How to Write a Book Review

book-reviews1

Authors are always clamouring for reviews. Some readers pen them automatically after they’ve read a book and have a ready-formed opinion bursting to get out, but a huge percentage of readers don’t bother. Some are not quite sure what it’s all about. And many readers are less than confident about sharing an opinion of something they’ve read, for fear of looking silly or uninformed. So here’s a quick overview of how to go about it.

Who are book reviews for?

You might be forgiven for thinking that writing a book review is primarily to flatter the author, or thank the author for writing an enjoyable book.

Dog Reading book

Book reviews are for prospective readers; to inform those buyers who are browsing the Amazon bookstore, chatting on Goodreads or following on-line bloggers, to decide if they might enjoy the book as much as the reviewer did. 

What to include:

The best single rule to remember is this: Only write about the actual book!

You can include a very brief outline of the story, but remember the book description is already right there, so consider these points:

Was the story believable, did it keep you engaged right to the last page?

Did the structure of the plot work for you?

If it’s a mystery, was there one?

The characters. Did they seem real, multi-dimensional people?

The author’s writing style. How was it for you?

1c8d1d2938bb5e0a1a335b314e182f0eYour personal enjoyment of the book and whether you would recommend it to other readers is always an overriding strength in a positive book review. Maybe there was an experience which resonated with yourself?

Comparing the book or the author to other books and authors is useful. For example: If you like Jilly Cooper you’ll love this…

It’s not necessary to be literary and serious; a lot of the time a couple of sentences will suffice. On the other hand, if you like writing essay-type reviews these can be brilliant, but  do study book-bloggers and top Amazon reviewers to see how they go about it. (Well-written reviews often attract free ARC’s copies from authors: advance review copies).

What not to include:

Your possible relationship to the author, however vague.

If you need to reference the author, then use the surname only or call them the author or include their full name. Never use Christian names as it may compromise the validity of the review and some sites will remove them permanently.

looking-embarrassedImagine if you saw this review on the latest Dan Brown: Hello Dan love, fabulous book, Five stars!  I expect the vast majority of us would laugh, Dan Brown would most certainly cringe – but most importantly, would this sort of review help you form a decision to buy the book if you’d not read it?

The weather! I’m being tongue-in-cheek here but really, no honestly, there’s no need to mention the weather…

How long the book took to arrive in the post, or that it was damaged. This isn’t the fault of the author – stick to reviewing the book.

Likewise, problems with your Amazon account: It won’t download. This is not the author’s fault and should never form part of a book review.

Spoilers: giving away crucial parts of the plot and therefore spoiling it for other readers, e.g. I’m glad Susan was dead by chapter three.

Copying and pasting the entire book description – please dont.

And the worst of all: I haven’t read it yet… so one star. Why on earth do sites allow these ‘reviews’ to remain?

It’s easier than ever to leave a book review. You can write a single sentence or several hundred sentences. I do hope readers who’ve never left a book review will now consider penning their valuable thoughts… weather permitting.

Most-Hated-Embarrassed-Venn

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12 thoughts on “How to Write a Book Review

  1. So much common sense here…and yes, I have had the ‘it won’t download one star review! Ironically, while amazon seem only too eager to remove ‘friends’ reviews, it won’t take down the utter tripe that some people put up. I always review under a pseudonym, so that my affinity to, or not to the writer cannot be traced.

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  2. Great article! It really would be lovely if more readers were to learn the purpose and how-to of a useful book review. It would be even better if distributors (like Amazon) would do a better job of vetting them. They’re a computerized system, they could make phrases like “I haven’t read this book” insubmittable; they could provide a formulated form for reviewers so that they’re answering specific questions first, and then offer a field for more detail if desired. There’s so much that could be done differently. But in the absence of those types of things, this article does a terrific job of offering some valuable guidelines.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic post, Jan. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write more reviews and to date I’ve written something (mostly either on Goodreads or Amazon) for every one I’ve read. Some great pointers here though – thank you. 🙂

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  4. Great advice, short and to the point which I promise to follow, says she who’s guilty of not posting reviews when she knows she ought to. Unpardonable in a writer. Also, good idea to follow Carol’s advice too – Owe you one for Silver Rain, Jan, and Carol for Death & Dominion. Apologies for being so tardy.

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  5. I had the ‘it didn’t download’ review last week. Despite this, I got 1 star, rather than 0 stars. However, I also got a 2-star review from a reviewer who said she had loved all of my other books (including the one that was the subject of the review) but the ending had left her bereft. The one she didn’t like was the only book of mine she had reviewed. I think most people only review the books they feel strongest about, and for some that may mean those they feel negatively about. I take the opposite view and only reviews books I can give a genuine 4 or 5 stars to.

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  6. I started to leave reviews to remind me of the books I have read, I never write more than 60 words. You can convey your thoughts within this parameter.

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  7. Yes, this a good guide for other writers and readers alike. I’m sure many readers lack confidence to write, not to mention the fact that they just like reading, doing a review afterwards might bring back memories of homework at school. But I hope your blog will encourage readers to pen a few words to tell why they loved or or were infuriated by a book!

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  8. I identify with what Janet says. Writing a review is like homework.
    I rarely review. I know! I know! I’m ducking! It’s because I spend my whole life trying to put my thoughts into words, which for me is not an easy process. Reading fiction is an escape for me – although I do not read escapist fiction. In fact, I read very little within my own genre as I find it hard to switch off my inner critic, which spoils the reading process for me. I do review if I’m asked to, and that also spoils the unconscious, uncritical absorption of someone else’s imagined world. Writing a review takes precious hours of my time, wrestling with words to provide a coherent reflection on the book I’ve just read.
    I am always deeply grateful for the wonderful reviews I am given – and Jan is a particularly wonderful reviewer. And yes, I’ve also had some of the aforementioned nightmare reviews. I don’t know what the answer is. Jan has provided an easy check list for making the review process simpler and less onerous. Perhaps I’ll start reviewing now. Gillix

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