How to Write a Book Review

Love On A Spoon by CM Kempe - 500by C. Margery Kempe

I’m always surprised to hear people say they really liked a book but were reluctant to write a review because ‘I didn’t know what to write.’ Those of us who write for a living can easily forget how intimidating the process can be for folks used to diving into the joy of the words from the other side.

The truth is, however, that our work only gets found by the grace of those who enjoy it and say so. Your voice, reader, matters so very much. It needn’t be much of a burden either if you keep it simple.

Let me use the Amazon template as a model to demonstrate this:

First, they ask for a title. The best title is one that sums up the gist of your reaction as you’d give to a friend or co-worker. ‘It was a hoot!’ Or ‘This one made me cry’ or ‘so hot my windows steamed up!’ A first impression of some kind makes a good title.

Next the rating: five stars means you really enjoyed yourself reading this. It doesn’t have to be perfect (what book is?) but really hitting the high points. A four perhaps signifies a more problematic issue, though not one that takes away the enjoyment much. Sometimes four star reviews are the most insightful for the writer.

Three stars means it was a mixed bag: be sure to say what you liked as well as what you had problems with. More information helps other potential readers (and the author) know where it fell down in your expectations.

Your mileage may vary, but I don’t bother with two or one star reviews unless I have been asked to review a book and can’t get out of it. If a book warrants so little, why bother finishing it? Life’s too short to read bad books.

The review itself will flow from the choice of the title and your decision on the ranking. Other things might include why you chose it (friend or blogger recommended it, or maybe the cover art piqued your interest, or you won it in a contest), whether you regularly read in the genre, or any other context for your reading experience. We all have expectations when we pick up a book. If you’re a regular reader in a genre, you have different expectations than someone new to it.

Amazon only asks for a minimum of 25 words for reviews. That’s a fairly low bar to hurdle, even if you start out hesitantly. It’s easy to copy and paste reviews to Goodreads or LibraryThing, too. The more reviews there are of a book, the better chance people have of finding stories they’ll love.

Bookstores are closing, there are fewer professional reviewers — where will we get recommendations if the real readers don’t step up? Readers and writers will thank you for your efforts!

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  • Kemberlee
    April 11, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Awesome stuff! Have shared.

  • Barbara Mikula
    April 11, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for this post! I’ve forwarded it to a few people who have promised to post reviews but never seem to get around to it~ Skye Michaels

  • Kel
    April 11, 2014 at 10:08 am

    What a great topic… I’m usually a little hesitant to leave reviews for the other reason – I’m a wordy, wordy writer with a background in both critiquing and copy editing. I usually write a long, drawn out review and then have to go back and chop out the stuff that doesn’t belong on a review site.

    • C. Margery Kempe
      April 11, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      I suppose if it’s a TMI moment, that would be bad, but long reviews are great!

      • Kel
        April 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

        I generally don’t leave reviews if I’ve got nothing good to say, unless I’ve REALLY got nothing good to say (And can say it in an amusing and educational way)… the only exception being in book club. The point of that being that the whole point there is to aggregate a group’s opinions, and my negatives will hopefully be outweighed by everyone else’s positives.

        On open sites like Good Reads or LibraryThing, I generally only bother to review things I’ve enjoyed. Speaking of which, I need to go and update my library listing and leave some reviews… 🙂

  • Liz Everly
    April 11, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Great post!

  • davidjmobrien
    April 11, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Reblogged this on David JM O'Brien and commented:
    always good to know! My debut novel will be out in just over a month: May 16th. I’ll be looking for reviewers…. 😉

  • Elizabeth Shore
    April 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Excellent advice! I’ve sent to my local RWA chapter loop so those authors can reblog and spread the word.

  • C. Margery Kempe
    April 16, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Reblogged this on C. Margery Kempe and commented:

    If you’ve hesitated before —


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