Anyone who reads a book can and should write a review, no guidelines are necessary. However, the following suggestions are meant for readers and writers who wish to review more professionally by offering a more reflective and critical response to their reading to other potential readers.
The suggestions in this post should be read alongside a previous article posted last week: ‘What do readers need to know? 10-Point Guidelines for Reviewers’
- Choose a book.
Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Although we should all read outside our comfort zone and explore all types of books, if you are planning to write a thorough review, it’s advisable to choose a book you’re comfortable with carrying out an in-depth reading. Don’t torture yourself!
Three simple things will help you decide:
- Check the blurb.
- Read the first pages.
- Read other reviews.
- Read the book.
Sounds simple, too, but again it isn’t. Remember you’re reading in order to write a review, not only for pleasure. You will need to concentrate more, and look out for salient and specific features.
Read the guidelines I posted last week first.
If you make notes as you go (highlight the text, or write brief notes) it will save you time later. Include superficial aspects such as names and events, and more complex aspects such as your feelings and reactions to what you are reading.
It’s advisable to finish reading as soon as possible, preferably within days, although you may need to read the whole book, or parts, again.
- Write the review.
This is the most complex part of the process, but if you have taken enough notes as you read, and write it soon after reading, it will not take too long.
Use your notes to write up your review.
Check the guidelines to make sure you have all the aspects covered.
You may now realize that there is important information you have not checked, go back and do so.
You may discover that there are other aspects not mentioned in the guidelines which you’d like to incorporate, do so.
Be honest, respectful and constructive. There may be aspects you did not like, or considered inappropriate, by all means say so, and even offer suggestions, but there is no need to be offensive.
Write the review as soon as possible after reading, and let it rest at least a few hours, if possible a day or two.
Go back and edit, rethink, recheck notes, and prepare the final version.
All reviews are useful, but if they are too short, their usefulness is limited, on the other hand, if they are too long, many potential readers will only read the first lines, or skip them altogether. Between about 50 and 250 words would be sufficient information for a potential reader.
Reviews should be as clear and concise as possible to help the reader make their choice as to whether it’s a book they will enjoy, or not.
- Publish the review.
Publish your review in as many places as possible including the online platform where it is sold, such as Amazon, other social networks for readers and reviewers, such as Goodreads, on your blog, inform other bloggers, link or post your review to Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media you use.
The more places it is published the more useful it will be to a greater number of readers.
Inform the author.
Never before have readers been able to contact writers directly. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to tell them what you think about their work. Most authors love to know what my readers think.
I hope this post. together with last weeks’ Guidelines, help you plan and carry out your own reviews. It has helped me sort out my own thoughts on this matter, but I’d love to read your opinions on the subject.
I’ll be sharing this tomorrow on #MondayBlogs, on Twitter. Post from your blog and retweet others!
PS. There’s a brand new hashtag all about books and book reviews: #TuesdayBookBlog join in and share your reviews and views on reviewing!
10 thoughts on “How to write a useful #book #review”
I particularly like your advice on choosing the book. There have been many times I’ve been asked to review books that I’ve ended up trudging through because they aren’t my usual read. I think it’s important that the reviewer at least have an interest.
Thank you for your comment. I agree about the horror of trudging through a book! Once I did a swap/chain review on Goodreads on Review’s Initiative, and I had to read a book I which did not appeal to me at all. It was a very unpleasant experience, which I would never do again. I will only review a book which appeals to me, because reading has to be a pleasure. I always suggest people read the blurb and the first chapters to make sure they may like a book, even then there may be surprises 🙂 On the other hand, constructive negative reviews can be very helpful in improving the final version (I’m thinking of beta readers, nore than reviewers).
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Some really good tips , well done, I have shared this for you.
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Thank you, Rosie, for reading and for sharing.
Very good, I just RTd Rosie’s tweet with it. ONe thing I’d add is this: don’t feel that it’s necessary to write a precis of the plot. Potential readers have usually read the blurb and can see from that what it’s about.
Thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree that a plot summary is superfluous.
Good rules for the road. I also like to do something original with each review – link it to another book or movie or quote – to make it interesting. You want people to read your reviews!
Yes, i agree that you can’t get too strict or it becomes ‘stiff’. You have ro draw the potential reader in. I’m working on a short and simple checklist which might help.