One of the questions I get frequently, booknerds, is how to write a “good” book review. The simple answer is: I can’t tell you how to make anything good since it’s subjective and I barely know what “good enough” is. I just know what I like. But! I do have some tips for you if you want to up your book review game. Book reviews are the lifeblood of the book industry no matter what level you’re at as a writer, which is why I always make a point to write a review for every book I read. But it can be time consuming and daunting if you don’t know how or where to start. So, hopefully, this will demystify some of that for you.
Let’s start with the simple book review. This is one that is maybe a few sentences in length and doesn’t go into detail about what the book is about or the character development. These are the fastest to write too, and the most common book review you’ll encounter outside of the “professional” book reviewers: people who get advanced copies of books from Netgalley, have a BookTube channel or book blog, or paid reviewers, for example. If you’re struggling for what to say, here are some really easy bullet points to cover in your review when you’re done reading: share your favorite character from the book and why you loved them (i.e. “I love Tomas because of how smart and shy he is”). Then maybe share your favorite line from the book (i.e. “I laughed when Rosslyn said…”). And end with if you enjoyed the book (i.e. “I flew through this book, really enjoyed it!”). The end! That’s like 3-4 sentences and a perfect book review!
As I mentioned, longer reviews are usually ones you find from people who talk about books semi-professionally. Like me! The in-depth reviews can take a while to write, so unless you really, really want to start a blog or there was just one book series you adored and want to dissect bit by bit, don’t feel obligated to write multiple paragraphs on a book. But if you want to give it a shot, here are some thought starters for crafting those in-depth reviews: start with the broad strokes of what the book was about without spoiling anything (i.e. “this dystopian coming of age story follows a cast of 4 to save the world”). Then you can once more dive into those favorite characters and why, maybe even still share a quote or two that stuck out to you. Then, look at the story structure—did everything flow between one chapter to the next, was the action heart racing, the romance swoon worthy? Was the writing prose filled and beautiful or concise and a page turner? Was there something that bothered you about the story or characters? Then, once again, end on if you liked the book and if you were to recommend it to someone, what kind of person would enjoy this (i.e. “Perfect for anyone who likes The Hunger Games or Divergent”). Broken out, that can easily be 3-4 paragraphs and is also a perfectly awesome book review.
My method is more like the second option, obviously. When I read I take bullet point type notes about the story, or if certain parts grabbed my attention. It’s easy to fall into a trap where you promise yourself you’ll remember this really awesome part, or this little thing that seems weird, but if you’re like me and enjoy reading before bed or also read more than one book at a time, it can be easy to forget something, or mix up plot lines. So I take notes on my computer first thing in the morning before I start other work, but use whatever works best for you—a journal, send yourself text messages, just whatever is easiest and natural for you. Taking these bullet points is free form, I don’t look for specific things, just parts that capture my attention, for better or worse. I, personally, don’t find reviews that just list out a book’s synopsis to be helpful, since I can read that on my own. So I usually don’t mention that outside of very broad strokes, which frees up room for me to dive deep into all those things that tickled me enough to take special note of.
I make it sound stupidly simplistic, I get that. The hardest thing is honestly making it a habit, because then you don’t have to force writing a review, and it feels natural. I also don’t write one star reviews, I’m not into trashing an author (which you should never do either, that author is a person so disagree with their work all you like, but don’t make it personal). Writing negative reviews isn’t fun, and I’m kind of anti this hate culture that seems to gravitate around some of the book review community, where it’s just fun to crap on books you were never going to like anyway. So not pressuring myself to write those reviews helps a ton. There is one exception to that rule for me: problematic content. If a book contains really triggering content that is used dangerously, or inappropriately, I will give that book a one star because that content has to be depicted carefully, and should be treated with the respect it deserves.
Hopefully this was at least semi helpful? But if you have specific questions, just pop it into the comments. Writing reviews is hard, but much appreciated! And remember, you never have to justify why you felt a book was 3 stars when everyone else is giving it a 5. Tastes vary, and sometimes a book isn’t wowing you at that particular moment as it is for others and that is 1000% fine and valid. As long as you don’t attack an author personally, you are allowed to say and feel however you want about a story, and rate and review it accordingly, my friend!
If you get my newsletters, you saw that February was a big month for me. I finished the first draft of the second book in my new, unreleased, adult fantasy series. That’s huge! But now I’m back on the revising train for the first book, getting it in the best shape possible for all you incredible booknerds, and in doing so, it brings about this incredible excitement, this rush of creative energy, but also a dark, crippling fear about what comes next. The things that come next aren’t things I can control, but that fear and panic is blinding compared to all the good stuff. I realized recently that I am, in fact, not a unique snowflake when it comes to these emotional extremes. Most creators experience something similar. So, allow me to bring you in on this crazy, crazy train of ours because I HAVE to work this out of my system, too, in order to get back on track.
So here’s the real talk about what it’s like to write something, but not just write it and shove it in a file on your computer to never see the light of day, but writing something you WANT the world to see. You go through this intense back and forth between wanting, desperately wanting, everyone to read it and love it. That’s the goal, right? To produce something that the whole world devours and sings your praises. That’s the day dream, and night dream, and the thing that we all want but don’t talk about because we feel like we have no right to desire something so big. But along with that need to be a massive success, whether for our own ego or financial reasons, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of negativity because the reality is: not everyone will like what you do, and those negative reviews will feel bigger than all the good ones. Which sucks. But I haven’t met anyone where that reality isn’t true for them as well. You want everyone in the world to read and share your work, whatever that is, but you also don’t want ANYONE to see what you made because that’s the moment you lose control. You can’t control how others will feel about this thing you birthed into being. Someone may love it. Someone may hate it. And that’s their right to feel however they want about your work, their feelings are not wrong, whatever they may be (unless they attack you as a person, that shit’s not cool or acceptable, ever). Sometimes, for some people, that fear is enough to never let their creative spark see the light of day. Which is sad, too. I have this fear and I’m pushing through it, so I encourage you to do the same!
It can, unfortunately, be very easy to look at all these famous artists and authors, or just creators that you admire and see their finished product and compare yourself or your first draft to them and their work. Don’t do that. You only see the polished version of what they want you to see, not all the sacrifices they made before you got to see the finished product. But it is easy to look at their process and get down on yourself because the way they create isn’t how you create, and they are famous so clearly their way is superior to yours… I know, I do it too. But it’s wrong and I have to remind myself of that constantly. What works for them may only work for them, and that’s great! But that doesn’t mean your process is any less valid. Especially if your end result is the same: you created a piece of art you are proud of.
Despite being so new in my career, I am happy with the things my book series has taught me about publishing and the craft of writing. I’m excited to apply those things to my new series and learn from where I was three years ago to today, because that’s ultimately what I can control. I am a better writer than I was when I first started, and I will be a better writer in 10 years than I am today. I am constantly growing and my craft is maturing and refining as I go and learn more and more. That doesn’t make the early work shitty, it just means that you (and me) take our work seriously and always want to do better. There will be no peak. No moment of “this is it, this is the best I can do. I am at the top.” Because the top is a mountain that, even if you reach, the next book still has to reach that peak, too. It’s moving and changing and that makes it exciting! And only part of that is in my control, and so those are the parts I am striving to focus more on rather than that crippling fear, and I encourage you to do the same.
Be passionate about the things you can control. Write your truth and make the best book you can. Make it just as beautiful on the outside as the inside with your cover art. Research and edit and polish your work until you are in love with it, the characters, the world you’ve made, all of that. Stress that stuff. Because even with the biggest marketing budget in the world you can’t control how many people do or don’t purchase your work. You can’t control how they feel about what you produced. But their negative (or positive!) feelings or opinions don’t take away from the hard work you put into this piece of art. It doesn’t erase the hours you spent agonizing over proper comma placement or the 18 revisions you requested for your cover art to get it just right. Just as their feelings are valid, whatever they may be, the reality of what you did behind the scenes to bring this piece of work to life is just as valid and wonderful, so stay passionate about it and take the leap with me on getting your creative passion out there! It’s worth being seen! I don’t know if you needed this reminder, or this level of encouragement today, but since I have to constantly remind myself of things like this, I figured it may be worth talking about. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk ;)
I’ve made no secret of my future plans, of the book I plan to self-publish this year. Things are getting real, my favorite booknerd. How real? It’s only February and I’m already planning out June levels of real. Which means I’m looking for ways to not only get you more involved in the process, but I’m investigating ways on how I can make myself more available to YOU! The solution? A street team! “A book street team? Wtf is that?” Fear not, friend, I have answers!
“A street team is a group of volunteers who band together to promote an author and his or her book. Members of a street team are motivated by their love of an author’s work to promote it to as many people as possible.”
So, in a nutshell, that’s what a street team is, and if you subscribe to my newsletter and/or happen to like my Facebook page and the special reader group, you’re already a member! Surprise! Really, street teams are old names for reader groups, so nothing is changing, and you don’t have to do anything. Unless you want to. And, if you want to do more, then sit on over here by me and let’s have a chat!
Word of mouth, much like reviews, are vital to books and authors, more so if you self-publish. But that also feels pretty one sided. I don’t want that. I want to have a direct line of communication with people who aren’t just passionate about my books (though that does help and makes me feel all warm and tingly inside) but are passionate about books in general and want to talk to me as much as I want to talk to them! That’s the real beauty behind these reader groups/street teams: access to someone or something you are passionate about that others don’t have. That’s what the member’s only section on my website is. That’s what the Facebook Reader Group is. That’s what this is. But with a new launch coming out, it also gets kicked up a notch. So what does that mean?
Simply put: I am looking for people who want to help me share my new book and series with others. Who will post about it on Facebook, take pretty pictures of my book on Instagram, leave a review when it launches, request it at their local libraries, tell their mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend about it, you know, the usual! You don’t have to do all of those things, you can, of course. But even just telling the dude on the subway reading a book about my series is incredible and so appreciated!
“But how can I do all that?!” You may be asking. Again, simple: I’ll be sending you things. Early! “Ooooo what things?” Oh, you know, you’ll get to see the cover first, get early copies of the book, and I’ll even be hosting little (re: easy) challenges to get you even more delicious swag, like character art or Amazon gift cards. Reader groups are not a one way street, you’d be helping and supporting me in a tremendous and amazing way, so of course I want to thank you, and encourage you, on top of being able to have exclusive online launch parties and Q&A’s with me after the book comes out. We’re building a relationship, but a chill one. One where I promise to never message you constantly at 2:43 AM semi drunk like your ex, and you can drop in and out whenever you want, that level of chill and cool.
Interested? Let me know by either messaging me, requesting to join my Reader Group, or signing up for the newsletter if you haven’t already. Let’s do something amazing together, friend!
Hello my dearest friends and Happy New Year! It’s not only the start of a new year which means fresh starts, new beginnings, and continuations of good habits (or stopping bad ones), but it’s also the start of a new decade. And! It’s the 20’s all over again! Which, as I reflect, this new era of the 20’s is already looking a lot like the 1920’s version: “The 1920s was the first decade to have a nickname: “Roaring 20s" or "Jazz Age." It was a decade of prosperity and dissipation, and of jazz bands, bootleggers, raccoon coats, bathtub gin, flappers, flagpole sitters, and marathon dancers. It was, in the popular view, when the younger generation rebelled against traditional taboos while their elders engaged in an orgy of speculation. But the 1920s was also a decade of bitter cultural conflicts, pitting religious liberals against fundamentalists, nativists against immigrants, and rural provincials against urban cosmopolitans.” - Digital History
This gives me pause, and cause for reflection. Not just at a societal level but also on a personal one. This year, I too am rebelling against the “traditional taboo” and will be self-publishing my next fantasy series, and not because I think it’s unworthy of a traditional publishing house, but because I DO think it’s worthy. I DO love my story, and I don’t want to wait years and years for someone else’s validation in order to release it. Traditionally publishing is marvelous, or it can be, but it’s also so focused on market trends, of what’s easiest for someone to sell, or who had the money to hire a writing coach in order to perfect that query letter so an intern would pass it on to their boss. That came out more bitter than I intended, I’m honestly not, I am merely stating a reality. But self-publishing is a monumental step for me personally, because it is something that terrifies me, and not because of all the hard work it’ll be (which it will, but it’s worth it) but because this year I need to start seeing my own self-worth.
As I look back at the last year, and the last ten, I have done some pretty incredible things: I switched jobs and careers (twice), I got married, I moved cross country (twice), I bought and sold a house, I adopted 3 adorable fur babies, I welcomed two new family members into the world, I graduated college AND got my Master's degree, I traveled to some incredible places around the US and the world, I attended the wedding of my good friends, and my completed first series was published alongside 3 short stories. But I didn’t give myself permission to celebrate my personal accomplishments within those experiences. I made excuses as to why it wasn’t a big deal. I offered apologies when someone gave me praise, never excepting that what I did was good, or good enough. I’ve been working hard on fixing that, and looking back on my year and decade (the last year alone I published 2 books and 2 short stories) and how little permission I gave myself to be proud of what I built… it makes me genuinely sad.
I am always surprised when people say they like my books, my characters, my worlds, and I am going to stop that. I always want to remain humble, because it’s utterly magical when a reader messages me to yell at me for breaking their heart, or doing a thing that made their night when reading my words, but I am going to try harder to believe that praise, to accept it, and to embrace the idea that I am, indeed, worthy of it. That I should fight and protect the space I occupy, and demand that I be allowed as much room as I need. That my body, my face, my talent, my humor, and my inability to go more than two sentences without swearing is, in fact, good enough. It’s hard, it won’t happen overnight or maybe even this year, but this decade, certainly. That’s why my goal of self-publishing this year is such a personal one for me. I am taking up my space, I am not waiting for someone else to tell me I am worthy of being heard. I am going to be the master of my own prosperity.
I hope you, too, feel no shame in taking up your space. I hope you live boldly and courageously this year and beyond. I hope you stick with me as I bring you new worlds and characters to explore and meet. I am still floored that people like (and love) what I create, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that support. I can’t wait to share more with you for many, many years to come!
Hi friends and booknerds! It's that time of year again, you know the one. The one where we seem to beg people to tell us what they want and they wait till the last second to tell you and then the thing ends up being sold out, or not in their size, so you end up just getting them a gift card anyway? That season known as Christmas? Well if any of you have family like mine, it can be hard to nail down what to get the people who seem to have pretty much everything, which is why this month's blog post is dedicated to highlighting some amazing small business owners and indie authors that you can introduce your impossible-to-shop-for- family to! I’m just nice like that, apparently.
It’s easy to just pop on over to Amazon and buy pretty much everything on everyone’s wish list, but I am hoping to entice you over to some really amazing small shops and authors as they make for 1. Amazing unique gifts and 2. I have personally either read their books, purchased their products, or seen their work and believe it is worth sharing. Which means, YES! Not all of my holiday recommendations are book related! Some may be book adjacent, while others are even things like getting some custom art commissioned! Pretty awesome, right? Check out the list below and maybe find something really amazing for the awesome people on your shopping list this year:
Awesome Indie books:
Tyffany Hackett: this fabulous human not only writes great fantasy books, I've read both available and adored them if you've been reading my book reviews lately, but she also makes some lovely designs for mugs and stickers, too! I've bought one of her mugs and have gotten my copies of her Thanatos trilogy signed, and you can too! They make great gifts for the avid reader in your life.
Kate Shreean Swed: a fabulous author of sciene fiction, all of which are far future retellings of classic books. Everything from Great Expectations and Phantom of the Opera! The final book in this trilogy also released recently, so you can get either the entire box set, or individual signed books!
Adelaide Thorne: an incredible indie author of urban fantasy. I have read the first book in her series and LOVED it, and she just released the last book in her trilogy earlier this month! So now you can get the whole trilogy!
Becky Moynihan: if you like heart pounding dystopian fantasy with flavors of The Hunger Games, you have to check out Becky's "Elite Trials" series! I read the first book and really enjoyed it; so much so I've purchased the second one! Becky just announced the final book in the trilogy as well, so this is the perfect time to start the series and gift signed books to loved ones.
Anna Vee Art: If you like the print I have of Tomas and Tallis and have always wanted your own favorite character (bookish or video game wise) brought to life with your vision, Anna is fabulous to work with!
Andrew Brown: an up-and-coming comic book style artist! I've gotten to know Andrew over the past few months and he's such a kind soul who is incredibly passionate about his work. He just opened his commissions, too!
AJ Torres: I've had the pleasure of getting to know AJ over the past few months and not only is she a talented writer, but she does the cutest anime style art and designs! A perfect gift idea for the anime lover in your life.
Incredible Bookish merchandise and candles:
Baj Goodson: this wonderful human not only writes creepy novellas (you can get those signed from her shop too, just saying), but she also creates some of the best bookmarks I've seen! PLUS! She also does graphic design if someone in your life was looking to have their brand redesigned, you can gift them that for the holidays, too! Baj does so much, and it's all so lovely, so I highly encourage you to browse her website for all the goodies you could get.
Vitela Witch Craft: I won a pair of really cute gummy bear earrings from this shop and have fallen in love! There are so many cute accessories and fun little things to choose from, that this will make the perfect stocking stuffer for almost anyone on your list.
Lunar Bazaar Candles: The shop owner, Kim, is such a talented human and I've loved every single candle and wax melt I've gotten from her shop. I've bought her products for gifts for others before, and she even made me a custom Tomas themed candle back in the day! Her candles are perfect for the bookworm and witchy scent lover in your life, guaranteed!