Writing reviews on Amazon can be fun. And, if written honestly, your reviews can help others make better decisions. I’ve written a few; I was even a top 1,000 reviewer for a year or so. Here are some tips for those who care. I’ll focus on book reviews—that’s primarily what I’ve written—but you can apply the concepts to reviews of any products.
1. Only review books that you’ve read.
This seems too obvious. But every day someone posts a review that starts off with something like, “I can’t wait to start reading this book,” or, “I haven’t read this book, but judging from this idiot’s talk show…” These reviews are useless, unfair, and dishonest.
2. Review the product itself.
Don’t give a book a one-star review because it arrived on your doorstep late or banged up, or because the seller was rude or you saw someone with purple hair and a nose-ring reading it at Starbucks. None of these things have to do with the book itself.
3. Be honest.
Don’t be afraid to criticize a book; just be fair. If someone has done a horrible job of writing a book, even if you agree with their premise, don’t give it 5 stars. On the other hand, if someone has written a book you disagree with, but done an outstanding job, be fair:
“Although I disagree with this author’s belief that all men are idiots, she has written a compelling book.”
4. Proof-read and edit your review.
Please take the time to capitalize and use punctuation. Please do not use all caps. And please do not bang out a few sentences and then hit “publish” without reading what you’ve written.
5. Don’t overstate.
You can get your point across without going crazy. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t write, “This is The Best Book I’ve Ever Read. Seriously.” Or, “Stunning, breathtaking, riveting. THE MOST EXCELLENT BOOK EVER!!!” Or, “The worst piece of crap ever written,” (which was actually written about one of my reviews.)
6. Make the review as long as it needs to be.
My review with the most helpful votes happens to be one of the longest I’ve written. But I’ve also found some very short reviews to be very helpful. In general, shorter reviews are more likely to be read. Just make sure you follow rule 7.
7. Give specific examples.
Instead of just saying, “Hated it,” tell us why you hated it. Do you hate the book about dogs because you hate dogs, or because it was obvious to you that the author hates dogs? Was it poorly written? Was it unfair? Or, why was it great? The fact that you gave it 5 stars tells us that you loved it; the review is where you tell us why.
8. Remember the meaning of the stars.
Five stars means, “loved it.” Do you really love every book you read? If you have some criticism of the book, even if it’s written by your favorite author, maybe you should give it four stars (“liked it”). One star means “hated it.” Don’t give it one star and then say, “This author really had some great things to say, but I found a spelling error on page 329.”
9. Be fair when you criticize.
I’ve already mentioned this above. But it’s worth a little more space. Don’t attack the author or make fun of them or the people who are likely to agree with them. Try not to get too sarcastic. If you truly hate a book, you can still write a helpful review if you tell prospective buyers why they might be better off choosing another.
Here’s an example of one of my most negative reviews that some readers still found helpful.
Also, don’t be surprised when you get an unhelpful vote on a negative review. Authors don’t like being told that their book is not The Best Book in the World.
10. Keep the buyer in mind.
Imagine that you are writing to your friend or mother. Or, tell the reader what you would have wanted someone to tell you before you bought the book.
11. Have fun.