Today's tip is a twofer: a tip that helps you, and helps other writers at the same time. What could be better than that?
Take time to thoughtfully review other authors' books.
Reviewing other authors' books is helpful, because more ratings mean books appear higher in search engines and bookseller rankings. Readers are more willing to take a chance on a new book or a new author when that book has a decent number of reviews. As a writer, you'll want people to leave reviews of your own books someday, so it's good karma to help other authors out by reviewing their books.
But how does reviewing other people's books help YOU, as an author?
1. It can help you build your own following, which will hopefully help you create sales of your own someday.
2. It can help you build a broader network of fellow writers. Building goodwill in the community and engaging meaningfully with other authors makes it easier for you to find help when you need it. Critique partners, beta readers, listening ears, friendly advice, shoulders to cry on, sounding boards for that weird idea you thought up at 3 A.M. that you're not sure about...other writers are great resources for all these things. Make friends and build your network!
3. The biggest reason of all. Reviewing books thoughtfully helps you become more aware of what works and what doesn't. A while back I posted about why it's important to read in your genre; reviewing is just as helpful.
When you finish reading a new book, there are layers to your response. Did you like it or hate it, or just muddle through? How many stars would you give it? That part is simple. That's based off a gut response to how the book made you feel. (And leaving star-only reviews is still helpful, so if you don't have time to take it a step further, don't feel bad!)
To look deeper, you have to ask questions: Why did I like the book? Did I like the plot, the characters, the romance, the suspense? Did I like the magic system? Did it make me laugh? Did I enjoy the plot twists? Did I appreciate the setting or time period?
Once you've pinned down what you liked or disliked about a novel, you can take it one step further. If you liked the characters, why? What made them compelling or relatable? Find specific passages or plot arcs that illustrate that. If you liked the author's way with words, look for passages that stood out and analyze them. Anything you thought was well done can be broken down into a miniature lesson on how to improve that aspect of your own work. And if you run across a book you don't enjoy, ask the same questions and figure out how you can avoid any mistakes the author might have made.
Do you have favorite books or authors you've learned a lot from? Share in the comments, so everyone else can enjoy them too!
Every Wednesday and Saturday we bring you an edit tip of the day. Be sure to check out the archives for our popular summer series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!