May 1, 2015

Questions to Spark Book Review Ideas

By Fran Stewart

You know your books are well written. You know your stories are compelling. But how many of your books have had dozens/hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon? Do you have to beg friends and family to write reviews for you?

I’ve had a number of people tell me that they don’t feel like they can write a book review on any of the social media sites. One woman said, “All I can think of is I loved the book, I loved the characters, I loved the plot; that doesn’t sound like it would be a very helpful review.”

She’s right. People seem (in my highly unscientific opinion) to respond more to reviews that give details about why a book is good.

With that in mind, I’m putting together a list of questions related to my most recent book, A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP. I plan to distribute the list via all the usual routes – email, website, Facebook author page. Those questions will deal with a modern-day shop owner and a fourteenth-century ghost (characters), Vermont and Scotland (setting), and murder, deceit, and history (plot).  I plan to modify the questions for books in my Biscuit McKee mystery series (librarian/town cop, Georgia, arson/poison/faked suicide/and so on).

I’ve also devised the following list of cookie-cutter questions/statements that we can use to spark ideas for reviews of just about any piece of fiction.

Who was your favorite character?
Did you like the way he/she handled challenges / arguments / self-doubt / fear / illness / family matters? [Give an example if you want to, but please don’t give away any plot surprises.]
What about relationships within the book? Did the interactions between characters (intimacy / arguments / chats) seem logical / real / inevitable?
Do you want to follow these characters through future books?
Would you invite one of them to tea/coffee or
(If your favorite character was a villain) would you run like crazy when that character stepped around a corner?
Could you identify with the spark of goodness in the “bad guy” or the spark of badness in the “good guy”? In other words, were the characters real to you?

How did you feel about the setting? Did it remind you of a place you knew? Would you want to go there for a visit alone or with family?
If a fictional setting, did you think of it as real?
If the setting is a real city or town, do you think you’d recognize the places if walked those same streets?
Was the setting vivid enough that you could see it?

Was the plot tricky, intricate, classic, surprising?
Did you have to stay up late to finish the book (just one more chapter…)?
Was the ending satisfying to you?
Was everything wrapped up tidily? or
Were there loose ends to be picked up in future books? And are you happy about that?

Obviously there are dozens more questions that we could ask our readers, but this seems to cover a lot of the bases that reviewers often touch. Feel free to use the list. Feel free to revise as necessary to reflect your own books. The more we support each other as fellow writers, the better place our world of books will be.
Fran Stewart is the author of the Biscuit McKee Mysteries – GRAY AS ASHES is the seventh book in that series – as well as a standalone mystery – A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT. Her non-fiction work includes FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: A WORKBOOK FOR WRITERS. Her new ScotShop Mystery Series from Berkley Press begins with A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP. Fran lives quietly with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta. She sings alto with a community chorus and volunteers at her grandchildren’s school library. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America. Social Media Contact Info:  Twitter: @writer_fran

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