Why Writers Should Review Books

 

by ARHuelsenbeck

 

If you are a reader, you should write book reviews.

  1. It will help you remember the books you’ve read, and whether they’re worth rereading.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

34 thoughts on “Why Writers Should Review Books

  1. I don’t review my 1-star or even below 3-star. Actually I would probably stop reading. I agree it’s part of the job of being an engaged writer but I wouldn’t want to put someone off just because aome books aren’t my taste or if I didn’t fancy it.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I agree about this. I have yet to read a book that was 1 or 2 stars since I started my review site. If I did, I would probably contact the author (because they’re the one who requested the review) and let them know my thoughts, and tell them I don’t want to post a bad review.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Does that mean that you only provide recommendations for those books you enjoyed? Which I generally agree with; give other’s the opportunity to express acclaim for those stories you didn’t enjoy. Seems fair.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do but honestly because it’s subjective and often me not finishing a book is based on a whim (I wrote about books I didn’t finish if you have any interest) So I think it’s fairer to the artist not to review something that’s not to my taste

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thumbs up only.
        But if asked, you provide your opinion yes?
        I read the first one, then the first ten pages. If I can’t get past that count… Next. Why would I pollute the field with such imperfect data. I don’t, but now I know why. Thanks for that clarification.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Your post is very helpful. I’m writing what I hope will be my first novel. Once or twice a month in my weekly blog I share my thoughts about the books I read the previous month. I’ve had no training in writing book reviews, and I don’t aspire to be a book reviewer; however, the advice you’ve given today will surely help me to include things I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Thanks for this nudge. I should write more reviews. I appreciate – so much – those who have reviewed my own book, and I know I need to return that favor to other authors more often. When I imagine writing a review, the task seems too daunting and time-consuming; your suggestions will make it easier.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We try to review every book we read, but we don’t find it easy. Along with synopsis, blurbs and anything else that needs to be short but succinct… There is always that responsibility, the underlying worry that you won’t review it well…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I read reviews, especially on Amazon, I find lots of poorly written reviews–obviously the reviewer didn’t care nearly as much as you do. I’d say, if you’re afraid you can’t do the book justice, then write a short review that conveys your over-all reaction. It’ll still be a better quality review that much of what’s out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for a well written post. I enjoy reading lots of books, and leave my reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and BookBub. I too consider it good Karma, and find it leads to more reviews for my own memoir. I think reading other authors work is essential for improving our own writing.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Yes, authors should review each other’s work. I review most books. Occasionally, I forget, or don’t have time. I post my reviews on my blog, Facebook and Goodreads. Amazon often won’t let me post because I’ve not spent enough with them. (One of Amazon’s more stupid rules.)
    I try to give a synopsis, overview of my feelings toward the plot, characters, whether I empathize with them or not, and how well developed they are. Then I comment on the writing and facts. Occasionally, if there are formatting problems, I’ll mention that.
    I like your comment on mentioning something good, if you don’t like the book, or comparing it to others. I must try to incorporate this in future.
    When I get on my pc, I’ll reblog on Dragons Rule OK.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I actually use reviewers as beta readers when they are commenting on my series. It really helps me to see what I’ve missed something or where I might have confused the reader in the story-line. I’ve also cleaned up my YA books, avoiding anything gratuitous like sex, drugs or underage drinking. Good reviews teach me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have previous reviewers in my email sent files, and I just look them up, remind them how we contacted and then ask for a read review. I don’t come right out and for a beta read because that is much more complicated. I just take what small gems I can and then apply to the next in the series. I suppose this could also be done with stand-alones.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. All good info. Thanks.
    I personally don’t review books aside from Read/Skip. And if it’s a Read, then I’ll rank it on my Read-This-Ranking scale: it’s a way to prioritize a reading schedule. If I say read this book BEFORE you read Crichton’s Prey, or Pollan’s Cooked, then it’s a pretty good book and you should schedule it accordingly. Beyond that, most book’s stories can be deduced from blurbs or the author’s own descriptions.
    To me it’s like anything which requires a binary choice: Do or Do Not, eat or eat not, read or read not, buy or buy not, watch or watch not. Once we’ve established that the subject is on the “Do” side, then it’s a question of ranking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an excellent thought.
      However, whether I should read it or not, I’d like to know why. Should I skip it because it’s poorly written, or because just because the reviewer didn’t like it? Should I read it because it has surprise plot twists, or it has lots of sex? (Maybe I’m not in the mood for sex. . .) I really want more information.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suppose if the information can be made available, then why not. I equate the consumption of any one time component to be a yes/no with:rank. Should I try the ‘death by chocolate’ dessert? Y/N. Some context is baked (ha!) into the topic. No details regarding the unctuousness of fudge, the chew of the cake, the smoothness of the frosting is required.
        You like chocolate? Try it.
        You like SciFi? Read it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve read extensively all of my life but I didn’t start reviewing books until I became I writer. Like the last responder, I never realised the importance. If I don’t like a book I won’t waste my time finishing it; I don’t think it’s fair to review a DNF.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I wish I could read while I wrote. I remember seeing a Twilight Zone episode as a kid. It was the one where the main character loves to read but never gets enough time. Eventually–I don’t recall how–the world ends and he’s left stumbling around the rubble. He finds a library and–finally–has all those books. What’s more, everyone’s dead so there’s no one to bother him. Then he steps on his glasses and he’s blind as a mole. I always liked those types of endings. That’s probably why I write what I do. anyway, I digress–writing about books I’ve read sounds like an absolute delight. Should I eventually become both independently wealthy and well-respected, I’m going to while my time away doing just that. Thanks for the write-up, I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve always loved reviewing books, and agree that both readers and writers should review books. It can help improve both yours and the author’s writing, as well as allowing you to think more in-depth about the story and why you liked/didn’t like it.

    Like

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