Our post on scam reviews led to some great conversations and questions. However, there was one question that stood out above the rest. Over and over, we heard, “I think I sound like a scammer! How can I write a review like a human?”

      Well, you asked and we delivered. Here are our tips to writing reputable, honest, and real reviews.

If you bought the book, show it.

      Several ebookstores will distinguish your review if you purchase and review the book on the same site. This is the first step to setting yourself apart from the scammers.  Amazon has Amazon Verified Purchase: “Customers reading an Amazon Verified Purchase review can use this information to help them decide which reviews are most helpful in their purchasing decisions.” On Amazon, the Amazon Verified Purchase tag will appear below the name of the reviewer.

      Smashwords goes even further with its review system. Besides tagging reviews by Smashwords customers, the site adds additional information. For example, you can see if the book was “reviewed day of purchase”, “reviewed within month of purchase”, or if it was reviewed before the author started charging (“review of free ebook”). Same-day reviews of extremely lengthy books can throw up red flags. However, if you buy the book, take time to read the book, and use some of our other tips, you’ll create a strong and trustworthy review.

Attach your compliments to details.

      Compliments are flighty things. If you don’t tie them down to examples and evidence, they’ll just fly away. For our imaginary novel, Ghosttime, the details might look something like this:

      A quick way to add details to your review? Use the word “because”: “I love this book because…”, “This book is a masterpiece because…”, “I want to read more of this author because…”.

Don’t be afraid to be critical.

      But again, attach your criticisms to something substantial. “This book is terrible!” isn’t as helpful as “The characters all sound like the same person talking.” When you review a self-published book, there’s a good chance the author will actually read the review.

       Now, you might be off base and the author might dismiss your critique outright. However, there’s a real possibility the author will absorb your feedback and work on improving in the next book. Helpful criticisms can be great for everyone: readers get a balanced review, authors get useful advice, and you may have a hand in shaping your favorite indie author’s next work.

Act like you’re talking to a friend.

      Your reviews don’t have be essays of researched literary criticism. Review the book like you’re telling a friend why she should read it. Your friend won’t be satisfied with “It’s just great.” You’ll tell her what you liked, what you didn’t like, and you might say something like, “I know you’re a big fan of scary stories that get inside your head and mess with your mind even after you’re done reading, so I think you’d like this book.”

      That’s brilliant! Stick that in your online review, because there are tons of people like your friend who are in dire need of a good scare. Oh, and don’t bother with the unnecessary and exaggerated comparisons we previously mentioned: your friend would see right through that, and other readers will, too.

Make it a habit.

      Review early, review often. There are some great reasons to make book-reviewing a habit. Frequent, detailed, and critical reviews will boost your credibility. It’s much easier to trust a review from a regular reviewer than someone who only ever reviewed a single book. “Regular” doesn’t have to mean posting a new review every day. Just every time you read a book.

      Regular reviewing will help you develop your critical eye and discover more about your own reading preferences. Besides that, you’ll get better at it with practice. And there’s no better time to start reviewing than right now. Shanna Germain has come up with the idea of National Novel Loving Month to be held in tandem with National Novel Writing Month. It’s a way to give back to authors, especially indie authors who may depend on positive reviews for exposure. Germain writes

So I was thinking that instead, every day I will make a short review of a book I love and post it in a place that will actually help sales (like Amazon or Goodreads). One positive review can make SUCH a difference for an author, and I love way more than 30 books.

      You can also find NaNoLoMo on Facebook and Goodreads.

Still stuck on what to review? Here’s a helpful checklist to get you started.