Sunday, January 3, 2016

How To Write a Book Review by Donna Fasano @DonnaFaz

Many readers are intimidated by the idea of writing book reviews and I am often asked how I go about writing them. I'm an author, but I'm also an avid reader. I review a large majority of the books I read. In fact, I have fun doing it, so I do feel somewhat qualified, from both an author’s and a reader’s perspective, to offer a little guidance on the subject. 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.”
  4. 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’Ts

  1. 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.
  2. 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 AND 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?

~  ~  ~

USA Today Bestselling Author Donna Fasano has written over 30 romance and women’s fiction novels. Her books have won awards and have sold 4 million copies worldwide. Learn more about her at her blog, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. She loves to hear from readers.

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  1. Great points. The only one I disagree with is summarizing the plot and only because its in the description of the Amazon book page, and don't feel I need to say it again. I have a blog that I post to and hadn't thought about posting a link to their book, but will from now on. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Great advice, Donna. And I agree, it's better not to reveal too much of the story unless you warn that you're about to reveal a spoiler alert.

  3. Excellent blog, Donna! Thanks so much for your excellent tips!

  4. Thank you Donna, I am one that feels it is necessary to review a book. However, I usually don't because it takes me as long to write a review as it does you to write a book. When you are done, it reads great, when I am done, I sound like an idiot. When I try to write the review for the book I am reading now, I am gong reference this page.

  5. Thanks for posting, Donna. Nicely done

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