At the beginning of April, I got a surprise email from Goodreads.  No, it wasn’t a comment, or an update, or a new giveaway notice, not even a newsletter.

It was an email from Otis and Elizabeth Chandler, the founders of Goodreads, congratulating me on becoming one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads, and helping them to get closer to their 50 million reviews milestone.  Apparently I’d written 246 reviews since I joined in January 2012. They gave me a nice  Goodreads 1% badge to celebrate.

The first review on Goodreads was by Otis Chandler, of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (2006).  The most reviewed title to date is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins with just under 150,000 reviews! Apparently 37% of all ratings are 5 stars.  They’ve made a nice infographic on their blog here.

pro_readerI expect a lot of you received this award too, but I’ve not yet seen anyone else talking about it.  I may read the wrong blogs, of course.  I added the award to my NetGalley profile, in case it helps publishers pay more attention to my requests!  I only joined NetGalley because of the Decanting a Murder blog tour (see Saturday’s post), but despite my huge TBR, I’m now looking more at that, partly to help me explore new authors who got a publisher. I hope that will help me improve my writing.

It also made me think more about my reviews.  It’s a personal thing, and whilst (using a phrase from Steve Lothian) I don’t claim to be a professional reviewer, I suppose the more I do, the more I need to support my views, rather than just expressing a personal opinion on my blog. If I want good reviews on Goodreads and other public sites, I’d better make sure my own are too.

At present I seem to do three types of reviews:

  • quickies; two or three sentences that summarise my overall reaction to a book, usually for a multi-book post, or as part of a large post in a blog tour with other info.
  • emotional reviews; usually where something has moved me, and I want to capture the moment – usually with reference to the specifics of the writing or the plot.  These would normally be a Saturday review of a book I’d picked, rather than one I’ve had ‘handed’ to me.
  • formal reviews; these would usually start with a plot summary, followed by my reactions to the story and writing, good and bad, maybe some musings on parts I particularly want to comment on (my review of White Fang being a case in point).  These usually have a finish along the lines of a recommendation, too.  Generally speaking, I’d try to do these full reviews for a new release, and especially for authors that need quotes!  I really appreciate those when people do soundbites for my books.

There is also the difficult review, when my formal type does not cover much critique.  If reviewing a book I try to present it fairly, and recognise that sometimes either insider knowledge, or issues of style (and sometimes different standards in language and editing) give me problems. As with school reports, the reader should always notice what is NOT said.  Reading between the lines is an expert skill, and one that we all need to use, especially in this digital age.  In the words of a friend of mine who was in the public eye – if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.

You can debate the wisdom of not saying anything in a review. Some reviewers are well-known for their devastating decomposition and destruction of the best and brightest of works, in all artistic endeavours. That’s just not me.  And it’s probably not for any author, especially a self-published one.  But you still need to be fair, and consistent in your approach, I think.

Talking of which – I have a huge backlog of reviews to post here and to Goodreads and Amazon, which I will catch up on in the next few months.

CleanSweep2016x300It’s partly due to my Clean Sweep Challenge.  I’m now on my fifth book of the month, concentrating on books I had from the publisher and/or pre-release or early release copies gifted in some way.  You can see my short reviews of them in the Clean Sweep Challenge post from 1st May.  On Wednesday there’s a Twitter Party (starting at 7.30 pm EST, which means I’ll be asleep by then) and on the 21st there’s an all-day Readathon, which for me will be weather-dependent!  I’m enjoying this focus on a certain type of book, and by accident it’s given me an idea for a Reading Challenge for next year, called the Go West Reading Challenge – watch for more information in November or December!

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On reviewing books – and a Clean Sweep update

10 thoughts on “On reviewing books – and a Clean Sweep update

    • 16 May, 2016 at 10:41 am
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      Well done, you! And I wasn’t exactly quick about blogging it 😉

  • 16 May, 2016 at 8:34 am
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    Hi Jemima – congratulations … and from your post it shows you’ve thought through your reviewing process .. that will certainly help many of us who perhaps don’t do many review – a habit I intend to change in 2016 and onwards …

    Thanks – a good and worthwhile read .. cheers Hilary

    • 16 May, 2016 at 10:43 am
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      Thanks, Hilary. I admire the more professional reviews I read, but I don’t feel qualified to say anything other than what I like – which often isn’t the norm!
      Good luck with your reviewing.

  • 16 May, 2016 at 2:50 pm
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    Well done, Jemima. Nice badge 🙂 You inspired me to check my numbers, and you’re way ahead of me. There’s no chance of me joining the 1% club. You sound very organised and I like how you have thought about, and recognised each of your different approaches to reviews.

    • 16 May, 2016 at 6:58 pm
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      Thanks, Steve – yet I’m sure you post a lot of reviews too.

  • 16 May, 2016 at 4:41 pm
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    Yeah, no such email for me. I too seldom remember to post my reviews to GR. I’m trying to remedy that some, at least for the less-known books that need reviews. I’ve never counted how many I’ve done on my blog, but it must be in that range. I was interested, looking back at some early reviews, how much my style has evolved.

    I now use a consistent form for almost all my reviews–except when I’m really just off on a discussion sparked by a book, or when I’m reviewing a whole series. What I don’t do is give them star ratings (another reason I don’t transfer them to GR or Amazon as much as a should–they insist I apply a number instead of a reaction and recommendation).

    • 16 May, 2016 at 6:58 pm
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      I like your reviews. And I’d rather not give stars, but people do seem to put a lot of emphasis on them.

  • 17 May, 2016 at 12:02 am
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    Wow. That’s a lot of reviews. Congrats on being an awesome reviewer. I think it’d take me a long time to get to the top 1% of reviewers. Mostly because I don’t do it often and when I do I gush like a fangirl.

    • 17 May, 2016 at 12:17 pm
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      And what’s wrong with gushing like a fangirl – I like your reviews!

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