Here is the 34th installment of Ten Top Lists of What Not to Do by Marie Ann Bailey of 1WriteWay at http://1writeway.com and John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites at http://johnwhowell.com. These lists are simu-published on our blogs each Monday. We hope you enjoy.
10. When writing a book review, do not provide a five-page synopsis of the book before you even start your review. If you do, at best, readers will just skip the synopsis and your efforts will be wasted. At worst, readers will confuse the synopsis for your own work, tweet and blog about the review, causing it to go viral and guaranteeing a negative reaction by the author.
9. When writing a book review, do not simply say, “I liked the book. It was really good.” Readers want to know what you liked about the book. If that is all you say, at best, your reviews will simply be ignored. At worst, readers will ignore you in droves when they see you use the same response for everything from Fifty Shades of Gray to Five Billion Years of Solitude and decide not to take your reviews seriously.
8. When writing a book review, do not simply say, “I hated it. It was a waste of time.” If you really didn’t like a book, explain why so the reader can make an informed decision whether or not to read it. If you don’t, at best, readers will just ignore your review, shrugging you off as someone who probably didn’t even read the book. At worst, readers will take exception to your condescending attitude and begin to flag all your reviews as “Not helpful,” quickly causing your reputation as a book reviewer to go south.
7. When writing a book review, do not include spoilers unless you make it clear at the beginning of your review that it contains spoilers. If you do, at best, only a few readers will be disturbed by your spoiler review, and they may even kindly point out your error to you. At worst, a flame war among reviewers of the book will erupt, with you likely getting a call from the author’s pro wrestler brother-in-law.
6. When writing a book review, do not think it is funny to suggest the author of the book quit writing and take up dishwashing for employment. If you do, at best, readers will take you for the troll you are and ignore you. At worst, you might find yourself suddenly and uncomfortably associated with bullies and brutes, a group of people who tend to eat their own.
5. When writing a book review, do not think the reader needs to know every single typo, grammatical error, or other such boo-boo in the book you’ve reviewed. If you point all these out, at best, your annotations might simply distract the reader from fully understanding what the book is about. At worst, you may be hearing from the author’s attorney because in your zeal to show your editorial prowess, you essentially duplicated the book in your review.
4. When writing a book review, do not think that speed reading through a stack of books and then spending a weekend marathon writing reviews will necessarily stoke your reputation as a book reviewer. If you do, at best, readers might be impressed, but still wonder at your sanity for producing 60 reviews in 48 hours. At worst, near the end of your marathon reviewing, you conflate Goldfinch with the Peterson Field Guide to Birds and your reviews become the laughingstock of Amazon reviews.
3. When writing a book review, do not think just reading the first and last chapter of a book is enough to enable you to write an intelligent book review. If that’s all you do, at best, you’ll wind up just writing “I liked it” or “I hated it” because you really can’t say anything more. At worst, you get called out by another reviewer when you mention the hero survives World War II when in fact the book is about zombies and the hero turns into one in the penultimate chapter.
2. When writing a book review, do not think you need to become an authority on the author of the book you are reviewing. At best, the author will be a stay-at-home mom with two-year-old twins who will feel flattered you thought she actually lives a life of romance and danger. At worst, the author could be a lawyer trying his hand at writing fiction and who will not take kindly to your suggestion to the effect: Since he writes from the point of view of a serial killer, he then must have experience as a serial killer. In this case, the lawyer may decide to role-play his novel, with you as the victim.
1. When writing a book review, do not think you will gain fans and followers by being snarky and rude in your reviews. Okay, you probably will, but consider what kind of fans/followers they will be. At best, they will just be people with nothing better to do than be anonymously rude and snarky on the web and eventually you’ll get tired of the negativity, change your gravatar and start writing constructive reviews. At worst, the people following you could hack into your account and download every gravatar you’ve ever used, as well as, all your email addresses and blogs and previous book reviews, and you will never ever escape them, making your experience an interesting plot for a dystopian novel.
To see how book reviews should be written, visit Ionia Martin’s Readful Things Blog at www.readfulthingsblog.com.