By Cynthia Ruchti
Why do people write reviews?
• They want to help spread the word about a great book.
• They have been asked to give an honest review about a new book by the publishing house or publicist, the author, or the review team on which they serve.
• They feel compelled to warn potential readers about a disappointing book.
• They take sadistic joy in poisoning the pool of positive reviews.
We’re grateful those in the final category of reviewers are few. But they exist, a sad fact many authors have learned to shoulder with bravery or shake off.
In an upcoming ACFW Happenings article for Christian Fiction Online Magazine (CFOM), we take a look at what constitutes a good review from the viewpoint of a reader, a retailer, a librarian, a book club coordinator, and an author. In talking with retailers and librarians, it’s become clear that reviews carry more weight than we might assume. It’s easy to ferret out which reviews are written by those who feel somehow compelled to spew even if they haven’t read the book. One wonders how that constitutes a “review.” It may be a stronger reflection on the negligent reviewer than on the book itself.
“I stopped after the first three pages and gave this book one star,” is an assessment about the first three pages, but not a review of the book.
Let’s make this interactive. I’ll post three invented reviews like those you might find on an online purchasing site and invite you to review the reviews. What works? What doesn’t work? What helps a reader, retailer, or librarian make a purchasing decision? What’s your review of these reviews? And how do these examples help you when you create a review of a book you’ve read?
“Great book. Highly recommended.”
“I knew from the first page that this book would stink up the room. I don’t read romances, and this is a good example of why I don’t. I’ve been jilted at the altar, and there’s nothing funny about that. Sixteen years of therapy, and believe me, it’s not over yet. And when the hero-who I didn’t like because he has sandy hair and so did my ex-proposes in the middle of the bridge between the island and the mainland on the last page, I almost gagged. Warning: DO NOT READ.”
Anyone who identifies with the challenges of loving someone after a moral failure will relate to this story. The rawness of the emotional turmoil of the couple was handled with a sensitive hand, but invited me as a reader into the story completely. I felt submerged in their pain, yet buoyed by a hope that hovered just off-stage. The author wrote realistically yet in a way that made me see the story as anything but ordinary. The plot pulled me through to the next page and the next. Unique, yet relatable, The Hangnail is among the few novels I’m marking as an all-time favorite and recommending to my friends-both those in healthy marriages and those in trouble. Those fresh from their own heartbreak may find it a difficult read. On the other hand, it may be just the imaginative but true-to-life story that will form a brace while they start their healing journey.
There are the three samples. Time for your review of the reviews! Won’t this be fun?
Cynthia Ruchti, ACFW Professional Relations Liaison, is a speaker and author of six books, including the recently released novel When the Morning Glory Blooms and the nonfiction told in story form–Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices. She tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark and lives for one future review–“Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Jesus). You can connect with her at www.cynthiaruchti.com or www.facebook.com/CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage.