I have been struggling with coming up with stuff to write in the last few weeks. The problem lies in this notion I have, that anything I write here has to be somewhat controversial – something to get your blood boiling, dear readers. Something that you can dip in with an opinion of your own and blow mine out of the water. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of controversy in the blogosphere these days. The days of dueling eReaders is just about over because if you’re in the market for an eReader, you’ve either already had one and are looking to replace it, or are know which one you’re going to choose. Besides, there is just so much “Which eReader is better?” posts one can write without sounding like a stuck record (blog post?).
Yes, the e-Publishing business has stagnated a bit in the sense that it’s all known, for the most part, within the circles you already frequent. If you are a writer wanting to get your first words out, you already know the places to go (like here at Free-eBooks.net or Foboko.com, for example). If you’re a reader, you’ve probably already chosen your favorite sites (also here at Free-eBooks.net or Foboko.com, I hope). And if you’re just an enthusiast, you’ve already got all the most known sites bookmarked and frequent them almost daily. There isn’t a lot I can talk about in the e-publishing industry that isn’t being talked about ad nauseum elsewhere. And that’s not to say that I don’t have an opinion on anything; on the contrary. It simply means that nothing about the current controversies gets me all excited to write about these days (at least not at the present moment).
So let’s talk about reviews. And when I say reviews, I want to talk about what makes a good review. I know I’ve probably said it here already (on the Free-eBooks.net blog, you can read my last post on reviews here), but I wanted to talk more about what makes you decide to buy a book.
When I am trolling for a new book to read, and I don’t go based on author or title, I usually look to reviews to help me decide. Some might think that the good reviews are the ones that help me decide best. But that isn’t always so. Sometimes good reviews are just that – good. A five-star rating on a book saying “Oh this is the best time warp fiction I’ve read in a long time” means nothing to me because based on the description or the title, I already know it’s a time warp fiction novel. And frankly, my tastes are sometimes a little unorthodox. (I mean, how many of us actually like horror books because they bend reality on its ear?)
I tend to turn to the negative reviews. “The way the author left me hanging is just awful” is somewhat of a help because I know I am in for a somewhat disappointing experience once I get to the end of the book. But dissecting the ways in which a book has succeeded or failed (and especially failed) is sometimes what makes me delve into a book. I like controversy – not that you might know it based on how mild-mannered I tend to be in real life – and thus anything that most people find offensive or just plain disappointing is likely to be something I want to experience for myself.
The other day, a kindle short was available for free (it still is, by the way) and I was intrigued because it is an interview with the U.S. President Barack Obama and the reviews stretched from “This is blasé” to downright bigoted, hate-speech. The reason I hit download? Not because I particularly like or dislike the President, I just wanted to see for myself what was so controversial about this interview. The fact that it riled so many people up intrigued me.
The point? Here it is: when you’re writing a review about a book you’ve read, think about how it made you feel – did it make you cry? Laugh? Turn blue in the face from anger? Feel no way at all? And if so, why? Why did it make you feel that way? Tell us the parts that made you want to either grab your eReader up and hug it, or lug it out the nearest window. That’s what will draw people in. And that’s what writers want to hear about. The talking points – the points in the story that elicited emotion. And if there was no particular emotion at all, we want to hear about that too. We want to know what made our writing work or not work for you and the ways in which it worked or not. Simply saying “Not my cup of tea” or “Not my usual kind of book” says nothing about the book itself. And a review is supposed to be about the book, not necessarily the reader.
Unless, of course, you tend to write reviews like this one in which the review itself (dubiously, annoying gifs and all) is just that much more awesome than any book you could ever read.