As a Top Reviewer for Amazon, I read and review about five books per week. Most of them are Self-Published. I choose these because they need the reviews more and I want to support the industry. I start every book with four-stars. If the book is exceptional in writing style, has engaging characters, and an original plot – I’ll give it Five-stars. So what do I give Three-stars or lower to?
DEAL-BREAKERS (One Star Reviews):
These are problems that keep me from giving the book less than a 10 page read and setting aside without review. Sometimes I am forced to read it to completion to review it and if I do, it will get a one-star review:
1- Formatting Errors: Minor ones are forgivable but major ones are so distracting how can anyone read it?
2- Grammar or Spelling Errors: If in the first 10 pages it has one error, I might forgive it. But if there are two or more – I won’t continue.
3- Author “Errors” – There are certain “sins” that every writer should know about – (e.g. “Show, don’t tell”; “No Info-dumps”; “Delete Adverbs”; “No redundancies”) and if even one of these is committed, it’s hard for me to continue. If you are an author, it is your JOB to find out what these rules are – and FOLLOW them!
TWO STAR REVIEWS:
1- Books that “LIE”:
When a book is well written but fails to fulfill promises, the reader feels robbed. If a person is special, it is the author’s job to explain why he/she is special. If people fall in love – there is no love at first site – you must explain why. Problems do not magically resolve themselves – there needs to be a logical reason for things to turn out well. And leave no one dangling on the edge of the cliff in the end. Readers HATE cliffhangers designed so that they’ll buy the next book.
2 - Agenda-Driven Fiction:
When a book preaches to the reader, it becomes didactic and ridiculous. This goes for Christian Fiction as well as Secular. Ever read the “Inheritance Cycle” that starts with Eragon? This Secular fiction pushes the reader toward pantheistic worldview and veganism, and gets worse with each book. “The Golden Compass” is an awesome book, but the series itself becomes more twisted and agenda driven as it progresses. If you are going to have an agenda in your book – state it from the beginning and put it in your blurb. This is how you avoid the reviews from readers who say your book is too “Preachy”. Do not hide your agenda, your reader will feel robbed of a good story because you tried the ‘bait and switch.’
THREE STAR REVIEWS:
1- Minor Author “Errors” in an otherwise well written book.
2- Occasional Spelling or Grammar Errors in an engaging book – but still enough to be mildly distracting.
3- Formatting Errors that I can live with, but would much rather not.
How to avoid it:
- Read! Read well-reviewed books in your genre and see how they are done. Read books on “how-to” write in your genre and self-edit your book. Read books on formatting your e-book.
- Edit, proofread, rest, and repeat – at least three or four times on your own.
- Get at least four “beta” reads. These eyes on your edited project will help you to see the lies you are telling. They will see the holes you are leaving and confusing parts you are leaving. Don't do all of them at once. Give your book to two beta readers, then take the advice you think is right and do a re-write. Then send it to the next two and re-write again. The more beta readers you have, the better. But don't forget to make corrections as you go so you're not just hearing the same corrections over and over. This is an invaluable step, and only one beta read by your spouse is not enough!
- Find a proof-reader/line editor – someone who knows grammar and spelling rules by the droves and is willing to fill your book with red marks.
The Self-published market is filled with mediocrity. And the CHRISTIAN self-pub market is WORSE! Why? Because Christians believe that God led them to write the book, so everyone should forgive their errors and bless them with praise. They believe Christians should support each other with good reviews because they are ‘brothers-in-Christ’. So they become hard-headed and don’t listen to advice. (And the givers of advice feel the need to tone it down so no one’s feelings get hurt.) Let’s not mention that they also tend to write agenda-driven fiction and then hide it in the hopes of reaching some long lost sinner who needs saving. Don’t fall into any of these traps.
Almost every story is a lump of coal. It needs pressure and time to become a diamond. Even after it becomes a diamond, it needs polishing, cutting, and setting into jewelry before it becomes wearable. Do not give your readers a lump of coal – they will throw it in the trash. If you try to give them an uncut, unpolished diamond – they will wish you’d finished it, because they like it but can’t wear it. Your story deserves the time and work it takes to become wearable. Don’t let impatience lead you to three-star and below territory. Take your time and get the reviews you deserve!