I’ll let you in on a little secret: Authors (at least up-and-coming ones like myself) chase reviews like servicemen’s wives and girlfriends yearned for letters from their loved ones during World War II. We crave your feedback; it tells us our precious darlings are still alive somewhere, and haven’t been gunned down in a hailstorm of public indifference. Yes, an author’s biggest challenge is launching her book across enemy lines—that is, sending it off to do battle on the bloody soils of public opinion.

That said, here's another dirty little secret: For most aspiring authors, nearly all the reviews you see online have been proffered by friends and acquaintances, or exchanged with other writers in a nasty, tit-for-tat swapping of POW's. I know I'll probably get slammed for admitting this, but I'm guessing you all suspected it anyhow. According to Napolean Bonaparte, "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon." In the literary context, this means that new writers will sell our souls for a five-star review. 

And speaking of stars, we all know how stupid they are. Bad enough a friend asked you to write a favorable review; God help you if you don’t give the book five stars. To us writers, anything less looks and feels like a slap in the face. But face it, five stars should be reserved for classics like Crime and Punishment, or only the most highly-crafted and sophisticated of modern works (think Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex). If possible, try not to be bullied into giving away more than your conscience dictates. Writers are grown-ups (or should at least pretend to be). Having enlisted in this voluntary army, we should expect a little schrapnel every now and then.

If you’re having trouble crafting your review, simply say what it is about the book you liked or didn’t like. It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect; the best reviews contain honest, unselfconscious appraisals. Don’t recount the entire story for the fiftieth time. And don’t give away spoilers. Readers hate that (although personally, I am sufficiently senile that I don’t mind.) Pretend you’re writing an email to a friend. I have found that emails from readers make the best reviews! (But for heaven’s sake, don’t let on if you know the writer! Any hint that you and the author are acquainted renders the review meaningless, however laudatory it might otherwise be.)

If a book moved you, consider that a gift. So do like your mama taught you and send a thank you note in the form of a positive review. We cherish them no less than a chest full of old love letters. Public opinion really does count—so let your voice be heard. And for goodness’ sake, write that review if you said you would! I know you are busy—we all are. But in the time it took you to brag about your kid on Facebook this morning, you could have penned three or four lines about a book you liked, and made that author’s day.