Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Quick and Easy Guide to Reviewing and Commenting on Amazon

My new friend, mystery and crime writer Geoffrey West pointed out something on the last blog that I hadn't thought of before...

I wonder if people are reticent about doing reviews because they think they have to be lengthy? A mutual friend of ours has often said a 3 line review is fine 

...as a compulsive reviewer. 

If I like something, I want to tell the writer/artist/musician/butcher/baker/candlestickmaker and so, I review. 

Reviews are lifeblood to an Indie. Not so much to Patterson or McDermid, but to an indie starting out on the journey, a review is essential to accelerate credibility. 

And not necessarily 5* reviews either. ANY number of stars will do*.

So. Here's a quick and easy guide to commenting and reviewing in three or four lines.


1) Title

Amazon ask you for a title. If you can't think of anything clever, write ONE word which sums up your feelings. 

Brilliant. Crap. SoSo. Spellbinding (I like that one). Hypnotic. Unputdownable. Disgrace. Rubbish. Give the review reader a one word picture of your opinions.

2) Story

How was the story? Did you enjoy it? Start off with a summary sentence: "I really enjoyed this book. It was a lot of fun to read and I was engrossed in the story." is fine.

3) Characters

Did you enjoy the characters the author has created? Were they believable? Could you picture them sitting in your living room enjoying a cup of tea? Or did all the characters merge into one? Who was your favourite character and why? 

4) Favourite scene

Did you have a favourite scene in the novel? What was it? " The scene in the orchard thrilled me." "I could picture Dennis in the kitchen at the moment of Freda's murder."

5) Writing

Was it well written? Good grammar and formatting? Original and witty? Bland and uninspired? Did the writing grab you? Inspire you? Or did you think - "I can write better than this". 

Always let the writer know about the writing. It's like complimenting a therapist on the quality of her advice, or the electrician on the finish of his conduit.


6) Would you recommend this book to a friend/buy another book by this author?

A simple sentence. No explanation necessary.

So, a short review of, say, "Dracula" by Bram Stoker, as written by someone who doesn't normally review books, might say.

Brilliant Vampire Tale.

"This was a great story. I was engrossed. Dracula himself was scary and I also really liked Jonathan Harker. My favourite scene was where Dracula disembarked the death ship on Whitby Docks - fantastic. It's beautifully written and perfectly formatted, so I could lose myself in the story.  I would have no hesitation in buying another Bram Stoker".

Download Dracula by Bram Stoker to your Kindle FREE here...Project Gutenburg

3 lines on Amazon. 6 sentences. 76 words. 

Okay, its not Brian Sewell, but readers who don't review don't want to be a critic - they want to read books.

And I, for one, as a writer of Indie fiction, would prefer a review as basic - but fundamentally warm - as this, than a no show.


PS: For me, you can even get away with a one line review for a book you loved...


5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down!
XVerified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Wrong Place Wrong Time (Kindle Edition)
I'm a True Crime fan for sure. Not sure this book falls in that category but took the chance and clicked on it. Loved it.

However, in my opinion, you cannot do this for a book you didn't enjoy, because of the existence of trolls. 

1.0 out of 5 stars Lame,
By Y - Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Wrong Place Wrong Time (Kindle Edition)
A total and completely waste of time. The writing sucks and the story is even worse...don't bother and save your money

*There are authors who vehemently disagree with me on this. 

** These are two LIVE reviews taken at random from Amazon


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  1. Yep, all very interesting Mark, and very true. I think this will catch people's interest, everyone is mad on reviews, good or bad.

    1. Thanks, Geoff! You gave me the idea...I run off at the mouth when it comes to reviews, but others are far more circumspect. Hopefully this will give readers some confidence...:D

  2. Great post Mark - what we really need to do is stick this in the back of our books! Hopefully as indie publishing grows readers will become more accustomed to leaving reviews. Georgia x

    1. I was talking to my Dad last night, Georgia. He's not a massive reader, but he made it through TNP and enjoyed it. Dad speaks in short sentences and only if he has something to say, so its not natural to him to review - books, music, holidays, hotels etc. I wonder whether he is in the majority? We, as authors, should be minded that what we want is not necessarily the reader's instinct. Hmmmm. Thanks again! :D Mxx

  3. Ha ha, you were looking at Dave's book, then, after I mentioned his positivity to you! I think the main reason people don't write reviews is simply that it doesn't occur to them. Before I self-published it wouldn't have occurred to me, either. I do agree with Geoff, though, that some people don't because they don't know what to say. And I agree that it's the NUMBER that's important - people are more likely to look at a book with 30 reviews made up of different ratings, than one with just 5 five star ones, as some presume that means they're all from the author's mates, anyway. Talking of this, I'd better go and write one....

    1. hahahahahah...oh yes, Terry, I had a good look around Dave's reviews after we nattered. I would be quite happy with a profile like his, even the savage one I showcase here. I've only ever hated six or seven books in my life, but it would have to be a truly dire book to extract a 1* from me; still, each to their own...:D

  4. psst - I was just thinking about this and something else occurred to me - if writing a review, please don't feel you have to explain the plot. If we want to know that, we can read the blurb. The point of a review is to tell the prospective reader why you did or didn't like the book - which is why 2 lines saying "I loved it, kept me up all night. Great plot, loved the characters, and made me think!" is much better than 2 long paragraphs re-hashing what happened - people reading reviews because they are thinking of buying the book; they want to know if you liked it or not - or why you didn't!

    1. Agreed - bang on, Terry. Impressions are so important in a review. I'll repost this on Monday - some decent comments for people to read...