Even bad books should be reviewed - that’s if you can make it through the entire book. How and what you convey in a review - good or bad, speaks volumes about your credibility as a reviewer and your book club as a whole. It's extremely important that your review match the star rating and an explanation is given in order to support that rating. If you say how well a book is written and give the author kudos for penning a great book but only give the book three stars, your book review will be unreliable because 1) You praised the book BUT gave it an average score 2) You didn't offer any explanation why you felt the book warranted a three star rating instead of giving the book a four or five stars despite the praise. For the author and readers this mismatched review is very confusing and contradicting.
Here's 5 simple steps to writing a fair review for an unfavorable book...
Before your book club get into the book review business it’s best that your group decide which genres you’re willing to review. Some books receive bad reviews simply because book clubs and reviewers decide to accept all genres instead of being selective by only accepting the genres that they are familiar with. Reviewing books in genres that are difficult for you to read is not only a waste of your time but is not fair to the author. State the genres that your group is willing to review so that you will only receive the books that works for you.
Stick With the Facts
It’s best to stay as objective as possible when writing book reviews. Objective thoughts are reflected in reviews when someone take the facts or information presented in a book and base their review on what was or wasn't present. Subjective thoughts are reflective of one’s emotions and how they were personally affected by what they read. All books are meant to provoke some type of emotion whether its love, hate, empathy, lust etc. Its imperative that our emotions and personal experiences are not the focal point when writing a book review.
Having a book review standard in place will not only help you justify the book rating but also hold each book to specific standards that you feel should be present in all books. Your book review standards should include a pre-selected set of components i.e. book presentation, character development, storyline, editing etc. that you feel should be present in all books, along with a point value system and a feedback section for each element. This standard will help you create an objective review so that your emotional attachment towards a book isn’t overshadowing other components that may be lacking. Or in some cases will keep you from giving a book a low score because your emotional attachment.
Three Part Book Review Process
When writing your book review do not summarize the book or re-write the synopsis if you’re placing the review on an online bookstore website. Do what you want to if you choose to place book reviews on your website.
Keep it simple by writing a three part book review. In part one and two write your review in third person so that it doesn’t come across as subjective. Part 1: Tell what the pros were about the book and the reasons why. Part 2: Tell what the cons were about the book and the reasons why. Part 3: Provide your overall thoughts about the book; if you’d read another book by the author; and if you would recommend the book to others.
Keep it Professional
When writing your review NEVER say anything personal about the author or their writing skills. Authors are responsible for understanding the fundamentals of writing for the genre that their book is written in. Book clubs and reviewers are responsible for offering constructive feedback based on how the authors interpreted those fundamentals and implemented them in their novel. As a book club - we know what we like but for the most part we are not professional writers. There is a difference. Even if you are a writer it’s in poor taste to chastise, berate and be disrespectful when offering a review. At this point your book review will be worthless (even if you’re right) and will make others distrust reviews offered by your entire book club. MEASURE YOUR WORDS!
Don’t Be Intimidated
If you stand by your review for a book that is subpar, never allow anyone to intimidate you into changing the review or taking it down once it’s posted. Authors should be willing to accept good and bad reviews for their books. As long as you're stating valid points in your review the author really should not have a reason to dispute it.
Hopefully this practical approach will help your book club come up with an action plan when offering book reviews for not so great books. Offering constructive feedback to authors is imperative so that we begin to see growth and want to support them in the future. Providing solid and objective book reviews is a step in the right direction in doing just that, along with protecting the integrity of your book club.
Written by TaNisha Webb
Book Club 101 Magazine
Publisher & Editor in Chief