Writing an MWSA Review

General Philosophy

  • MWSA reviews are NOT critical reviews per se 
  • Generally speaking, we try to write an honest assessment that the member can use to market his/her book
  • If detailed critical/negative observations are appropriate/required, reviewers can use the individual scoring area (i.e. Content, Style, Visual, Technical) and Author Comments sections of the score sheet to provide detailed feedback to the author
    • Please remember to make these remarks as tactful/diplomatic as possible... the way you'd like to get feedback on your book
    • Whenever possible, provide detailed feedback with page numbers
    • This provides our authors with specific reasons why their books scored as they did--thus allowing the author to learn from the process
  • If the book's scoring doesn't reach award level, the review probably should at least touch on the main reason(s) the scoring ended up that way
    • These observations should be as tactful as possible
    • Mentioning one or two shortfalls is probably enough--again, we're not looking for a complete critical review, but a "hint or two" that something wasn't quite right.
  • Low-Scoring Books.  Books scoring below the minimum standard (combined average score of <47* and/or tech score <= 15) MUST include comments indicating where/how it fell short
    (* Note: this number will revert to 50 for the 2019 Season)
    • This ensures the credibility of our review system (i.e. seriously flawed books don't get "glowing marketing reviews")
    • Also provides authors with an accurate assessment/evaluation of their work
    • In the case of low-scoring books, we will offer the author a choice of 1) a "caveated" review, or 2) no MWSA review
    • Boilerplate caveats.  If the #1 reviewer would rather not indicate the specific problem areas noted, the Awards Directors will append the appropriate boilerplate to the end of the review:
      • For Low Tech Score: "MWSA's evaluation of this book found a number of technical problems--including some combination of misspellings, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization errors--which indicate that further editing would lead to a much-improved final product."
      • For Low Tech AND Overall: "MWSA's evaluation found a number of technical problems (misspellings, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization) as well as other problems in one or more of the following evaluation areas: content, style, and/or visual.  This normally indicates a need for further editing."
      • For Low Overall: "MWSA's evaluation found a number of problems in one or more of our evaluation areas: content, style, visual, and/or technical.  This normally indicates a need for further editing."
  • Recommendations
    • Do not include your recommendation for a specific MWSA award! 
      • You can (and should) do this in your "Eyes-Only" comments.
    • Reviewers are encouraged to recommend the book to a specific audience to whom the book will appeal--e.g. "This book will appeal to fans of Robert Ludlum," or "This book will serve as a valuable addition to your coffee table"
  • There is no minimum or maximum length for an MWSA review, but they normally end up being 2-4 paragraphs in length.

Review Details
These are the recommended guidelines for writing an MWSA review. 

  1. To facilitate copying and pasting your review on our website please...

    • Start with "MWSA Review"

    • End with "MWSA Review by [Your Name] (January 2018)"

    • Use blank lines between paragraphs (NOT indents)

    • When submitting your review online (where italics don't survive transmission), use quotation marks (not all caps) for book title

  2. Write a short (3-4 line) synopsis of the book. What is the book about? Where does it take place? This would be similar to what we call the “elevator conversation” in marketing. Make it short and interesting.

  3. Write a short evaluation of the book in at least one of the four main evaluation areas: Content, Style, Visual, Technical. You may mention any issues/problem areas (if necessary); but try to do so obliquely or diplomatically (2-10 lines)

    • Given their importance, you'll probably concentrate on the first two areas: Content & Style

    • Examples

      • Content/Style. This book discusses the relationship between Marines and the Corpsmen who take care of them. It’s easy to read and moving.
        or
        At times the author's use of military jargon slowed the read as much as it added credibility. 

      • Content-Believable. While the image of Yossarian sitting in a tree eating chocolate-covered cotton is amusing, I personally have never been tempted by that particular snack. However, the famous passage where Yossarian screams “they are trying to kill me,” followed by his fellow airman’s response, “they are trying to kill everyone,” followed by Yossarian’s “and what difference does THAT make?” rings true and makes me chuckle every time I read it.
        or
        At times the storyline moved in directions that seemed to stretch the limits of credibility.

      • Content-Genre Appropriate.  At the climax of this novel, I was almost afraid to turn the page lest the scar-faced Viet Cong soldier who had been following the protagonist might leap out of a tree and cut my throat. Breathtaking to the end, this book is filled with chills and thrills.
        or
        At times this book seemed more like a memoir than a history book.

      • Visual. I really enjoyed the cover of this book, but I can’t figure out what it has to do with the content. Also, the maps are too small to be useful.
        or
        This book had a striking, attention-grabbing cover.

      • Technical.  The occasional grammatical error [or: typo, punctuation error, etc.] would sometimes detract from this otherwise top-notch novel.

  4. If you feel the book is worth recommending to a specific audience, say so. However, most books delight certain audiences and leave others cold. So say something that would endear it to the audience it was written to reach.

    • Example: If you are looking for a strategic military book, look elsewhere. However, “The Wizard of Oz” is a charming allegory that will move children everywhere.

  5. Issues to avoid: 

    1. Avoiding the Obvious: if you can’t find anything good to say about the book, write a summary. If you can’t do that, then tell the Director of Awards who will reassign the writing of the review to one of the other reviewers who scored the book. Do not praise a book that doesn’t meet MWSA standards or compromise your own sense of integrity.

    2. Hypercritical comments: this is a marketing review, not a critique. Focus on what it is, not what it isn’t. Tell the reader what to expect from the book honestly without embarrassing the author.  Reviews are not the place to “teach” new authors. The comment section of the score sheet will be used for that purpose. Careful scoring can help us identify the educational needs of our members.

    3. Over praising: whether you like the book or not is immaterial. The question is, does it live up to the requirements of its genre? Does it live up to the requirements of MWSA?

    4. Personal comments are okay, but be wary of making the review about you and not about the book.

Outside Reviews

See Outside Review page for details.


Example Review

Here is an example of a written review.

MWSA Review

An excellent reference for dads, The Military Father covers issues pertinent to men. Much broader than the title implies, the book covers military and civilian fathers who face a long-distance relationship with their wife and children.

The book encompasses a wide spectrum of possible reactions to deployment – from the view of the dad being deployed, the spouse, children at various age levels, single dads, dual military families and the dad at home when the mom is deployed. It covers active-duty military, reservists and civilian/government workers.

What makes this book exceptional is Brott’s attention to the details of family life. Written is an easy-to-read and easy-to-follow format, the author lays it on the line. His advice ranges from telling fathers to record their voices for their unborn children and planning online games with teenagers to comforting and preparing spouses.

He deals with fathers from pre-deployment through coming back home and facing PTSD. Appendices cover a wide aspect of issues including a pre-deployment checklist, stages of childhood development and available resources.

Brott writes with respect for all family members, their emotions and the problems they encounter. He is straight-forward and specific, addressing tough and personal issues. He never assumes that all dads, marriages, children and situations can be “buttered with the same knife.” He speaks of regret, guilt and loneliness as well as independence, commitment and love.

Dads will relate to the preparation, feelings, and problems addressed. Mothers and children will better understand that deployment is as hard for the one far away as it is for those waiting at home.

I would recommend this book to every person facing the deployment of a spouse or partner.

MWSA Review by Pat McGrath Avery (July 2010)