Book Reviews Done Right

How to write a book reviewReviewing books is a fun hobby for any budding writer. While writing book reviews is rewarding, it’s important to note that most publishers and authors do not offer pay. Unless you’re writing reviews for a newspaper or major publication, most book reviewers simply receive a free book for their service.

Steps for Writing a Book Review

Read the Entire Book

The most important part of reviewing a book involves reading the entire book. It’s always apparent when a reviewer only read the back cover or simply skimmed the first few chapters. If you’re not a fast reader, it can take days or even weeks to complete a review.

Create the Book Summary

When writing a review, do not share anything that is intended to surprise the reader. Spoilers ruin the book for potential readers. The goal of the summary is to set up the plot to the book, and construct your summary so that it leaves the reader wanting to know more. Your summary should answer who, what, when and where.

It’s often helpful to keep a notepad close at hand while you read. Note the correct spelling of the main characters’ names, the setting, and any information critical to the plot. If there are memorable quotes within the book, add them to your review. If you’ve read an advanced reader copy (ARC) or galley copy, you must email the publisher before adding a quote to make sure the quote hasn’t been edited.

Forming Your Opinion

Every book reviewer has his or her own method for creating the opinion portion of a review. General guidelines are to consider if the enjoyment you received after reading the book was worth the retail price. Was the writing fast-paced, or did the pacing slow down and leave you bored in spots? Did you find the main characters believable or even likeable?

It’s okay to give a quick author bio, details on where to buy a book, or a list of titles that came before or after the book you’re reviewing. If the cover art for the book caught your eye, mention that too.

Putting it all Together

Most book reviews average 500 to 600 words. You can start with your opinion and then move summary, or focus on the summary first. If you’re writing for a website, they generally have their own template that you must follow.

Before submitting it, you should read it over to make sure your writing is succinct. Check for any misspelled words or grammar errors prior to posting the review online. Finally, make sure you send a final copy of the review to the author and publisher.

Here’s a great video about Writing a Book Review:

Useful resources:

Excellent book reviews from The New York Times – Another great site for book reviews

Filed in: Other Writing Projects

2 Responses to “Book Reviews Done Right”

  1. Greg
    November 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Oh the number of reviews I’ve read where the reviewer obviously didn’t read the damn book! How can this possibly be OK – and how can they think anyone who DOES read the book will have any respect for them afterwards? It annoys me a lot!

    • Melissa Contreras
      November 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      I know! It does not serve your readers if you will not even bother to read the book you are reviewing. People can generally tell when a reviewer actually read the book or not. They will mention specific details and offer a well-formed – sometimes even passionate – opinion of the plot and characters.

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