Long before I sold my first book, I wrote book reviews for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I reviewed single books, interviewed authors, and reviewed groups of books for seasonal reviews. I still write the occasional review, most often a book about writing or a book that taught me a great writing lesson. If you are interested in writing reviews, here are 4 tips to get you started.
Don’t just summarize the plot. A book reviews is a lot more than a plot summary. Yes, you have to tell readers what the book is about but that shouldn’t be all you include. Although I write about the plot, I’m generally careful to avoid spoilers. Sometimes I can’t write the review without a spoiler and if this is the case I always warn the reader. But very often I will say “to find out how the protagonist gets out of this situation, you have to read the book.”
What did the author do best? Whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, include what the author did best. Are the characters extremely realistic? Did you feel like you could walk into the setting? Did this how-to book solve a problem you’ve been having? Then be sure to tell your readers.
Beware sour grapes. There are always going to be things that you don’t like about some books, but be careful how you reveal this to your reader. I read a lot of reviews by a blogger who is helping her readers sell to a particular market. She reviews things that this market publishes. Recently, she panned the ending of a story. Because I know she’s also trying to sell to this market, it sounded a bit like sour grapes. Don’t lie but be careful how you reveal this information. “While so-and-so’s motives were initially unvconvincing….”
Who should read this book? That’s right. I never review a book that I don’t like. My interest is in helping people find good books. That means that I avoid books I can’t praise but it also means that I need to include information on who is the right audience for this book. I use phrases like “readers of,” “students looking to learn more about,” and “perfect for the science classroom.”
Learn to write reviews and recommend your favorite books and sites to readers who will love them as much as you do.