How to write a review

Reviews are the lifeblood of book sales on Amazon. The more reviews your books have, the more this “social proof” will persuade potential readers to buy them. It’s a simple psychological fact: when lots of other people like something, you are more likely to consider it than if no-one has shown any interest.

But reviews are hard to get. You give out free books to people, and they somehow never get around to writing a review like they promised. You have free promotions on Amazon with hundreds of downloads... and no reviews. It’s frustrating.

And it’s due to another simple psychological fact, one which you, as a writer, should know really well: the fear of the blank page. Expressing yourself in written format is never simple, even if it’s “just” a review. For a non-writer, trying to lay out their thoughts and feelings about a book can be an intimidating thing. And things which are hard, and which don’t give any reward, tend not to get done.

Is there anything you can do to make it easier? I think there might be. As a writer, you probably have some techniques for overcoming the fear of the blank page. You might have an outline. Perhaps you do research, or character sketches. Or maybe you subscribe to the “crappy first draft” technique where you just write down anything that comes to mind, knowing that any weaknesses can be fixed in the edit. All of these are ways to get over the inertia of the blank page and start writing.

Now your reviewers are in exactly the same boat when they come to starting their review, so some help in getting started, some kind of outline, would be most welcome. Exactly what form this outline should take will depend to some extent on the nature of the work to be reviewed, but as a general guide, you could suggest they answer one or more of the following questions:

1. What did you particularly like about the book? (Or: what was really good?)
2. How did the book make you feel when reading it?
3. Which character did you really like? Which one did you hate?
4. Did the book make you smile, laugh, or cry?
5. Was the story exciting? Was there a twist which you didn’t expect?
6. Would you like to read more books by the author?
7. How was the length of the book? Too short, too long, or just right?
8. Was the ending satisfying?
9. Were you sad to finish the book? Did you wish it went on forever?
10. Did you race through the story to find out what happened next? Or did you savour it slowly?

Remember, just by asking your readers to leave a review, you are giving them a somewhat daunting challenge. Suggesting a few ways in which they could write the review shows understanding and makes it more likely that they will help you out.

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