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How to Get Good Reviews

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Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:09 am
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Kale says...

We've all gotten them: reviews that are completely unhelpful, that might boost our ego or tear it down unconstructively, or else might harp upon an issue we're already well aware of but weren't seeking (more) feedback on.

So how do we reduce the number of unhelpful reviews we receive? Is it even possible?

The good news is, yes, it is possible, and there's several very simple things you can do to ensure that you get at least one helpful review on everything you post without the unfortunate side effect of looking like an ungrateful jerk.

Step 1: Realize that most reviewers aren't trying to be unhelpful.

More often than not, reviewers leave unhelpful reviews because they don't know what would be helpful to you as a writer. Those brave reviewers who hop into later novel chapters without having read previous ones, in particular, suffer from chronic "How am I supposed to review this without knowing anything about the rest of the story?" doubt, and many turn away to find something easier to review. Those that don't are often left wondering, "What kind of feedback would the author find helpful?" and are reduced to stabbing in the dark at grammar and character impressions.

But you, as the author, can help them!

Step 2: Make note of the things you would like reviewers to focus on.

Author's Notes are useful tools for conveying important things to your readers (and reviewers) outside the scope of the piece, such as the type of feedback you're specifically seeking. I personally find that having an Author's Note at the start is a great way to make sure one's critiquing requests are read, though Author's Notes at the end of a piece are also quite effective, especially when used in conjunction with the next step.

Step 3: Employ chapter summaries.

When used in conjunction with Author's Notes, chapter summaries give drop-in reviewers the context they need to understand the story thus far as well as a focus for their reviewing energies. What this translates to is better reviews that stand a better chance of being actually helpful, as well as more reviews in general since the greatest hurdles to reviewing later chapters have been addressed.

This principle also applies to longer short stories and novellas in addition to novels. Basically, if you have to break it up into parts to make for manageable reading, including a summary of the previous part(s) is a good idea.

So how do you go about writing and using chapter summaries? I've already written an article on just that.

Step 4: Engage with your reviewers.

So you've done all of the above, and you've still gotten a less-than-helpful review. Fear not! There is a simple way to remedy this! And that simple way is to talk to your reviewer.

Don't be afraid to reply to the review or shoot the member a PM asking them for more details about the things they mentioned in their review. For example, if they said they liked the piece, ask them what it was they particularly liked. The same principle holds true for the things they didn't like, or things they brought up as issues that you don't agree are issues.

Because here's the thing: not only does engaging with your reviewers get you better feedback, it also acts as a learning experience for the reviewer because it lets them know what sort of things they can talk about in their reviews in the future to be more helpful from the get-go.

Discussing reviews also happens to be a great way to make writing friends who you can then call upon for Step 5, so it's important to be nice so that you don't come across as an ungrateful jerk.

Nobody likes to review ungrateful jerks.

Step 5: Trade reviews.

If you have writer friends who seek quality reviews and you are in the same boat, trading reviews with them is a great way to ensure everyone involved gets targeted feedback. The more familiar your trading partners are with the work, typically the more useful the feedback you'll get.

But if you don't have writer friends yet, worry not! You can still trade reviews with others (and perhaps forge a writerly friendship in that fashion). There are a number of different ways to locate a trading partner, though some of the more visible routes are via the People tab and the Review Trading Center.

Step 6: Use the Will Review for Food (WRFF) forum.

Last, but certainly not least, take full advantage of the WRFF forum. Unlike most request forums you may have encountered elsewhere on the internet, the threads in the WRFF forum are made to offer reviews, and to request a review of the thread owner, you merely need to post a reply.

One of the major benefits of this setup is that you can look through currently active threads and check out the quality of the thread owner's reviews before placing a request, thus ensuring that you get quality feedback almost every single time.

Just be aware that the WRFF forum has its own sets of rules, and that each thread may have additional rules set by the thread owner. Be sure to read up on the WRFF Rules, Guides, and FAQ and the first post of every thread before you leap in to request.
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