I first wrote about the topic of book reviews almost three years ago, and that post was one of my popular. I’m writing about it again, because a couple of weeks ago, a friend and I gave a presentation on book marketing to our writers group and this topic came up. Several people in the group were under the impression that they couldn’t leave a review on Amazon if they didn’t buy the book on that website. You can. I’ve done it before, when I read books from the library or books that I bought at a book talk or book signing.

Before I became an author, I never wrote book reviews on Amazon. It never occurred to me that I should. I would read them, but I didn’t think it was my duty (or right) to write them. Since then, I’ve written lots of reviews. My husband has, too. What I’ve come to realize is that authors and readers need book reviews from all kinds of readers, not just from professional reviewers.

Authors look for reviews because they are putting their books out there to be read, and they long for feedback. They want to know that people aren’t only buying the books, but are actually reading them. Reviews also help the author (usually) because they help potential readers make a decision to give the book a chance.

I’ll give you an example: When I got my Kindle Fire and started browsing for books on Amazon, it was an eye-opening experience. The first thing I noticed is that the book’s cover and title need to grab a shopper’s attention. Once they do that, it’s the reviews that often make or break the potential sale. I look at how many reviews the book has received. Then I check the breakdown–how many 5 stars, 4 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars, 1 star. I’ll read a few reviews. If the reviews look good, I’ll read the opening of the book (free sample). Then I make my decision. That’s usually how it happens. There have been instances, though, when the reviews made me make an instant decision.

That’s how important reviews are!

So, if you are a reader and you want to write a review, how do you do it?

It can be daunting. How much do you need to say? What if you aren’t good with words, grammar, and punctuation? What if you hurt the author’s feelings?

Well, first, don’t worry about your own writing skills. It doesn’t matter if you make typos, misspell words, etc. No one is going to complain. Second, you don’t have to write an essay and give a full synopsis of the book. One sentence giving your feelings about the book is plenty. Readers and authors want to know your opinion. That’s what counts. Of course everyone has different likes and dislikes. Don’t worry if your opinion is different from that of other reviewers. It doesn’t matter. Go ahead and post your reviews. Third, it can be difficult to read criticism about one’s own book, but authors usually develop a tough skin and can take constructive criticism. Most won’t get their feelings hurt–provided the review isn’t a vicious attack meant to hurt.

I’ll give you some review examples (some short, some a bit longer) from my various books:

‘Susan does such a great job with her descriptions and with the development of the characters. I could picture the surroundings and the people. It kept me interested, wondering how it was going to turn out, and was pleasantly not at all predictable. Really enjoyed this book and have read the series. They get better and better.’

‘This is a compelling book, at times heartwarming and other times heartbreaking. It follows the lives of several families under Nazi occupation in the Sudetenland in the final year of WWII and Lucas Landry who is trying to find his own family’s roots in the aftermath of his father’s death. Susan Finlay skillfully weaves the various story lines together and keeps you reading on.’

Interesting concept and well developed. A little slow and plodding at times, but all in all I like it and recommend it.

‘Not so much a mystery, nor truly a thriller, though it had some thrilling moments. Like all the best books, this one does not fit neatly into a genre. The background was a school – a school with problems of drugs, of gang violence, and teachers who had given up any attempt to fight the problems. The background drama was absorbing, and so was the human drama – Claire (once Juliet) trying to live under a Witness Protection progamme with a handler both indifferent and incompetent. This story keeps the reader fully involved. This is a 5-star novel.’

An excellent book, way better than I was expecting. It’s a good, tight read that keeps me engaged. I shall buy more of this author’s books.

Being tossed into a school job as part of a witness protection program isn’t the best place to hide a past. A slip and the rumor mill could end up in the ear of the mob. Well written and easy reading with a constant tension.

And last but not least is a review from Amazon Germany (in German): ‘Das Buch ist sehr gut recherchiert und spannend und kurzweilig geschrieben. Da ich selbst Vorfahren aus Schlesien habe, sind mir viele der beschriebenen Situationen vertraut. Besonders spannend fand ich die Frage, was ist Familie und wie wichtig ist es, eine zu haben. Das andere große Thema Ahnenforschung hat gezeigt, dass man nie früh genug damit anfangen kann, nach seinen Vorfahren zu fragen, denn meistens findet man, wie auch in diesem Buch, erst Informationen, wenn die betreffende Person schon verstorben ist. Für jeden, der sich mit Ahnenforschung beschäftigt, eine interessante Geschichte. Für mich ein absolut lesenswertes Buch. Ich konnte es nicht aus der Hand legen. Die Kriegserlebnisse der beteiligten Familien sind manchmal etwas erschreckend, verdeutlichen aber die gegen Kriegsende herrschenden Verhältnisse.Am Ende, …… das verrate ich nicht.Schön wäre eine deutsche Übersetzung.

What if you’ve never posted a review on Amazon and don’t know the technical process?

That’s easy enough. Go to Amazon.com. Log into your account. Bring up the book in the search engine. Scan down the page to ‘Customer Reviews’ and click on the gold box (Write a customer review). Under the question ‘How would you describe the plot of this book?’ give a brief title. Then click on the number of stars you want to rate it. Then write your review and submit it. You’ll get an email soon afterwards telling you that your review is live. That’s it. Oh, and you can also write book reviews on Goodreads, if you want, or post reviews on your own blog/website if you have one.

What if you didn’t buy the book on Amazon?

It doesn’t matter. You can still post a review, even if you got the book for free, bought it in person, checked it out from the library, bought it at a used book sale, or borrowed it from a friend. You can even say how/where you got it in your review (but you don’t have to).

It’s really pretty simple. Go ahead and give it a try if you haven’t already. Authors need your help!


Susan Finlay has nine published mystery novels to date. The newest, the first book in a brand new series, was released on January 8, 2018.