How to Review a Book image

While writing a rockstar-quality book review is far more art than science, there are a few hard rules you should follow when writing one. Here are some great tips from our crack team of bestselling authors, editors, and avid readers on how to make the next book review you write the best it can possibly be.

Why Write a Book Review?

Here’s the thing. Not only are book reviews crucial in helping your fellow readers understand what a particular book is about and whether they should invest time in reading it, an honest and well-written book review can help your favorite authors as well. Reviews boost visibility of books on sites like Amazon, helping more people find (and purchase) the books you love. Plus, reviews provide valuable feedback for the author…or at the very least, some much-needed praise and support.

1. Pay Attention and Take Notes

If you’re planning to write a book review, you should pay extra attention as you’re reading and take the time to jot down any notes or ideas as they come to you.

Not only is this a great way to write a better book review, it’s also helpful in helping you remember the information you’re reading, and in developing your critical thinking skills. Not to mention, the physical action of taking notes helps you commit information about the plot, characters, and themes to memory, which will aid you in writing a great review much quicker than you would otherwise be able to be.

2. Read the Whole Book

It might sound obvious, but you really should read the entire book before you write your review.

Jumping to conclusions about a book before you’ve finished it is unfair to you, the author of the book, and your fellow readers because you’ll be missing critical information (a twist ending, for instance) that might affect the review you ultimately write.

However, Did Not Finish (DNF) reviews are a thing…but if you purposely do not finish a book for whatever reason, make sure to justify it in your review.

3. Be Specific

When you write your review, be sure to share facts, like a quotation from the book or statement about the plot. The more specific your review is, the more it will help both the reader and the author.

A book review without specific details will be seen as less credible and less objective than a review that can posit at least one simple fact about the book.

4. Share Your Opinion

Other readers don’t want to hear just the facts. They also want to know what you think about the book, and how it made you feel!

This is a review, after all, not just an essay on the book. Did you like the story? Hate it? Why?

But don’t just state your opinion—back it up! Explain your feelings towards the book as best you can. What particularly excited you? What made you want to throw the book away? What do you think the author did well? What do you think the author could have done better?

5. Share Ideas

In addition to sharing your opinion of a particular book, it can often be helpful to share some ideas or analysis that came to mind while you were reading.

For example: something I picked up from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is that purposely committing an act you know to be morally wrong, especially an act of violence, will always make your life much worse, no matter what you hope to gain by doing it. Guilt and stress and anxiety will drag on you like a great weight, and there is almost no way of ridding yourself of these feelings once the deed is done.

Now, you might have to guess at the ideas presented in a novel, or they may be glaringly obvious in a nonfiction book, but either way, you should mention some of the ideas you come across, in case other readers are not so astute as you.

6. Watch Your Formatting

While most book review sites don’t allow you to heavily format your reviews, there are some formatting rules you should follow when crafting your review to make it more easily readable and enjoyable by other readers:

  • Avoid writing just one big block of text. Space out your paragraphs so your review is easily readable.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS ever.
  • Don’t use punctuation excessively, such as using multiple exclamation points or question marks.

7. Post an Honest Rating

You should rate the book accurately based on your assessment of it, not based on what the review “should be.”

In other words, if you think a book was good, but not good enough, you should probably rate it at 3 or 4 stars out of 5.

Don’t give a book a rating of 1 or 2 just because you think the average review should be lower. Save your 1- and 2-star ratings for books you really don’t like or for books that have really serious issues other readers need to know about.

If you think a book was excellent, or even near-perfect, you should rate it a 5 out of 5 stars.

Keep in mind the average review rating for a book on Amazon is 4.3 stars, so anytime you rate a book at 4 or less stars, you’re basically rating the book as below average.

Your goal should not be to make the author, publisher, or any third party happy with your review. Your goal should be to accurately assess the book from your own perspective so that other readers can benefit from your knowledge and experience.

8. Double Check Your Work

Make sure you edit your book review before you post it, and always double-check your work. A simple typo or error in your book review might discredit your review in the eyes of readers.

You can use a free tool like Grammarly to help spot any obvious grammar or spelling issues as well.

9. Where to Post Your Book Review

You should post your book review on the website of the retailer you bought the book from, whether it be Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com.

You might also want to post your book review on Goodreads.com because it’s a great place to connect with other readers and authors.

If you run a blog or website, you should also post your book review on your site. Posting reviews on multiple sites are to be encouraged: not only will it raise the profile of the book, but it will also reach more potential readers that way and raise your site’s profile as well.

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Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.

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