What Makes a Book Review Rock?

Something I’m going to start offering on Lady Myers’ Wordsmithing is book reviews of independent authors. My goal is to offer one a week, with the intention of shining a light on indie authors who are putting out good stuff and warning readers about what to stay away from.

There will be reviews of fiction and non-fiction books, and I will share reviewing duties with a new team member (introduction coming soon!). A select few genres will be represented, as I want to focus on what I like to read and develop strong skills for consulting with indie authors in those genres.

Fiction

  • Fantasy, including Steampunk, Epic, Paranormal, Sword & Sorcery, and more.
  • Historical Fiction
  • Mystery/Thriller

Non-fiction

  • Memoirs/Biographies
  • Personal growth
  • Business growth

I have been thinking about what makes for a quality review, and thought that before exercising my research muscles, I would give it a go on my own and solicit feedback from readers.

Ranking

I am inclined to develop some kind of ranking system, whether it be letter grade or star based. This will let me go with my gut and give readers a quick feel for the book.

What do you think about this? Do you put much stock in the ranking of a book? Which kind of system appeals to you?

Plot Synopsis

Obviously the trick is to reveal enough without spoiling anything for the reader. I don’t want to sound “blurby” either. I find that when I read reviews with lengthy synopses my reaction is that if I just wanted to know what the book was about, I would look at the description on Amazon. I want to know just enough to determine if it’s my kind of thing or not, regardless of how well-written it is.

Structure and Character Development.

I believe that successful books follow a four-part structure, as detailed by Larry Brooks. How well an author follows this structure will factor in my overall review.

Likewise, how well the characters were realized is important.

Technical Aspects

Is the book formatted correctly? Has it been professionally edited? If I don’t find evidence of this upfront, I won’t read or review it. I want to recommend books that are on par (or better) with a traditionally published book. The best writing in the world won’t find an audience without being presented respectably.

What Else?

Before I go on my mad researching spree, what are your thoughts about book reviews? Is there an average word count that’s best? Can you point me to some good ones?

I’d love your input in the comments or by email, at cmyers@ladymyerswordsmithing.com.

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