For this month’s post, I invited Tristi Pinkston, AML’s new book reviewer, to share her talents with us. Tristi has a great eye for books, and her opinions are a great guide to go by when selecting books to add to my to-read pile.
by Tristi Pinkston
I’ve always loved writing book reviews. I started posting them on my blog way, way back when my blog was still brand new, and then I was lucky enough to get a job as a blogger for Families.com. One of my roles there was to review media, and yes, I did take my job very seriously. Books and movies are two of my favorite things—right after raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens—and I was in my element. Now, several years later, I’m excited to be reviewing books for the AML. Reviews on this site are always anticipated (and feared) by authors, and greatly respected. I’m honored to be on this team.
I’m frequently asked questions about reviewing books, and I thought I’d take a moment and answer some of those questions here.
Q. What is the purpose of a book review?
A. A book review will help the author in a number of different ways. First, it brings the book to the attention of the consumers in the market. It helps them to determine if the book is one they would enjoy, and it tells them where to find the book. Reviews are also sometimes instructive in nature, helping the author hone their skills in areas that might be a little rough. The ultimate goal is to make the consumer aware of the product, and to help the writer become as successful as possible.
Q. Why should I read book reviews?
A. Reading book reviews will help you know if you want to purchase a particular book, but they also help you see the book from new perspectives. I know that when I read a book review for a book I’ve already read, I notice that the other reviewer opens my mind to facets of the story I might not have seen for myself, and it makes my experience with that book more rewarding.
Q. What tips do you have for someone who wants to write book reviews?
A. I’d be more than happy to share my own process for constructing book reviews. Keep in mind, this is just how I do it, and you’ll find your own style and way of doing things as you delve in and feel it out.
1. After I’ve read the book, I let it sit for a day or two and let it percolate in my brain. I think about the plot, the characters, the things I wondered as I was reading, the questions I felt were left unanswered.
2. When I sit down to write the review, I give a synopsis of the plot in my own words. Yes, you can use the text off the back of the book, but I personally prefer to write one of my own. It presents my interpretation of the book, rather than what someone else wants me to think about the book.
3. After I’ve written the synopsis, I will make a criticism sandwich. That is to say, I share something I liked about the book, something I felt could have been stronger, and then I close with another thing I liked. I rarely just praise without mentioning something I would have improved – I am a critical reader, and so I spot things. That’s just what happens when you work as an editor. You see stuff. I think it’s important that a potential buyer know for certain what they are buying. I also feel that the author can grow and strengthen their talents as they hear what they might have done better. But I also feel that writing in and of itself is a huge accomplishment, and I don’t ever want the author to feel slammed or harshly criticized. If I can’t be helpful, constructive, and edifying, then I shouldn’t be critiquing. Simple as that.
4. And that moves us on to my fourth point. I try hard to keep my comments helpful and edifying. If I totally hate a book and can’t find anything good to say about it, I will contact the author or the publicist – whoever sent it to me – and I will explain to them that the book didn’t quite fit me, and that I’d like to pass it on to another reviewer. This is the most fair way for me to handle it – I don’t believe in ripping people up, but instead, I believe in allowing them to learn and grow from their experiences.
5. I always like to talk about how the book made me feel or the things it made me think about. That’s what makes the review unique to me. Anyone can post the text from the back of the book, but it’s hearing what the reviewer felt while they were reading that will sell the book.
6. When I’m posting on my blog, I always, always include a purchase link to the book. The book review should tell about the book, it should tell how I feel about the book, and it should give my reader a way to buy the book when they are done reading my review.
Reading book reviews and writing book reviews makes us more alert readers. We look a little deeper, we open our minds a little more, and we find ourselves understanding more about the story. If you want to get more out of your reading, try reading it with the goal of writing a review when you’re done, and see if it changes your perspective. I know it has mine.
Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books and works as a freelance editor. She loves to read, scrapbook, and take really long Sunday afternoon naps. You can learn more about her at www.tristipinkston.com