Saturday, January 05, 2013

Nancy Cohen on Reader Reviews: An Author's Best Friend

I met fellow author Nancy J. Cohen through the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She recently wrote a great post on her blog, Nancy's Notes from Florida, about how readers can help authors whose books they enjoy. With her permission, I'm re-posting it here for your reading pleasure.

Nancy's post:

When you finish reading a book, do you write a brief review and post it online? If your answer is negative, why not? Do you feel you have nothing to say? Are you afraid your opinion won’t count? Is it too much bother?

Reader reviews count a great deal to potential book buyers. When you’re thinking of ordering a book, do you go to the virtual bookstore and read customer reviews? I know I do. It’s possible that the more customer reviews on an Amazon page, the more chances of Amazon’s algorithms picking up the title and including it in their promotion, “If you like this book, you might like…” This recommendation is of tremendous help to authors. So are five star reviews. But be honest in your opinion and assign however many stars you feel is appropriate. Just please don’t trash someone’s work. If you don’t like the book, leave off your opinion. Nothing hurts worse than seeing someone give my book one star and condemning it. Maybe it just wasn’t their cup of tea and another reader will love it.

So how do you write a review? Start out with a blurb about the story. Pretend you are summarizing the tale for a friend, but omit any critical plot points that may act as spoilers. Then mention what you liked about the book. The exquisite setting details? The engaging characters? The non-stop action, or the quirky sidekick? Surely you can find something good to say. End your review if you can with a quotable line encapsulating your opinion. This may range from “A charming historical mystery that will sweep you away to the Victorian era” to “Starships, space battles, and snarky sidekicks…what’s not to like about this action-packed sci-fi adventure?”

Since the New Year is upon us, hereby resolve to start writing reader reviews and posting them online to support your favorite authors. Where to put them? Here are several sites where your opinion matters.

Go to the book’s page. Scroll down to where is says Most Helpful Customer Reviews. Scroll down some more until it says Write a Customer Review. Then click there and follow the directions. You’ll need to be signed into your account. Preview and Publish your review as the final steps.

If you want to see my reviews as an example, go here.

And if you’ve read any of my books, even backlist titles, I can use more reviews! Go here to access a list of all my titles.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble is often overlooked, but with so many NOOK owners, this online bookstore still carries weight. On a book’s page, scroll down to where it says Customer Reviews. Then fill in your star rating and write your review in the box provided. Click Submit to finish. Again, you’ll probably need to be signed into your account first.

Here’s my author site on B&N. This online bookstore isn’t as author friendly as Amazon so it’s harder for us to make changes, like eliminating books under my name that don’t belong there.


Goodreads is a popular reader site where readers review books they’ve read, file these reviews on virtual bookshelves and create genre lists. Readers participate in group discussions, offering each other recommendations. A good review here really helps, and so does a recommendation in any of the groups! You can also look for book giveaways under Explore to get a taste of new releases. It’s easy to register for a free account. Then you just go to My Books, click on Add Books, and type in the book title. The book should pop up. Click on it and give it a star rating. Then click on Edit my Review and write in your review, or cut and paste it from your home computer. Be my friend at Goodreads

Library Thing

Here’s another site for you to post reviews and keep track of your reads. I need to update my bookshelf here. Librarians frequent this site. Find me on Library Thing here. And, it’s another place for authors to offer giveaways of upcoming new releases.


This site is linked to Amazon, so any book details you add in here may show up there. I need to update my reviews on Shelfari, too: .

Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with each place. Once I get caught up, though, I can just copy and paste my book review to each site once I finish reading a title.

Your opinion as a reader truly counts now more than ever, with professional reviews almost impossible for authors to get on their own, reviewers swamped with hundreds of titles, and the days of bookstore browsing severely diminished. Word of mouth is critical, and this is where you come in. Offering positive reviews and recommendations online of books you’ve read is one of the best forms of support you can do for authors. Consider yourselves our street team, and get involved.

Are you already doing online reviews, and if so, where?

Learn more about Nancy J. Cohen and her books at her website.


Margaret Reyes Dempsey said...

Great post. I disagree on one point. If someone gives my book one star, I WANT them to list the reason why.

It may be for a ridiculous reason, which would make another customer discount the one-starred review (e.g., The shipping box containing the cancer treatment that saved my life was damaged during shipping and since I prefer smooth boxes, I can only give one star to this product.) We’ve all seen those acts of idiocy on Amazon.

A reader may have a valid gripe about my book, and that's something I can learn from.

I do agree that there's never a good reason to trash the author. You can say you didn’t love something without making it a personal attack.

With all that said, I most likely would not give an author one star. I appreciate brutal honesty. Many don't. If I didn't like a book, I just wouldn’t do a review.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I'm with you, Margaret. If I can't find something good to say, I just won't write a review. And if it's someone I know, I will make an effort to be kind and find something worthy to admire in their writing.

Julie Compton said...

Margaret, I don’t do too many reviews myself because I’m a picky reader and it takes a lot for me to want to give a book four or five stars, and yet I don’t want to hurt the author’s chances of reaching readers who may like the book. I think if I were only a reader (and not a writer, also), I wouldn’t hold back so much with my reviews. But I just can’t bring myself to give low reviews to my fellow authors, because although many authors would be reasonable about them, I think many might not be, and it’s not worth it to me to burn those bridges.

Nancy, thanks so much for the post! It's really helpful.