Thursday, October 2, 2008

Writing the Amazon-ready review

  • Rule No. 1 in writing an Amazon review: Be honest. Rule No. 2: Keep it short.
Lunch conversation with my good friend Cyn Mobley the other day turned toward our writing group and the things the group could do to help each other promote our books. She asked me to come up with a list of things each of us should do.

One of the things on the list was writing a review for

Aaron Shepard, in his book Aiming at Amazon, notes that reviews on a book’s Amazon page “have emerged as one of the most powerful influences on book sales.” Shepard also points out that many authors, publishers and friends have tried to game the Amazon system by writing reviews under false names or asking friends who have never read the book to do so.

He urges authors not to engage in that kind of dishonesty.

So do I. Writing, to me, is a semi-sacred act. It should not be violated.

With that in mind, here are some basic rules for writing the Amazon-ready review:

  • Rule No. 1. Be honest. If you don’t like the book or a part of the book and you feel strongly enough about it, say so. Negative, or less than complimentary, observations about a book – even if it’s written by a friend – will help the reader as long as they are thoughtful, appropriate and proportional.

  • Rule No. 2. Keep it short. Short sentences, short paragraphs, short review. Learn to write so that you say what you have to say and get out. The model outlined below may help.

  • Rule No. 3. Stay on message. The review is about the book and maybe a little bit about the author. It’s not about you or your Aunt Matilda.

So, what should a review for Amazon look like?

Think in terms of five modular paragraphs (they don’t have to be tied together) and 400 to 500 words max. Less is better.

Paragraph 1: An introduction to the book, its genre and what it’s really about. Note anything that might be unusual about the book – theme, setting, plot, character, or whatever. Some overall evaluative word, phrase or statement is appropriate.

Paragraphs 2 and 3: Plot. Summarize the challenges the protagonist faces without giving away the ending (particularly if it’s a mystery). Make this as straightforward as possible. Your reader will thank you for it.

Paragraph 4: Evaluation. Here you can comment on the plot, the characters, the writing, the descriptions, the setting, the pacing – anything about the book that impressed you, positively or negatively. But don’t try to comment on everything. My rule of thumb is two. Just comment on two of the above list.

Paragraph 5: Recommendation. Should the reader buy the book? Highly recommend, recommend with reservations, don’t recommend. Now evaluate this paragraph. Given what you have already written in earlier paragraphs, do you really need this one?

Once you have posted your review on Amazon, spread the love. Look for another place to post it.

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