A quick note on why you should write reviews. Reviews give books visibility. Your review helps a book find readers, but the reverse is also true: your review will help readers find a book. It only takes a few minutes, and authors and readers alike will appreciate your effort.
Let’s start out with some DOs:
- Do pay attention while you read. Take some mental notes on such things as: What aspects of the book capture your attention? Are you being entertained? Do you like the characters? Do you dislike a certain character? Do the characters react naturally to situations and to other characters? These mental notes will help make the review-writing easier.
- Do focus on the book’s effect on you as a reader right up front. As you begin writing your review, describe the emotions you experienced as you read the story. How did you feel about the characters? Were they relatable, authentic, plastic, forced, well-developed, etc? Did the story make you think? Did the story/characters stick with you after you finished? Why did you like the story, or why didn’t you like the story? Did the book have a satisfying ending?
- Optional: sum up the story itself. In a sentence or two, tell what the story is about. This should be a “nutshell” account, brief and as vague as possible so as not to reveal too much detail—more on this later. Focus on the books themes or subjects. Examples: “This book explored the topic of divorce and how breakups turn your world upside down” or “This is a story about second chances and how love can come at any age” or “This book confronted racism, bigotry, and hatred and tackled them like a football linebacker.”
- Do summarize. In the last sentence or two, offer up a final word of praise or criticism. Would you read other books by this author? Would you recommend this book to your friends?
Let’s talk about
- Don’t be mean-spirited. Even if the plot makes you want to toss the book across the room, there’s no need to be nasty. Use calm logic to intelligently express your feelings.
- Don’t reveal too much. Let’s talk about spoilers. What’s a spoiler? It’s just what its name implies—a bit of information that spoils the reading experience for others. Think about it. If someone tells you the ending of a movie are you likely to spend your money to see the film? I’m not. From an author’s point of view, spoilers are a huge deterrent to future sales. From a reader’s perspective, spoilers completely destroy my book-reading pleasure. If a book’s product description states that the heroine has a secret, revealing that secret in your review ruins the pleasure of learning that important plot point for other readers. Likewise, if the book is about tragedy, don’t reveal the details of the tragedy; allow other readers to discover it for themselves. Offering a blow-by-blow account of a book’s plot is a big no-no, in my personal opinion. It’s possible—and preferable—to offer a brief recap without wrecking everyone else’s reading experience.
There you have it—my simple instructions for how to write a book review that helps both the author of the book
readers who enjoy books in the same genre as you.
What do you think? Is there anything you’d add to this list of dos and don’ts? Do you enjoy writing reviews? Do reviews help you choose which books you’ll read?
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