Favorable reviews can do wonders to build an author’s reputation and persuade readers to buy the book. Book reviews are kind of editorial content, and more compelling for many readers than advertising. Reviews are especially important for novelists, as readers of fiction expect a well-written, compelling story, particularly from debut authors.
Reading book reviews, receiving book reviews for your own work, discussing book reviews – it never leaves you cool. And now you are asked to write a review.
Your questions might be:
- What should the review contain?
- Can I voice my opinion?
- What are the do’s and don’ts of reviews?
Play the Game
Introduce the book title and its author and why you wanted to read it. Tell readers what the book is about in two or three sentences. Name the main characters and basic plot, but don’t give away any secrets or the ending.
Write about what you liked in the book or didn’t like and why. Share some of your favorite parts or quotes from the book. What did you think of the main character?
Share your opinion of the book. Would you recommend it to your friends? Why or why not? Do you think some people would like it but not others? Why? Did this book remind you of any other books you’ve read?
Review Writing Techniques
- While Reading:
Take notes while reading the book, including the page number of interesting content, to make the review writing easier and to remember important points. Record impressions.
Try to capture the reader’s attention with an interesting opening sentence. The introduction should state your central thesis, and set the tone of the review.Outline the title of the book, the genre, the author and maybe if it is a newly launched book. What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it?
- Content, Theme
Describe the content or theme, what goes on in the story, introduce some of the main characters and elements. From what point of view is the work written? What is the author’s style? Is it formal or informal? Does it suit the intended audience?Write it a briefly, general story line, as not to spoil the readers experience. This rule must always be followed: never give away the ending.
Then review the plot. Here you should think about (and by think about, write down) how good the plot was. Was the plot fast paced or subdued’, was the plot a good length, or was it all over too quick, was easy or difficult to follow. This part of your review is really important, as the plot is what drives a story in a fiction book.
How does the author portray his characters? How do they develop? Are the characters in the book interesting or not, did they fit with the plot? Or has the author a very distinct writing style? Use quotations to illustrate important points or peculiarities.
- Compare to other Books
What you liked / disliked and why, always give examples. Was the story interesting, entertaining, instructive. Comment on things you enjoyed and did not enjoy.
- Non-fiction Books:
What sources did the author use – primary or secondary? How does he make use of them? What has the book accomplished? Is further work needed? Compare the book to others by this author or by other writers.
It can include a final assessment or simply restate your thesis.
- Before you Publish
Edit, spell-check, correct grammar, refine. Allow some time to elapse before going over your review. Carefully read through the text, looking for clarity and coherence.
Unfortunately there are these “collectors” of free books on Amazon, who click on every book that doesn’t cost anything on a particular day, no matter if it interests them or not. Later they might read it – and often slash it in a very unprofessional manner. What can you do about it as an author, will be the topic of a future blog post.
Even when it is most difficult, a review is not an emotional response to a book, and should not be used as an opportunity to criticize an author’s personality. A book review should never be used as a “bully pulpit” for the reviewer to preach to others about his or her own beliefs.
A review is not a synopsis of the books content. A review should tell readers what the reviewer thought of the book from multiple perspectives, not to repeat the book blurb.
Try to avoid platitudes, such as “I could not put it down”, “a page turner” or “it kept me up all night”
Take care to be impartial. If you’re reviewing a book by a favorite author of yours, approach it skeptically. If you disagree with an author’s philosophy or politics, keep an open mind. Your task is not to champion or chastise the author – it is to evaluate the merits of the work.
More Tips How to Write Reviews
Lauri April explains in a blog post: Your review should provide helpful information to other readers about the content and feel of the book.
Finish the book
Many people write reviews for books they don’t finish reading. Book ratings and reviews should be based on the entire book, comment on the entire book.
Don’t just give a summary
Readers can read the back blurb to know roughly what a book is about. Give information about the storyline, did you like the plot, characters, setting, writing style? Overall how did the book make you feel?
Use proper English – Write in full sentences and use real words. This is a book review, not a text message. Remember, you are writing this for other readers to use as a source of information in their purchasing decision.
Spell-check and re-read your review before you post it.
It’s not a way for you to send the author a note, or to bash a piece of work. Just because you have a certain opinion about a book doesn’t mean other readers will agree with you. For example don’t say a book is terrible because it has a love triangle and you hate love triangles, and you think all books with love triangles are cliché and not worth reading.
Don’t spoil the story
Sometimes it’s impossible not to comment on a part of the story that happens to spoil, or give away, part of the plot. Sharing spoiling information is fine so long as you put a warning.
As more reviews you write – as easier it gets, and as more fun you will have. And you will be surprised to see: As more reviews you write, as more reviews you will receive in turn for your own books. It’s a two-way street … Writing reviews is the most precious gift you can make to any writer!
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