm square of tofu” review.

    • I completely understand being struck by the negatives! LOL, love your reference to a 1cm square of tofu. 😉 Perfect example. It sounds like you have a really good handle on how your review.

  4. Excellent article! I don’t know where I sit on the spectrum of reviewers, except that I do my best to take off my “author” hat. I LOVE to share what I’ve read, but I try not to comment on the technical aspects of the writing. And I’m thinking about backing away from writing reviews.

    I wrote a blog post a while ago about reviews, and how, as readers, many of us are searching for books that connect like soul mates. Thus such a variety of responses to one story. I am amazed to see how some books are people’s favorites and others hate them. It doesn’t make the book “bad”. I think we forget that whatever kind of review it is, it still boils down to their thoughts and experience. Some writing rules can be broken for the good of the story ( and some not so much) and that can irk some people more than others. I am a very forgiving reader and I tend to add what’s missing without realizing that I am doing it.

    When it comes to reading reviews, I try to read the gamut of them from the critical to the gushing cheerleader and figure out if this is a story I’d want to take a chance on.

    • Thank you, Jennette! 🙂

      I’m like you, where I like to get rid of the author hat. Reviews really boil down to finding someone with similar reading tastes as us.

      I also think it’s great that you read so many of the different reviews. I find that’s the best way to get a good grasp on whether or not I’ll pick up the book. 🙂

  5. “Times New Roman is my favorite font”!!! LOL. Best line ever 🙂

    This reminds me of when I first began to review for Bethany House and I gave a debut author a negative review (and I would do it again. It was the most predictable book ever). I didn’t give much thought to who would read it, as I just began my (old) blog and was new to cyberspace in general.

    Felt terrible when the author herself left a comment on my review, but I didn’t say anything I would regret, it was polite and professional! Still, I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, especially to someone’s “baby” like that. It was awkward. Felt it best to just leave her comment alone and not try to reply or backpedal.

    • LOL, thanks. 😉

      Yeah, those sorts of situations are a bit awkward. I’ve found, as an author, I avoid commenting on reviews of my book (either positive or negative) because I want the reviewers to feel free to write what they felt about the book (without Mama-Author-Bear leaning over their shoulders…)

      Also, it keeps me from freaking out when someone says something negative, LOL. You never know when your honesty in reviewing will help an author grow! 😉

  6. Great article!!!

    Hmmm.. I think I review for other readers. That’s been my intention since I started blogging about books.

    Personally I really don’t like those who review for themselves and use a lot of GIF’s, or swear a lot just to be cool. (Incredibly these reviews are the most liked in goodreads)

    • Thank you, Angel!

      I would agree — from what I’ve read on your blog — that you review for other readers, and you do a great job with them!

      Yes, I’m shocked that the GIF-plus-ridiculous-swearing reviews are the most popular on Goodreads! I wonder if it’s mostly because they can be found as “humorous” instead of “helpful”, which is often more popular these days.

  7. Good post! Reminds me of the old rule of knowing your audience before you write.

    I very rarely write reviews. If a story really really impresses me for one reason or another I will occasionally write a review–mostly aimed at other readers (or viewers). There are also reviews I haven’t written because I didn’t have the energy to sort all my thoughts and emotions into tidy piles fit for human consumption. That’s when I just vote for the book and be done with it! I refrain from writing reviews on books I found wildly unimpressive because it feels wrong to say *nothing* nice. If the only nice thing I can think of is “cool cover art” then I will keep my rants to my besties and not stain the interwebs with book-blood.

    Also, I loved the stick figures!

    • “I didn’t have the energy to sort all my thoughts and emotions into tidy piles fit for human consumption.” – LOL! That’s probably the biggest reason I don’t write reviews more consistently.

      And I’m glad you liked my stick figures! Ha! I have fun drawing them, even when they’re simple and silly.

  8. Good break-down.
    I think I tend to fall mostly into the ‘reviews for authors’ category, but not for the reasons you mention. I often write reviews because I want to support an author that I really believe in – to help ‘get the word out’.

    I see myself as more of a book-recommender than a reviewer. I generally prefer not to review a book I didn’t like.

    I think people need to be more aware of the different types of reviews that they read so this is a great post.

    • Ironic that I didn’t think of the different ways one can review for an author. 😉 I’ll have to update that one now that I’ve read your comment. Thank you, Adam!

      I like that you’re a “book-recommender.” That’s probably the most helpful to people who start to learn your reading tastes.

      I’m glad you liked this post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  9. I personally try to review as just a reader for other readers, which most often involves what I’ve related to in the story, but the writer in me comes out sometimes and I can get going about plot and character development, too. 🙂

  10. I think there’s another type of review, and that’s the book critic review. One that analyzes the work as a piece of literature. It’s meant to be more objective than subjective, with the understanding that different people like different things. Those are the reviews I find the most helpful, but you almost never see them anymore.

  11. Definetely type 1 and 3.
    Nice article ❤️

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