Photo by Maisie Kane
Book reviews are very important for all authors, but they are especially crucial for independent authors, who rely heavily on reader feedback to promote their book. When a potential new reader scrolls through random books, they will often be looking at the ratings of the books before checking their descriptions and exploring further. That eye-catching high review combined with the book’s cover is what strikes interest in new readers. The third thing they’re likely to look at before deciding whether or not to purchase is the content of the reviews.
Positive reviews are not the only thing that makes a book successful. When selecting a restaurant in a town you are visiting, a place that has not been reviewed at all is unlikely to rank highly on the list of restaurants you’ll consider visiting.
The more reviews a book has, the more attention it is given in stores like Amazon, because it is a sign of high interest and a wider reader base, resulting in the book being treated with more importance. Books with more reviews are often featured as books that might be of interest to potential buyers. For new releases this process starts at fifty reviews.
Writing a review should not be a long and tedious process. There is no reason to think too hard about the words that you want to put there. It doesn’t need to be long or detailed. A simple ‘I liked it.’ will go a long way and will be greatly appreciated by the author.
If you want to write a more detailed review, think about what you liked and disliked about the book you just read. That’s it. Write that down and you have a good review to post.
If you want to write a longer, more detailed review, here are things that you might want to include:
The worst review, however, is the one that was never written.
When I finished the first draft of Sābanto, I knew that making the manuscript ready for publishing was not something I could do alone. I knew I needed help, and lots of it.
First it needed an English edit. I didn’t think any professional editor would look at a manuscript that didn’t make grammatical sense. While I was waiting for my friend to read and correct the manuscript, I wondered what the next logical step would be. I knew I needed beta readers, but after that I had no clue what else was required.
I began to look for an editor. I didn’t think my story needed a developmental edit. It had a beginning, a middle, and a surprise ending, and I felt it was more or less complete, but in order to ensure I had a quality story, I needed an honest, independent opinion. This was where my editor came in and evaluated the manuscript.
When the evaluation came back, I admit, my heart sank. It felt like I’d gotten a school exam back, one I was positive I’d aced, and instead found it all marked in red with everything I’d gotten wrong.
Looking back at the edits and all the hard work that I put into improving the story, I do not regret getting an editor. I can’t imagine doing all this work without a professional walking me through the process.
Below are what I have found to be the five main benefits of editing with a professional.
Yes, editing is expensive and it does take time, but the results are worth the money and effort. I’ve read countless books and stories that weren’t professionally edited, and it showed. These books stick out, and not in a good way.
With my manuscript nearly complete, this past fall I started to look around for cover designers. There are many out there and it can be really hard to decide who to hire. Here are some guidelines based on my experience.
How to prepare
Before you reach out to talk to any designers, prepare the following:
I wanted a minimalist, simple design for my book. There were two things that made me choose the designer I did for Sābanto. Ana is a Canadian entrepreneur from Vancouver with an illustrator available on site. When reviewing her previous work I was confident that the minimalist design I was looking for would be attainable. We discussed ideas and everything was set into motion.
I’ve joined a lot of author communities during my journey through publishing, and once I started receiving the first drafts of the design, I decided to share it for some feedback. Here’s what I got:
I decided not to be a sheep when it came to cover design, and it could turn out to be a mistake on my part. I’m prepared to take the blame, but they always say that a writer needs to find their own voice and be unique, so as to stand out from the crowd. Why not treat cover design the same way?
Whenever I go back to the feedback I received, it reminds me of an image I saw not too long ago. A bookstore was re-arranging books to increase sales, and they’d put all the books with covers featuring shirtless men on display. They called these “Where is my shirt?” books. It makes me wonder how the readers of these books know which ones they’ve already read, because they all look so similar.
In a sea of dystopian fiction books with red and black covers, I hope my light-covered book will stand out. As the meme says: “In a world full of princesses, dare to be Batman!”
In conclusion, a quick note to readers: don’t judge a book by its cover. Or, maybe do, and grab the one that stands out.
Why did you choose creative writing?
Writing is a great creative outlet for introverts and overthinkers. Those who know me well can attest that I have never been a quick thinker. My answers had to be carefully measured, which often made me the quiet one in the room. I’ve also always been better at expressing myself through writing, and it often takes me some time to craft a reply.
Did you do a lot of writing when you were younger?
I was a reader when I was young, but not a writer. I learned how to read when I was very young. There’s a story my mom told me, where I was just four years old and I was on a train trip with my parents, and fellow travelers were amazed that I was able to read a newspaper with understanding at such a young age. This ability meant I devoured books and became a knowledge sponge.
Unfortunately, the strict school curriculum I was subjected to didn’t offer opportunities to be creative. Essay assignments were mostly about analyzing poems or books with a strict emphasis on history. That was when, feeling discouraged, I turned to the sciences. I concentrated on math, chemistry, and physics, as these provided me with clear structures that I could lean on. Writing essays became a mindless activity to just get by and get a good mark, not something that would further advance my understanding of creative writing.
Did immigrating to Canada change your mind about creative writing?
Not at all. I was eighteen when I immigrated to Canada. I entered Canadian high school with only a basic understanding of English. I remember sitting in the school hallway during my break period when one of the teachers came over to talk to me. I had no clue what they were saying, and only after a while did I realize that I had been asked to take my winter jacket off. When the teacher left I felt everyone's eyes on me, and that moment got imprinted in my memory. Being proficient in English felt like an unattainable goal.
I buried any dreams to do any creative writing in favor of the scientific subjects that I knew well, and which would allow me to get into University and find a good job, where poor English skills and accents were not major obstacles to succeeding.
I never abandoned books, though. I began to read more and more. First in Polish, but slowly I started to read in English as well. I always carried a book with me wherever I went, a habit that I keep to this day. My vocabulary continued to improve, but even though story ideas began to come to me, it was not enough to convince me that I could write.
When did you gain the confidence to write?
Writing and confidence don’t necessarily come together. I’ve heard many writers say this, and it’s true. When I sat down years later to write the first story, I still felt like I was kidding myself, because who wants to read a story written by some immigrant with broken English. I eventually put it on paper with the intention of one day lighting it on fire.
I found the process of writing relaxing and enjoyable. My introvert self loves diving into the story and its characters, and exploring human emotions. Each evening I look forward to spending some time with the heroes and villains. I even enjoy editing, modifying and rewriting the manuscript.
After six months of writing I became attached to the story and eventually gave it to my husband to read.
What motivates you to keep pushing forward?
Now that the publishing target date has been set for March 2022, I’m experiencing a lot of fear and uncertainty, but I wouldn't be here without the army of family and friends standing behind me giving me the courage to continue. To write. And to never let go of my dreams.