Letter to Book Reviewers

Dear Book Reviewers:

I love your enthusiasm for my books, I appreciate your support, and I’m especially thankful you took the time out of your busy day to review the books and post the reviews, but . . . must you give away so much of the plot? A review is not a synopsis and readers do not need you to reveal every major plot point of the book. And they especially do not need (or want) you to tell them how it ends. What people want is a reason to read the book, and if you tell them too much, you have taken away any reason for them to read it, in which case you have done us all a disservice. And I am sure that was never your intention.

I don’t mean to sound harsh or ungrateful, but I spend a lot of time mapping my books, slowly revealing the truth, each new revelation dependant on the one that comes before, so that by the end of the book, people end up believing (at least for the moment) that the story is true. If surprises are revealed out of sequence, it breaks the chain of evidence. So not only will readers know what to expect, they will be robbed of the unique experience of believing something foreign to their everyday lives.

As a general rule, if you must, you can mention things that happen in the first fourth of the book, and for sure you can hint at what will happen in later chapters without mentioning specific events, but anything beyond that is a spoiler and should be noted at the beginning of the review. (For example: “This review contains spoilers.”) Those who don’t like surprises will continue reading your review. Those who do like surprises can choose not to read it.

Recently I’ve asked a couple of you to remove spoilers from your reviews, and you kindly and graciously agreed, and for that, I thank you. Others of you refused to change a word, saying you stand by what you said. I did not ask you to change your opinion. I merely asked you to remove the spoilers, which did not merit the abusive reply.

For those of you who don’t like my books, that’s fine, but please don’t write a dismissive review based on what the books are not. My books are not romances, (though all contain a romance of sorts) so do not expect them to follow the genre conventions for romance novels. My books are not apocalyptic, so do not expect them to follow the conventions for such stories. If you need a tag for the novels, call them thrillers, call them suspense, call them conspiracy novels, or you can call them “typical Bertram.”

As Malcolm Campbell said of Light Bringer, it is “typical Bertram: plots within plots, multiple characters with multiple agendas, fast moving, more than enough mystery and intrigue for everyone.”


Pat Bertram
author of Light BringerMore Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. All are available for Kindle on Amazon.

10 Responses to “Letter to Book Reviewers”

  1. Smoky Zeidel Says:

    Well said, Pat. What irks me as a reviewer, though, is getting notes from writers who insist I’ve put in spoilers when I have not. They just happened not to like the fact I’ve not given their books a 5-star review, or reveal a plot issue I have problems with. The last time this happened to me, I changed my review policy to “If I don’t care for anything in your book, I will not review it, period.” Which is a shame, because I have a reputation as a fair reviewer. My opinion is, if you can’t take the criticism, don’t ask me to review your book.

    Of course, as an author, we don’t always have control over who reviews us! And that’s fine, too–I’m delighted to find reviews of my books online that I wasn’t aware were being conducted.But you are so right that so many “reviewers” don’t know how to write a review, so they end up giving away things they shouldn’t. I hope a lot of these people read your post here, because you suggestions are right on point! Malcolm is a fabulous example of a reviewer who does it right.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Malcolm writes the most wonderful reviews!! His review of Deborah J Ledford’s Staccato was brilliant — he wrote it in a staccato rhythm that added an extra dimension to his review of her intriguing music-themed book.

      I can see it from both sides, which makes me glad I am not a reviewer.

  2. bibliopirate Says:

    Reviewing can be difficult, I’ve just begun trying my hand at it. My general goal is to make a book sound interesting without spoiling any of the mysteries or delights with in.

  3. R L Pace Says:

    Book reviewing is something I stumbled into by making some comments in my blog about a couple of books I enjoyed. Within a few months I somehow ended up on the Touchstone mailing list and ARC’s started arriving every week. I dutifully worked on reading them, but realized I would be overwhelmed in short order, so I set down some personal rules. First, I don’t write bad reviews. It’s hard enough to make a few bucks as a writer without someone in the hinterlands trashing your work. If it didn’t work for me I just didn’t write about it. Second, I never, ever, ever put in spoilers. I may hint at a general plot line, or lift a particularly tasty sentence to include, but my goal is to let my readers sense my own pleasure at reading the book while urging them to discover the nuance for themselves. Third, and this is a recent rule, I am beginning to focus only on writers from the Pacific and Intermountain West to review. There is huge talent out here in the northwest corner, and anything I can contribute to exposing them to a larger audience is my goal. Somewhere along the way I hope for Karmic energy that lets folks find my own work, but I do enjoy reading, then sharing my passion with my friends. Interested in my reviews? Link to my blog through my website.

  4. Catana Says:

    Unfortunately, writing reviews is suffering the same malaise as writing novels. Apparently, anyone can do it. I’ve seen too many “reviews” that are nothing more than the kind of book report you’d be expected to turn out for a high school English class. One fairly well-known site that focuses on self-publishing recently instituted paid reviews. And the very first “review” was, you guessed it, a high school book report. The site also listed a number of places where they would be posting the reviews, including three that don’t allow paid reviews. I’m glad to say that’s been scotched, so people are now paying for reviews that may not actually be reviews and that will appear only on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I used to send my books out for review, but it doesn’t seem worth it any more. A book report filled with typos and inconsistencies is taken to be a reflection on the book rather than the reviewer.

      • Catana Says:

        The other thing to consider: if someone doesn’t know how to write a review, how can you trust that they know how to read well enough not to misrepresent the book?

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          That’s a very good point. And even if the review is well-witten, there is a possibility of the book being misrepresented. In a couple of cases, reviewers completely missed the substory of one of my novels, so they missed the point of the book.

  5. Catana Says:

    It’s kind of like reading a movie review, then seeing the movie and wondering if it was the same one.

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