12 Tips for Writing Good Book Reviews
There are a number of steps to take to write a good book review, but the most valuable tip of all may be this one: remember that book reviews have more than one audience. They aren’t only for readers. Book reviews are valuable to the book author who wants others to learn about her book; the book reviewer who is building a portfolio of reviews; readers curious about a new book; the publisher; fellow reviewers who are networking and co-marketing; and fellow blog editors may re-publish your review on a digest blog.
1) Choose a Genre you Enjoy. Be certain you are reading/reviewing in a genre you prefer. Don’t be criticizing a writer for writing in a genre you don’t enjoy.
2) Get the Facts Straight. What genre, length, style, and appeal? By appeal I mean is the book targeted to the LGBT audience, or does the story include erotica? Mention who may want to avoid the book as well as who may find the read rewarding.
3) Summarize. Include a two-sentence overview of the story – pithy and descriptive. Remember, no spoilers.
4) Reference the Author’s Career. Mention where this book sits in a series or in the arch of the writer’s career, if applicable. Relate the story to previous work, such as “more geared to a younger audience”, or “scarier even than his last novel”.
5) Be a Confidant. Write as if you are confiding to the reader. Tell her what will she like if you pass along the book to her. “Don’t read this story on Sunday because you’ll be up all night and miss work the next day.”
6) Be Quotable. Include a few shorter sentences that can be quoted by the writer, or by Amazon, or by a blog that re-publishes reviews.
1) Criticize without Praise. Some reviewers embrace the need to be critical. Suggestions for improvement are fine, but avoid the “this is how I would do it” tone. Include sugar with the vinegar.
2) Focus on Yourself. Mention your qualifications, but don’t make the review about you. Your emotive responses are a good way to connect with the reader who looks to you for advice. Your story about meeting the writer once at a sci-fi convention belongs in a profile article, not a review.
3) Complain. It’s okay to show your smarts by comparing the story to Homer or JK Rowling. However, don’t speak in that complaining voice. “It wasn’t what I expected,” or “it took too long to get started.” Nobody knows your expectations, or cares.
4) Do Blow-by-Blow Analysis. Readers want to know if they should invest time and money, not how Part II opens in a different voice. A book review for your 8th grade teacher had to show that you read the whole book.
5) Attack. It’s fine to list what was irritating or inconvenient such as too many character names or sudden time changes, however personal attacks, don’t serve anybody. Writing something like, “I was looking forward to this book, but was so disappointed” not only can be damning to the writer, it also can damage your reputation as a reviewer.
6) Be Wordy. Remember that readers spend about 60 seconds on your review, so provide a strong opening and write sparingly. Edit the sentences for any ideas that don’t serve the theme or the constructive criticism.
You know you have succeeded when readers become fans and when writers solicit you for reviews of new work.
Stella Atrium is an author based in Chicago Illinois USA.
Stella honored us with a sponsorship during the month of March 2014 in celebration of the her novel Seven Beyond. We are proud to have her as a supporting sponsor.
Category: How To and Tips
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