Monday, October 22, 2012

Writers as Reviewers?



By Michelle Sutton

Should you write reviews once you are published?
I was a book reviewer long before I had my first published novel. A number of my friends also reviewed books but stopped once they were published to focus on their own writing. I get that, but here is what I know… writers help other writers spread the word about their books through well-written reviews. So I never stopped writing them. I came up with my own formula for writing reviews and part of that includes not commenting on the author of the book or reflecting my personal feelings for them as writers.
When I finish a great book, the first thing I want to do is sit at the keyboard and type. It's kind of like writing when it comes to getting thoughts, feelings, and reactions down on the page. How did the story make me feel? Was the author skilled at placing me in a different setting in my mind? Did they evoke emotion through their use of certain words? Did the story and plot hold my interest? What was so amazing about this book? And of course, being a Christian, I'm always thinking about how a story strengthened my faith or made me think more about my life and my relationship with God.
An effective and well-written review reflects the reader's enthusiasm for the novel. It also makes the person reading the review want to order the book. The goal of every writer should be to read a variety of novels to keep the mind and creativity active. It should also be to spread the word about good stories. It's always better if you're not talking about your own books. I've found that the majority of authors are thrilled someone bothered to read their novel, especially those who have a harder time getting publicity for their books. Once in a while, I've gotten a disgruntled author who couldn't believe I didn't totally adore their book, but I can't love everything. Sometimes I just don't like a story. Those books I tend not to finish. But I will not lie to the people reading my reviews. If I didn't love a book, I don't say I did. People reading reviews want honesty.
Has it helped me as an author to take the time to write decent reviews? Yes. It makes me think about what a good story structure and a great plot look like. I see it over in over in books that I love. And I've learned to avoid authors whose writing simply doesn't appeal to me. I find this preferable to trying to get into a new story by the same author.
Has it increased the sales for my own novels? Who knows?. But it does get my name out there and people see the reviews and endorsements I have written, thus bringing my name to a level where it is recognized, and that is never a bad thing for an author.
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Michelle Sutton is the author of well over a dozen Christian novels, a book reviewer, an avid blogger, a social work supervisor, the mother of two young college students, a devoted wife, and a follower of Jesus Christ.

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