Please note: There is a new updated version of this post here.
A quick and dirty guide about workshopping your book on Book Country and getting the most out of it.
You’re writing genre fiction. You activated your Book Country account, filled out your profile information complete with an inviting picture, and uploaded your manuscript. You went over to the Introduce Yourself area on the discussion forums and said hi.
So, now what? Keep on reading. We’ll show you how to get involved in the community and get your book out there.
Before everyone can see your manuscript, you need to read and review three other books on Book Country. If you’re not that experienced at critiquing, this may seem intimidating, but don’t worry! Here are a few pointers to get you started on Book Country.
How to write reviews
Apply the golden rule to writing reviews: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Provide the level of detail and use the tone of voice you hope to receive from others. Be as specific about your feedback as you can. Refer to scenes, passages, and sentences from the book; make it easy for the writer to understand and act upon your comments and criticisms. These are all works in progress: writers are here to hone their craft, so they want real feedback to make real progress. Find the balance between constructive and honest.
If you want to see some examples of what good reviews look like, go to the Top Peer Reviewers tab and look at some of these folks’ reviews.
Even if you’re not an experienced reviewer, keep this in mind: you are a voracious reader in a certain genre. A writer who wants to be successful in that genre will find your insight immensely valuable. Trust me.
People sometimes ask me if they need to read an entire project uploaded to write a review. Not always. If a writer uploaded a full-length novel, it’s understandable if you don’t have the time to read it. Read enough to get a sense of the characters, the writing style, and the criteria the writer requested. In your review, mention that it’s based on the first “x” chapters so the writer isn’t confused.
Remember, a peer review is just that: honest feedback from another fellow writer.
How to rate books
Star ratings are not a reflection of how much you like or dislike a book. Ratings show the readiness of a manuscript for publication. Think of them as a scale of rough draft to final draft.
Here are the “official” Book Country ratings*:
1 star — piece needs significant redrafting as well as reconceptualization
2 stars — piece needs several more drafts and maybe some reconceptualization
3 stars — piece needs significant revision, perhaps another draft
4 stars — piece needs some editing and minor revisions
5 stars — piece is publication-ready: you’re a star!
*One of our members, Herb Mallette, who also writes great reviews, articulated our thoughts about the ratings. Thanks, Herb!
Not all ratings on the site are created equal. The more “thumbs up” a reviewer gets from other members, the more that member’s ratings will count toward a book’s overall rating. We’ve done that to reward helpful reviewers and make sure the quality of the review is taken into account. So if you see a review that you think is well-written and deserves kudos, thumb it up! This way the awesome peer reviewer’s opinion will weigh more than that of other reviewers who might not be as helpful.
How to get reviews
You’ve completed your three reviews, and you’re ready to share your manuscript.
First, make sure your Book Details page is in good shape. You’ll get more readers by providing a solid synopsis of your book. Think of it as the book jacket copy of a published novel. A well-written synopsis is the #1 way I personally decide which books to read. If you’re looking for specific feedback or you want to relay something to your readers, mention that in The Author’s Note.
Okay, ready? Click the “post” button to make your book visible. Now share the news with the community. Every Genre Talk forum contains a thread for new projects. If you’re a fantasy writer, go over to the fantasy topic and drop a line in the Have a new fantasy project on Book Country? Need readers? Share here! thread to let other people know that you are new to the site and would love some feedback. Include a link to your book so that it’s easy for people to find it. Get the word out on Facebook and Twitter—it’s the first step toward building an audience. Tweet a casual announcement about your new book or draft using the #readbookcountry hashtag to welcome readers and their input.
Talk to people on the site! That’s what the “community” part of Book Country is all about. Participate in discussions and write good reviews—it’s how you’ll get members to want to get to know you as a writer.
That’s it! Are you ready for some feedback? Take a deep breath.
How to read and use peer reviews
You’ve gotten a message the first review of your book is live. It feels strange and kind of surreal to see a stranger writing about your book. You scan every word and punctuation mark for the underlying message, “You’re bad! Your book sucks.” Nah, that’s just your insecurity talking. You’ll be fine. Give the review a read through and pat yourself on the back for putting yourself out there and letting other people dissect your work. I know there will be compliments there with the criticism.
It’s common courtesy to thank your reviewer in the comments section under their review, even if you’re not enamored with the opinions they expressed. They donated their time to read and write about your book, so it’s nice to acknowledge their efforts. If there is something you didn’t quite understand about their feedback, feel free to ask for clarification by commenting under the review. That’s how you’ll make new friends, too!
Be gracious about the feedback you receive. You want to be an author. You need to grow a thick skin and let things roll off your back. If the review was mean-spirited, find a way to say thank you anyways and let the reviewer know you didn’t appreciate the tone in which the review was given. If the reviewer actually insulted you, there are report buttons on every page—use them! Or let us know by emailing us at email@example.com.
You’ve gotten a few reviews. Now what to do about all the great feedback you’ve received? Book Country members approach that in different ways. To quote one of our members, GD Deckard, “You could save yourself time if you pay the most attention to the criticism you most dislike.” So ask yourself: does the feedback feel true to you? Is it something you’ve been ignoring? Or does it take you in a direction that’s not where you want to go?
Often, if you hear the same theme in multiple reviews, your readers are picking up something you may have missed. Pay attention to that. If, after careful deliberation, you disagree with the feedback, that’s okay too. At the end of the day, it’s your book.
Further reading for brand-new members
I’ve covered the basics. If you want to keep reading about how things get done around here, this is a compilation of great posts that will steer you in the right direction:
- Our Community Guidelines
- Member RJBlain talks about how she does reviews
- Former Book Country editorial coordinator Danielle Poiesz explains how she writes reviews/uses star ratings
- Member GD Deckard discusses how he uses reviews in revising his work
More questions? Ask us on Twitter at @BookCountry or email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.