Now, I know this post may seem really obvious but I was surprised by a few people mentioning on twitter that they feel like their book reviews were lacking and that a lot of people would find a post like this helpful. I’m no expert on writing book reviews, far from it. But I’ve been doing it long enough to establish a “voice” and know what generally makes a “good” book review.
Everyone has their own voice and does book reviews in their own way and it’s always great to read reviews which are in different formats and written in different ways but there’s always a few concrete things you should think about when writing them.
1. Leave links
I know Amazon is never too far away but it makes things a lot easier if you leave links to the book you’re reviewing in your post. This might sound lazy but people are much more likely to purchase the book if your review can take them straight to where they can buy it instead of opening up multiple tabs and having to search for it. Which will often lead to getting distracted by videos of singing cats or something.
2. Write in short-ish paragraphs
During a Twitter chat the other day where we were discussing blog posts and what makes you want to keep reading, a surprisingly lot of people mentioned short paragraphs and from my experience, the same applies for book reviews. Reviews are generally long and it breaks it down and makes them a lot easier to read if you write in short paragraphs.
3. Don’t rehash the plot
Rehashing the entire plot and saying very little about what you actually thought about the book is a massive no go. A paragraph at most will very much suffice in telling us what the book was about – it shows you read it thoroughly without giving too much away. We want to hear your thoughts not a retelling of the book.
4. Be yourself
If you have a blog, chances are you have your own “voice” which people will come to recognise so you don’t have to write book reviews like anyone else or write professionally if that’s not your style. If it means a lot of raving about a book you loved, then go for it! It’s great to see emotion and enthusiasm about a book come out in a review.
5. Always mention if there are spoilers in your review
This is important and I’ve heard so many people since I started book blogging say how annoying it is when everything that happens in a book – all the twists and turns are in plain sight in a review without any warning. Spoiler reviews are fine because there’s bound to be people reading your review who have already read it. But please mention it at the beginning!
6. Don’t attack the author
You’re reviewing the book, not the author. So try and keep it that way. I know it’s frustrating when you hate a book and it’s so hard to review a book you actively disliked but try and talk about the book and only the book.
7. Include a rating system
Stars, cupcakes, Tom Hiddleston’s, choose a rating system to give the reader of your review some information about what to expect in your review. If it’s a book they really want to read and they see you’ve given it 5 glowing stars, they’ll want to know why. Similarly, if it’s a book they really want to read which you’ve given 2 stars to, they’re going to want to know what went wrong.
8. Take notes but not too many
I know a fair few people who don’t like taking notes for book reviews because it makes it feel like a “job”. Which I totally understand and by notes I don’t mean a 2 page essay every two chapters about the meaning behind the colour of the curtains in the main characters bedroom. But if, while you’re reading, a word or sentence pops into your head which you’d like to use in your review, note it down on your phone so you don’t forget.
9. Be constructive, not destructive
Even most 5 star reviews will have the odd thing in them the reader wishes was different. We want to hear everything; what you did and didn’t like but we don’t really want to hear you mouthing off about it. Be constructive in your criticism, why didn’t you personally like it? Because chances are, if you didn’t like a book because it featured too much romance in it, a romance fan will love it. So not all criticism is bad.
10. Be honest
I think the most important point of all. Honesty really is the best policy and book reviews are your opinions, so that’s what we want to hear. Your God’s honest opinion of the book you just read. If we’re thinking of buying the book ourselves especially, we want to read a genuine opinion.
I also had a question from author, Liz Fenwick on Twitter asking whether from the writers point of view, should they comment on our reviews. I can’t speak for every book reviewer in the world, but personally I love it when an author comments on my review. If not a comment, then definitely a little tweet. It’s always nice to see your review is appreciated. If it’s a bad review however, then maybe a message in private to say thanks for your honesty.