If you are a reader, you should write book reviews.
- It will help you remember the books you’ve read, and whether they’re worth rereading.
- Your feedback helps other readers decide whether they should invest time and money to read a particular book. (I confess I read one-star reviews to find out what other readers found objectionable. Admittedly, some people are just hard to please; but often, when I read an unfavorable review, I recognize I wouldn’t like the book either.)
- Your comments help the authors know how you felt about their books, and what they might improve upon in the future.
If you are a writer, you have a responsibility to write reviews. Other authors are not your competitors; they are your colleagues, your community. You benefit from promoting them and interacting with them. Your insights about their work help them and strengthen your own writing. You know how exacting the writing life is; you’re in the trenches. Your response is even more revealing than what non-writing readers give. And you earn review karma–if you’ve been generous in your reviews, others will be generous when they review you.
Here are some things you can include in a book review:
- Tell what the book is about, without revealing the entire plot (or in the case of nonfiction, all the conclusions) or spoiling pivotal twists.
- Tell what the author did well. If you like the book, mention all aspects that made it a winner for you. Even if you didn’t like the book, share at least one thing that was good—an intriguing title, a diverse cast of characters, the brevity of the chapters.
- If you were disappointed, explain why. What were you expecting that the author didn’t deliver? Was the ending unsatisfying? Were there typos or factual errors that distracted you? Were the characters undeveloped? Be specific, but diplomatic–don’t trash the author.
- Make whatever recommendation you can. Maybe the book wasn’t your cup of tea, but fans of chick-lit would love it—say so. Or maybe give an age range: “I feel the subject matter of this picture book was too intense for 6-year-olds, but teenagers could handle it.”
- Compare it to other books, either other ones the author has written, or others about the same topic, or books in other genres. “It’s like Gone Girl, but in a parallel universe.”
- You may want to take notes as you read, or write the review immediately after reading the book. I can’t tell you how many times I need to do a quick reread while reviewing, because I’ve forgotten key events or names of characters in the book a week later.
When you’ve written your review, send it out into the world.
- Submit it to publications that carry book reviews. This is a tricky market to break into, but if you do, you can get steady work.
- If you have your own blog, publish it there (I post my book reviews on my Books Read page)—or offer it as a guest post on a review blog.
- Publish it on your social media—you may have to pare it down to fit a specified number of characters.
- Post it as a customer review on Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com, and/or on Goodreads.
Now it’s your turn. Do you review the books you read? If you are an author, do you read your reviews? Do you appreciate a review written following the tips above? What other advice would you offer to reviewers? Please share in the comments below.
Guest post contributed by ARHuelsenbeck. Former elementary general music teacher ARHuelsenbeck blogs about the arts and the creative process at ARHtistic License. She is currently writing a YA mystical fantasy and a Bible study guide, and submitting a poetry chapbook, with mystery and MG drafts waiting in the wings. You can follow her on Twitter, and see some of her artwork, photography, and quilts on Instagram.