But after you’ve closed a book, why should you bother to write one? How do you do it? And who can write a review? What’s considered a ‘good’ review?
Whoa! Let’s take a step back…
Why write a book review?
Analysing and expressing your thoughts about a book you’ve read can help you understand it better and thus enrich your reading experience. Additionally, and more practically, book reviews are crucial in helping other readers understand what a particular book is about and whether they should invest time in reading it. An honest and well-written book review can also help your favourite authors. Reviews not only provide valuable feedback for the author – or at the very least, some much-needed praise and/or positive critique – they also boost visibility of books on sites like Amazon, helping more people find (and purchase) the books that you love and want to recommend to others.
Before writing, consider who the review is for: online retailer e.g. Amazon, magazine/newspaper article (what readership?), book site e.g. Goodreads, your own blog, serious review journal, e.g. London Review of Books, genre review site/magazine e.g. Discovering Diamonds Reviews, HNS Historical Reviews or Mystery People magazine.
Consider the style, tone and length of review appropriate for the publication while not sacrificing your own.
Do not be intimidated into thinking your review must be erudite or cover several pages. Some of the best reviews can be only three lines long.
Key guideline: it’s about the book, and not you.
A few general guidelines
Make notes. By the time you have finished the book, you’re bound to have forgotten things you wanted to include in the review. The physical action of writing helps commit those points to memory.
Read the whole book unless it is so dire you can’t bear it. But be prepared to say why if asked.
Any review that you write should be constructive, whether it’s positive or critical.
Engage your readers immediately in your review – use the first sentence to state your overall opinion.
Strive to be kind in your brutal honesty. Avoid being hurtful in your constructive criticism – authors are people too!
Mention the main theme, genre, whether it’s part of a series, or a debut.
Does it fit into genre conventions or not? Does that make it a better’/more interesting or engaging book?
Does the book give you a sense of the place it’s set?
What is the author’s ‘voice’ like?
Mention the plot, character development and the writing style
Is the dialogue lively or dull, correct for the period/setting?
Other readers don’t want to hear just the facts. They also want to know what you think about the book, and how it made you feel! Did you like the story? Hate it? Why? Explain your feelings towards the book as best you can. What particularly excited you? What made you want to throw the book away (If you did)?
What do you think the author did well? What do you think the author could have done better?
Be authentic. Your followers/readers want to hear what you think of the book, and in your own voice.
Include comments on any artwork or graphics included, extra materials (like a reading guide, map, family chart, glossary, etc.), whether there are any incorrect facts. (Check very carefully before you do!)
include half the plot, or heaven forbid, the whole plot, or spoilers in your review (No one enjoys spoilers and it’s mean).
Watch your formatting
While most book review sites and retailer sites such as Amazon prefer you write in a simple format, you can make it readable and enjoyable by other readers with these guidelines:
Avoid writing just one big block of text. Space out your paragraphs so your review is easily readable.
Don’t use ALL CAPS ever in a review.
Don’t use punctuation excessively, such as using multiple exclamation points or question marks.
Proofread your review for grammar, spelling mistakes, typos, etc. before sending it in or publishing it. A simple typo or error in your book review might discredit your review in the eyes of readers.
These are just a few guidelines
You do not need to do all of this, but hopefully, they may help to encourage you to leave a review after you’ve finished reading that book on your bedside table.
A murder investigation…and Rafferty’s already got troubles in spades.
His first case in charge looks like being his last.
Because he suspects that the case of the ‘Faceless Lady’ is a poisoned chalice. Gifted by his new boss who is only waiting for Rafferty to fail, to put the boot in. He’s even arranged his even newer partner—a pedant who rubs him up the wrong way from the start.
When even his Ma adds seems to add to the kicking…
‘Geraldine Evans has done it again. The distinguished, veteran British crime writer has turned out another crackling, entertaining and highly satisfying crime mystery in her Rafferty & Llewellyn, British mystery series, Game of Bones – 18th in the series.
Once again, we have the delightful team of maverick, intuitive Inspector Rafferty and his stolid, infinitely irritating and endlessly disapproving sergeant sidekick, Llewellyn – bickering and quibbling their way to a conclusion to the case – with Inspector Rafferty spewing steams of exasperation out of his ears. It is funny all the way, in its endearingly charming expose of human foibles, follies and peccadilloes.
Yes, we have a brutal murder of a distinguished university professor, yes, we have another professor suspect, and another equally suspicious character, a sashaying, swishy, fashion-loving young man (tsk, task, Ms. Evans). Yes, we have numerous twists and turns, reversals and red herrings. But running through the narrative is the very funny, subtle competition between maverick inspector Rafferty with his 6th sense and his plodding logician of a sergeant, Llewellyn.
Rafferty starts off with a bang of confidence, convinced he has already nailed the murderer in an airtight case, but his methodical sergeant has other ideas, and slowly we see Rafferty’s convictions dissolved in a puddle of self-doubt. This thread runs all throughout the investigation and I thoroughly enjoyed the company of these two sparring partners, and Rafferty’s discomposure as his sergeant’s thesis seems to be confirmed by the investigation.
And of course, round every corner of the investigation, we meet a whole series of captivating, eccentric characters, some unsavory, some just normal folk, and some bizarre beyond belief.
One of my favorites was the landlord of one of the suspects, Sebastian Carlton, who says to the two officers:
You go through his stuff good. Make sure he no steal from me. He vain boy. Wear crevets. Must be poof. No girlfriends. Never.
That got a bark of a laugh out of me (and a bit of finger wagging at Ms. Evans). Also endearing is Rafferty’s mum who engages in a moment of hen-pecking and brow beating of her officer son.
As we roll along on this rollicking ride (alliteration there), we are accompanied on this journey by a very comforting, reassuring companion–and that is Ms. Evans prose. Written with such beautiful cadences, rhythms and modulations, it is almost a lost world of ‘old fashioned values,’ when the beauties of the English language were de rigeur in any novel, crime or otherwise. Ms. Evans has the inner ear for language missing from so many contemporary crime novelists, with their fiendishly clever plots and utilitarian prose. We hear it in the controlled rhythms and dramatic pacing of her sentences. It is not flowery, literary language. This is not Alan Hollinghurst here. The prose has the hard edge appropriate to a crime novel. But it is there all the same, creating in the background a sense of gentle order and rightness in a confused world, peopled as it is by eccentrics and criminals, capable of nefarious deeds. Her prose style is one of the characters of the book.
And now we come to the ending, the denouement, when all is revealed – the test of any good crime novel. I didn’t see it coming, which, of course, is a good thing – and it happened so fast and so convincingly that it took my breath away. It was one of those “Aha, Eureka” moments we have all had in our lives. For example, we search our bookshelves for a favorite book and can’t seem to find it, no matter how hard we try or how many times we run through the shelves. Then we go out to dinner, have a few martinis and a bottle of wine, come back home and there is the book winking at us on the central shelf, right in front of our nose.
This is what happens to Inspector Rafferty. The clue was there all the time, he just couldn’t see it. But once he does see it, everything makes perfect sense for him and for us the readers as well. This is the technique of a master craftsperson. Because of this brilliantly executed ending, I finished the book with that deep sense of satisfaction that is the primary pleasure of crime writing. Thank you, Ms Evans, you’ve done it again. And we all look forward to Volume 19th of your Rafferty and Llewellyn British mystery series.
‘Blood on the Bones is the 9th book in British author Geraldine Evans’ Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy mystery series and I found it a very absorbing read. This is a crime novel with depth and substance, which exchanges cheap thrills for some very meditative ruminations on religious faith and doubt, spiced with a bit of wry humor and some wicked plot twists that made me laugh out loud. A body has been discovered buried in the gardens of the Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Conception. Detective Inspector Joseph Rafferty, a lapsed Catholic of long repute, is assigned to the case and finds himself confronting the demons of his own harsh Catholic upbringing. As Inspector Rafferty follows the tangled clues in the case, he finds himself confronting his own religious and spiritual yearnings. Is a spiritual awakening on the horizon or even a full re-conversion to his Catholic past? Hardly likely for the astute, acutely rational Rafferty. But then one never knows. This case is bringing to the surface more questions than the simple `whodunit’. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and appreciated Geraldine Evans’ quiet restraint in avoiding all sensationalism. She has managed to combine some serious reflections on religious themes of doubt and faith and the abuses of a repressive religious system together with a crackling police procedural that is both funny and shocking at the same time. Speaking as a former Trappist monk, I can say that her characterizations of the nuns in this contemplative order are spot on! Philosophical reflections, shocks and laughs all blended smoothly together in one crime novel. That’s quite a feat. I’ve now started the 3rd book in the series, Death Line, about a famous psychic, adviser to the stars, who fails to predict his own grisly murder. The author had me laughing by the second page! Well done!’ RICHARD DEMMA, www.crimescenereviews.com
Book review: DEAD BEFORE MORNING (Rafferty and Llewellyn Police Procedural Series #1) by Geraldine Evans
‘A lively and highly engrossing British mystery…
Evans’s first installment in Rafferty and Llewellyn Police Procedural Series see DI Rafferty and Sergeant Llewellyn investigating vicious murder of a young woman at an unlikely place.
Recently promoted Detective Inspector Joe Rafferty and Detective Sergeant Llewellyn are sent out to a local psychiatric institution to investigate brutal murder of an unidentified young woman. The pair’s digging into the lives of hospital staff and other people stirs fears of what secrets might be revealed.
The gusty, resolute Rafferty and the gruff, scholarly Llewellyn’s odd pairing and their comic banter is a treat to read. Illegal drugs, jealous colleagues, and scorned lovers all mix into the intrigue. Short chapters with top-notch prose, and catchy, ironic dialogue keep the action moving.
Evans’s successful maintenance of the spunk and humor throughout the story will earn her a devoted following.’
BY DEBORAH LLOYD OF READERS’ FAVORITE
‘Geraldine Evans has written an entertaining mystery novel in Dead Before Morning: Rafferty & Llewellyn British Mystery Series.
The mystery is engaging from the first page to the last, with many twists and turns. The ending is unexpected, although the author skillfully places clues along the way. The two main characters are well-described, and the complexities of their relationship added an intriguing element to the story. The inclusion of Rafferty family members, part of a large Irish Catholic clan, adds another interesting layer to the story; this is contrasted by Llewellyn’s only-child, single lifestyle. Dead Before Morning: Rafferty & Llewellyn British Mystery Series, written by Geraldine Evans, is a fascinating mystery. It is the first of an eighteen-book series; every reader will want to devour the next seventeen books!’
Such a thrill to write a guest post for Joe Konrath. I’ve admired him from afar since before I decided to turn Indie myself—a decision I doubt I’d have had the courage to make if not for Joe.
So thank you, Joe. For your generosity in sharing so much with the rest of the writing community. And for opening our eyes to the possibilities created by Amazon and the internet.
You’ve raised the lid on so much to do with the publishing world. Not least author earnings, which most of us have probably been secretive about. Though more from mortification that our earnings were so small than from any James Bondian reason!
A lot of us are now earning a living from our writing and finding those readers that were so elusive during our traditional publishing days.
I’ve been writing for over half my life. But, like most writers, I took a while to get my act together and actually finish a novel. It took hitting one of those age milestones for me to stop prevaricating and actually type those blissful words: ‘The End’.
But, as we all know, and as Winston Churchill famously said in relation to World War Two, we weren’t at the beginning of the end. But we might be at the end of the beginning.
So, beginning made, we advanced proudly on to the next stage. You’ll be familiar with this one. It’s the standard rejection letter stage. This goes on for quite a while.
From there we move on, if we’re lucky, to the more personal rejection letter. Maybe even with a few encouraging words scribbled at the end by the editor. But it’s still a rejection. It doesn’t necessarily smell any sweeter with the addition of a few barely decipherable words.
Six years and six books later, in my case, I received my first letter from a publisher saying they wanted to publish my novel.
I’d been writing romances in the hope of getting signed up by Mills & Boon (Harlequin). I never managed to get taken on by them. Although I did get to the ‘few words’ stage. They advised me my books had too much plot and not enough romance…
So, I decided to try Robert Hale, who also published romance in a smaller way. They accepted my novel, Land of Dreams (set in the Canadian Arctic in an attempt to be ‘the same, but different’!–out of print in any format), for the fabulous sum of — wait for it — £100. Still, it was a start. And, of course, I’d go on to greater things…
Robert Hale rejected my next romance.
This latest rejection had made me good and mad. I simmered quietly during all the time it took before I managed to get published again.
It took me a while—a long six years. But I eventually listened to that quiet little voice inside. It had been telling me for over half a decade to try changing genres.
God knows I felt like murdering someone! So I did what that little voice had been saying, switched genres and turned to crime.
And out I went, when Macmillan was taken over by a firm of German publishers, and they dropped about a third of their list, including yours truly.
It was another six years before I managed to get published again. What is it with me and the number six? Anyway Absolute Poison started my stop/start writing career off again. This time I’d go on to greater things, for sure.
Alas, the greater things never happened. I languished on the midlist through God knows how many years and another ten crime novels. With no marketing budget, no publisher-paid-for book tours, no nothing. It really was a dead-end job with no hopes of promotion.
Worse, it was a very poorly-paid dead end job which had to be fitted in around my real dead-end job.
Is this it? I thought. Is this what all my aspirations and hard work had been about?
By this stage, I was pretty disheartened and beginning to lose my love of words and the joy I’d previously found in putting them together. I was still working full-time at the day job and fitting in my writing during evenings, weekends and holidays. It wasn’t much fun for me or my long-suffering husband.
I’d always tried to educate myself about the publishing world. The same as I’d tried to educate myself after I left school at sixteen. It was this desire to learn that brought me to Joe’s blog.
Hardly able to believe my eyes, I read what he had to say about going it alone in a self-publishing world.
Could there really be a way to escape the publishing treadmill? Rekindle(!) my previous delight in the written word? And make a proper living, too? It seemed too good to be true.
There’s got to be a catch, I thought. But I continued to read Joe’s blog. From his posts I discovered other authors who’d taken the step into this Brave New publishing World before me. I started to think, ‘Mmm. Maybe it is possible’.
Joe was and is, such a great enthusiast, such an inspiration. He writes the things about publishers that most of us only think. In 2010, the year I turned Indie, it was like a succession of those ‘ping!’, light bulb moments.
Although I still hardly dared to believe I could succeed on my own, after a few months’ I became brave enough to turn down my publisher’s latest contract.
Not a difficult decision in the event. Especially as signing it would mean I agreed to give them the ebook rights to my entire backlist, the potential value of which they were starting to grasp.
Hey, I might be ill-educated, but I’m not stupid; certainly not after receiving a publishing education at the hands of the Master! No way was I signing that. So I said, ‘thanks, but no thanks’, and cut myself adrift to sink or swim on my own.
But I wasn’t alone. I had Joe always there with so much advice. And I had all the other intrepid authors who, like me, the publishing world assured us, would come to regret our foolhardy decision to leave their ‘nurturing’ nest.
Well, I’m happy to tell you we weren’t so foolhardy after all. I now earn more in a month than I used to earn in an entire year publishing the traditional route.
I was able to give up the hated day job.
I finally managed to get the rights back to the last of my books.
And since 2010, I’ve been a proud Indie author.
Altogether, with my eighteen traditionally-published novels, I now have twenty-eight books to my credit (21 mystery/suspense, 1 biographical historical novel (Reluctant Queen), 3 romances (written under a pen-name), and 3 non-fiction. And I’ve published short fiction as well.
The eighteenth Rafferty, Game of Bones– as well as all the rest of the series from Kith and Kill #15 – is one of my self-published works.
My Rafferty & Llewellyn Series is more cozyish procedural than noir, with my London-born and Essex-based DI Joseph Aloysius Rafferty hailing from a working-class Irish Catholic family who – with their little more than passing acquaintance with the letter of the law – are the bane of his life.
Being a policeman in the Rafferty family is not a happy experience. And while they might give me, as the author, and, hopefully, the readers, a lot of fun, they cause Rafferty plenty of angst. Angst compounded by me partnering him with DS Dafyd Llewellyn, a more moral than the Pope intellectual Welshman.
So, alongside the murder investigations, I’ve generally got family-caused mayhem going on in the sub-plots. Which gives Rafferty plenty of ‘how the hell do I get out of this?’, moments.
Now, I really must get on with my so-called work in progress (Untitled #19 Rafferty series), which seems to have been as stop/start as my writing career!
Okay, the catch is that I have to market them, and do all the hundred-and-one jobs entailed in running my own little publishing empire.
But I have a new lease of life, new readers and a new, much improved, source of income. All things the nay-sayers claimed I’d never get. It’s great! And, Joe—so are you! :)xxxx
Joe sez: I remember thinking that it was my fault my books never made the bestseller lists. Even though my publishers made so many mistakes it was a comedy of errors. Even though I’d done more than any author, before or since, to self-promote. I felt the responsibility for being midlist.
Self-publishing for me was emancipation. With it came the realization that I’d done many things right, and that it was the archaic, greedy, dysfunctional, evil industry that had screwed up, not me.
But I won’t place all the blame on NY publishing. Because fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for eight legacy published books, I became a willing participant in my own victimization.
Granted, it was the only game in town. To a starving man, a crust of bread is a banquet.
But I’ll never forget the feelings of failure, many of which stemmed from my own modest expectations.
I can imagine what young sports stars feel like, working their asses off in college sports, hoping to go pro. I can also imagine how they feel when they get a shot at going pro, and it doesn’t work out. The whole “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” sounds like it was written by someone trying to soothe himself after a horrible experience.
Honestly, I don’t know what hurts more. Spending years trying to break into legacy publishing but never getting a deal, or getting a deal and being treated like crap.
I still see authors going after legacy deals and I honestly can’t understand what the allure is. Aren’t there enough confessional stories of woe on the internet that show how legacy publishers treat authors? Aren’t there more and more indie authors speaking about their successes?
I’d like someone to explain to me why, if they read my blog, they’d still pursue a legacy deal. The hope of a NYT bestseller? It can happen self-publishing. A movie deal? It can happen self-publishing. Someone to guide them through the publishing process? That DOESN’T happen in legacy publishing. Publishers don’t take care of you. They exploit you.
I’m not the only one crowing about this. I’m seeing the same stories, over and over. I’m seeing publishers make the same mistakes. I’m seeing the old system fail, bit by bit. All the information is out there, easily accessible.
And yet there are still authors who want a book deal. The Big 5 and Harlequin are still seducing authors into taking unconscionable deals.