How to Write Book Reviews that ROCK!

You’ve just finished that amazing book you couldn’t put down. Your kids have finally been fed and life has resumed to normal but you’re feeling a little…hmm…flat? You miss those amazing fictional characters you’ve just spent many hours getting to know, the magical setting and the heart-pumping pace of the story. What’s the solution? Go for a nice bracing walk? Clean the house? Here’s an idea. Why not grab a pen and paper or a laptop/computer and write a book review? Let the world know what an amazing book it was!

But I wouldn’t know where to start! I hear you cry. Who would be interested in my opinion, anyway?  The answer is many people!

Book reviews are one of the leading methods readers use to find new books. They also help the author find out what works and what doesn’t work in their books.

So what exactly is a book review?

It’s a summary of what you, the reader, felt about the book. In the book review you outline what, in your opinion, were its strengths and weaknesses and whether you enjoyed reading it, or not. It’s a recommendation to other readers to read, or avoid, that particular book.  It’s also helpful to the author to find out what their readers liked or didn’t like about the book.

What isn’t a book review

It’s not a platform to write a scathing attack on the author, no matter how much you hated the book! In fact, a reviewer should try to keep their personal taste out of their review as much as possible. Don’t mention that you hated the hero’s name because you were bullied by a boy at school with the same name. But do mention if you got confused by the similarity of some of the characters’ names.

Who shouldn’t post a review?

If you haven’t read the book, then don’t post a review! Also, if you are a close friend or relative of the author, then don’t post a review. Amazon doesn’t allow book reviews posted in exchange for any monetary reward other than a free book given by the author. It should also be noted that Amazon don’t allow people to review books unless they have had a minimum spend on their account ($50 at Amazon.com).

Where should you post your review?

The book review can be posted on Amazon, Kobo or wherever you usually buy your books, it can also go on Goodreads or one of the many Facebook reading groups. And if you read enough, you could even start a book blog or a dedicated page on your website, if you have one.

What is the format for a review?

There is no set format for a book review. If you look at book reviews on Amazon, you will see a wide range in the standard and length. Some are barely literate, some are an in-depth, intelligent analysis of the book. Some are a few lines, some are several thousand words long.  Amazon cap reviews at 5,000 words however a good length would be 500-750 words. It’s better to write a one or two liner than nothing at all, provided those lines are informative and specific. Eg don’t write “I hated it.” and leave it at that. Explain why you hated it! Better – “I hated it because the characters were totally unbelievable and the pacing was snail-like.”

So what should you include in your review?

First of all, as mentioned before (but it’s worth mentioning again) please be KIND and diplomatic in your book review. Try and offer constructive criticism. Remember you are writing this to help other readers. Be specific about something you liked or didn’t like.

This may sound like ridiculous advice, but make sure you’re posting a review for the book you read! You’d be surprised how many people post their reviews on the wrong book.

Many reviews start with a summary of the book, but, and this is very important,  don’t include any spoilers!  If you’re posting a review on Amazon you don’t need a summary as there will be one on the book page but it’s worth including a few details about the book to demonstrate that you’ve actually read it.

Mention the main character and the core plot of the book. It’s a good idea to end your review with a question either directly or by putting one in your reader’s mind. For example: A young boy discovers he has magical powers when he is taken to wizard school. He encounters the evil wizard who killed his parents and is out to kill him too (Harry Potter).

This example doesn’t end with a question but see how it raises a question? Will the evil wizard succeed in killing Harry?

You should also include how the book affected you, such as “I couldn’t put this down” or “I struggled through this book”. “I loved the humorous tone but figured out the ending halfway through.”

The bulk of your review should be a constructive analysis of the story. This could include any/all of the following

  • What did you think about the characters? Were they well-drawn out and believable? Did they invoke any emotions in you? Or did they seem more like cardboard cut-outs?
  • Was the dialogue appropriate for the character?
  • Was the setting vivid and appropriate for the book with sufficient details to help form a picture in your mind? Alternatively, did the author describe the setting in too much detail? This can make the book drag.
  • Were all the loose ends tied up at the end (remember don’t give any spoilers away!)
  • Pacing – did the storyline flow and were the fast-paced scenes well-balanced by slower more reflective passages?
  • Did you like the author’s voice – if you’re not sure what that is, it’s the unique style that characterises that author. Some write in a friendly, informal style, others write in a darker style. Some like to use a lot of profanity, some don’t.
  • On the subject of profanity, which can also be grouped with sex and violence, it’s fine to mention if you prefer books with less or more of the above, but remember this is YOUR PERSONAL PREFERENCE – it’s not a writing flaw! You may love or hate it but everyone views this differently.
  • Did the book have a theme? If you’re not sure what that is, the theme is the central idea of the story and a universal statement such as “The importance of family”, “Crime doesn’t pay”, “Love is blind”, “Money doesn’t bring happiness.”

Always keep in mind that your primary purpose in writing the review is to help other readers, so base your comments on how the book was written. Don’t comment on how you would have liked the book to be written. That’s not helpful to other readers.

Proofread your review and run it through a spell/grammar-checker, if necessary, before posting it.

And last, but by not least – HAVE FUN!!

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