Writing Book Reviews

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Book reviewWhether you include book reviews on your blog or simply leave comments on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon, here are a few pointers about writing reviews that I hope will encourage the author and inform potential readers. The following ideas are directed mostly at fiction, but they can be applied to nonfiction as well.

Examine your motivation.

First, decide whether you’re writing a review primarily to help the author promote sales (the more authors I get to know personally, the more this becomes a reality for me) or if your aim is to inform readers why they should or shouldn’t read a particular book.

Put the positives up front.

No matter how you feel about a book, if at all possible, seek to write something positive before you go on to share what you see as the inadequacies of the work. (If the majority of my comments would be negative, I choose not to review the book in question.)

Be honest about the negatives.

Including positives is important, but you aren’t doing readers—or your reputation as a reviewer—any favors if you aren’t honest about a book’s shortcomings. Granted, your opinions may be 99 percent subjective, but that’s fine. That’s what people expect from reviews.

Be genuine. Even if the author is a personal friend, a review is not the same as back cover copy. It’s important to truly mean what you say in your reviews.

Be specific and qualify your statements. Some people care deeply about things like typos and grammatical errors. Others wouldn’t notice them even if they were pointed out. Some readers care more about the characters, others about the storyline. Instead of saying, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read,” say something like, “The story has a lot of potential, but I was distracted by the number of spelling mistakes throughout.”

Never, never, never include spoilers. If you wouldn’t want to know a specific detail before reading the book, don’t include it in your review. (If you’re one of those rare people who reads the last page first to see if you deem the book worth your time, don’t forget . . . most of the population does not read that way.)

So, how can you review a book without including at least one or two spoilers?

Be creative. I recently compared the second book in The Port Aster series with The Empire Strikes Back. I stated that the first book was a stand-alone, similar to Star Wars: A New Hope. However, the second left enough unanswered questions that there must, must, must be a third. (The author, Sandra Orchard, is working on it now. Whew!)

One final note . . .

Be prepared. Some reviews will virtually write themselves while others will take more work. I encourage you to have fun with the process. Written reviews are an extension of word-of-mouth, the means many people use to choose what to read next. There are those who now call reviewers “influencers.” Seek to wield your power wisely.


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