Insights, News, Tips

How I Write Book Reviews…and how there is no wrong way!

I’ve had people say to me “I need to get better at writing book reviews” or “I wish I knew how to write a book review” OR “I can’t review a book. I never know what to say.” All of these statements have left me with one general feeling: There is no wrong way to review a book.

Book reviews mean everything to authors. You don’t have to go in being a critic, or leaving some deep and intense review. It can be as simple as “I loved this book! It was phenomenal! 5-stars!” to “This book just wasn’t for me. You might like it though. 1-star.” Or, a book review can be comprehensive, going into how a reader feels about plot, characters, and prose. Either one, authors love. It helps readers too. How often have you picked up a book (or really any product) based on its reviews?

So I’ve decided to write this post based on the basics of what I do with a review. Sometimes I break this pattern, ranging from a 1 line review to a multi-page saga. Hopefully it will help someone figure out how to review that awesome book they’ve been wanting to scream about, or at least give someone the guts to write that one like “Eh, didn’t it like it” type of review.

E.S. Barrison’s Book Review Method

My method of book reviews follows a simple 4-idea pattern. That might sound daunting, but it comes naturally, as if expressing an opinion or talking about the topic.

First – I address in a line or two what the book is about, in some cases, what drew me to the book.
Second – I address what I like about the book.
Third – I address what I don’t like about the book. I try to make this equal or less in length to the second topic.
Fourth – I provide a summary, basically saying why or why not someone might want to pick this up.

These might seem extremely simple, but that’s all that go into a good book review. Let me provide an example below for a book we all know, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

1) Address what the book is about and what drew you to it.

Have you ever just wanted to eat, become wrapped in a cocoon and transform into something beautiful? The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle introduces us to a caterpillar who just wants that, by eating through an entire picnic. Surely that single idea is an inspiration to any of us, and certainly is a dream I aspire to accomplish.

2) Address what you like about it.

Carle’s artwork is beautiful, and this classic story leaves you enchanted each time you read through it, whether on your own or with someone else. It teaches a lesson that sometimes too much eating will leave you chubby and unable to move, but in the end you will become (spoilers!) a beautiful butterfly.

3) Address what you don’t like about it.

Of course, there is a flaw in Carle’s representation of the caterpillar as they cannot actually eat an entire picnic, nor do they look as adorable.

4) Summarize Your Review

That being said, the cartoonish nature of the story does not pull away from the adorable tale. Any child, or adult really, will love, enchanted by Carle’s poetic nature as well as his artwork. I intend to read this story to my kids in the distant future. 5 out of 5 stars!

As you can see, the review is simple enough but with enough detail that captures everything you do or don’t like about the book. This one was far more simplistic, and while I have many more examples of book reviews I have written it maintains the same structure.

But what if I don’t want to write a long book review? I just want to enjoy books!

That’s fine too! But please, especially for independent authors, consider rating the story or leaving a simple review that says “Amazing!” or alternatively, “I didn’t like this :(” While these reviews might not carry the same weight, it still tells the author that their stories are being read.

Okay, fine. But where can I review books?

The basic answer is: anywhere and everywhere. Post that you love a book on your blog, social media, or scream it in the middle of the street!

Or, I guess, alternatively, you can post on select websites like Goodreads, Bookbub, Amazon…just to name a few!

Reviews are what give authors exposure. Notably, only 20% of book purchasers review the book. Let’s make that number higher…for all the authors out there.

Have any questions? Want to recommend a book for ME to review? Email me at esbarrison@gmail.com.

E.S. Barrison

News, Tips

Keep Writing: Your Story is Worth It

A few weeks ago, I received an ask on tumblr.com asking what my process is in writing a novel. While that topic is for a different post, what I would like to talk about is the response I received.

I won’t quote it word-for-word out of respect for this individuals privacy, but basically they said:

Wow, I wish I was motivated enough to do all of this. I wish my story was worth it. 

That response broke my heart. Because of course their story is worth it!

Some people are going to go through the process I went through: coming up with an initial idea, and refining it for years and years…before getting the right idea and THEN writing ten drafts. (Again, I’ll detail this insanity all later…since it really has been insane and it needs it’s own post.) Some people are going to be content writing one draft and then posting it online, others will write a few and then decide between wattpad, indie publishing, or traditional publishing…or not sharing it at all.

But never ever think your story isn’t worth it. Because I promise…it is. You’re writing this story to explore your own inspiration, to rediscover humanity, and explore the confines of your own mind. If it makes you happy, if you’re having fun…isn’t it worth it?

Still don’t believe me? Well let me give you a few reasons WHY your story is worth it!

  1. You’re having fun! You’re creating these characters, this world, and something that is entirely yours.

    Okay, your next question is probably: What if I write fan fiction? Then you’re still having fun! You’re doing something that makes you happy! So get those endorphins flowing and create!

  2. You’re creating something new! This is something entirely your own. You created this…you brought these characters to life or fed them a new story. That’s something new. That’s something wonderful.
  3. You’re human. Unless someone who isn’t a human is reading this (which well, that’s impressive so I’m sure this applies to you nonetheless), it’s a part of the human experience to create. Whether you’re here to publish or not, jump between projects, or just like creating for the heck of it…you’re experiencing humanity’s desire to create. Because without art and writing and music…what are we really?

But what if I can’t stay committed to an idea? Or what if I haven’t created in weeks? 

That’s okay too! Give yourself a break! Your story will be there waiting for you…and it is still worth the work. Because every bit of writing, or resting, or day dreaming, or creating is still adding to this world.

It won’t exist if you create it.

So trust me, your story is worth it. Keep telling it.

Keep creating.

Until next time,

E.S. Barrison

News, Tips

Insights: My Beta Reading Experience

It has been a bit since I posted an update, but I have needed some time to put together this next post about the terrifying topic of Beta Reading!

Now what is beta reading?
Beta Reading is when an author reaches out to potential readers and get their feedback on the unpublished story. This is different from an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) reader, who reviews the book in its final form before being published.

My Experience
Over the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to be on both sides of the Beta Reading Spectrum – as the recipient and as a reader.

My personal experience as a beta reading recipient went through two rounds. My first round I deemed unsuccessful. Few of my readers finished or responded after the first couple weeks. Some of the problems were my own: I released chapters in segments rather all at once, I didn’t regularly update my beta readers, and quite frankly, the story wasn’t ready.

My second round went a lot better. Of the 14 beta readers, 10 of them openly finished. Anything higher than 50% completion with beta reading I think is a success. Not only that, while there were things that needed to be adjusted, the feedback was great. I was terrified people would hate it, but they loved it…and that made this all the better.

After receiving my own beta feedback, I had the honor to beta read for Esther T. Jones’s second novel, Thorunn. While I won’t go into details on the actual story (that will be saved for the book review when the novel is released), it opened my eyes on how to improve the beta reading experience of my readers in the future.

So, after these experiences, I wanted to pass along some insights to others who may be preparing to either send their novel to beta readers or for any readers preparing to beta read. While in no way these are universal, I think they provide some insight…or I hope so.

Personally, I love beta reading. 

It’s a way to help writers improve their stories. It’s stressful to receive feedback too. But, it is a necessary evil. 

Since I’m currently starting to beta read another story so at the moment I am not available to beta read. When I am, I will post on my various social media accounts since this is something I do in my free time. 

Thanks again everyone. I hope this helps.