Friday, June 7, 2019

How to Write a Book Review


It’s a mystery to me why readers are so resistant to writing reviews. I am referring to reviews in Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc. Sharing our opinions on things we either love or hate is intrinsic to us. We love to tell our friends about a great movie we just saw or a brand-new song we just heard or a fantastic restaurant we discovered.

We love to “tell.” Everything changes when we have to “write.” There seems to be an innate fear of that five-letter word, even when the writing involves only a paragraph. This creates a problem for authors because reviews are so intrinsic to our success.

I have friends who will not read a book which has less than fifty reviews on Amazon. At the rate of one review per month, (the average number for a non-bestseller) it will take a book several years to reach fifty reviews. This is especially frustrating to those of us trying to climb the ladder of reviews.

In asking individual readers, I found that most of them don’t like writing book reviews but have no problem writing reviews for other products. Ask them to review the thumb drive or the Ninja blender they just bought, and they go to it with gusto, pictures included.

Why then the reticence to review a book? The answer possibly lies in the preconception that a reader is expected to write a literary review. You know, those your English teacher made you write.

Authors themselves, when they write reviews for other authors, write such reviews. It’s sad because by example, they discourage regular readers from reviewing. Often, readers tell me they don’t write reviews because they don’t know how. I really must stress that there is no set “how” in reviewing.

First, I’m grateful for any review that seems heartfelt and honest, no matter the length. You don’t have to write a literary criticism because my books are not literary wonders written for college professors. No one is grading you.

Next, there is no magic formula to follow. Write as if you were speaking to a friend or to someone sitting next to you at the hair salon. The important thing is to zoom-in on what you found most noticeable about the book.

A review should be appropriate to the work. I would never give a Christian book a bad review because it sells religion. To give a book a negative review because it has sex scenes, and you happen to be totally against sex in books, is in rather bad form too.

Any book with explicit content is required to have a warning. If you don’t like sex in your content, then don’t choose such books. In a fair review, you may mention that the book has sex scenes; however, many readers like sex scenes and would rather know if they were well written. The point: you should review fairly.

Finally, a review need not be a composition-length work. A simple, heart-felt paragraph is often worth a thousand words.  The following is a copy of a review written for my book Angel’s Guardian by an Amazon customer. Notice the casual, informal tone, the missing caps, etc. The reader wrote a few lines only, but she leaves no doubt as to how she feels about the book. I loved this review!

Review at Amazon from Aliciaann

Definitely not your twilight vampire. More like Brick in the Black series, by ms. Andrujiski. This series seems to be comparable to it. I'm hooked already. I expect to be up most of the night reading. Oh darn. I'm suffering from sleep deprivation again. Glad I'm retired and can sleep till 10am

If you are nervous about putting your thoughts in writing, try the following formula. Take the last book you read, and write your review following my simple guidelines.
If you address these simple points in your review, you can’t go wrong.

1.       This book is (really great, really bad, ok, not my cup of tea, not for everyone).
2.      I really liked or disliked (describe something you really liked or disliked about the book.
3.      I would highly recommend this book (or not) and will definitely read (or not) this author’s books in the future.


The following are things some reviewers mention, but most don’t. Your review is yours and you decide what to include.
***The book has explicit scenes of sex and violence
***There are many grammatic and spelling errors or the writing is flawless.
***The English used is British English
***There was humor in the book.
***There was too much dialogue and not enough description (or the opposite).
***The characters were believable and likeable (or not.)


Remember: I’d rather have a short, honest review with misspellings and bad punctuation, that speaks from the heart, than no review at all.