Do you read book reviews? I do. I love a well-written review – it’s like having a discussion with a smart, book-loving friend.
Good reviews contain several key elements. If you’d like to try your hand, follow these 7 steps:
1. Understand who the review is for
Who are you writing the review for? It’s not a school project, a university thesis or a stream of consciousness. And, while authors appreciate reviews, you aren’t writing for the author. Your target is a potential reader in the process of deciding whether to buy.
2. Read the book at least once
By this I mean read it with a close and critical eye, don’t skim. You may need to go back and read it a second time, or to re-read certain passages.
3. Mark and note as you read
I love the Notes and Marks function in my Kindle because I keep a book journal. It makes the review process easier too. I might mark descriptions that strike a chord. For example, in a good way: “Flowers boiling with bees.” Or in a bad way: “He spat pejoratively.” Either way, it’s useful to keep track if I decide to reference in the review. For print books, I make do with Post-its and a notepad.
Another good reason to note and mark is that you can keep track of anomalies in plot, structure, and character.
4. Write a brief overview
Okay, time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Where to start? The potential reader wants to know if the story will hold their interest. This means a brief overview, not a synopsis, and spoilers are definitely not welcome. Offer enough to whet the appetite, e.g. “Anna Karenina is a dutiful wife, devoted sister and loving mother. On a visit to Moscow, to help heal her wayward brother’s marriage, she is blindsided by a passionate love for Vronsky, a dashing young officer. Anna begs her husband for a divorce. High society in late 19th century Russia will overlook infidelity if it stays in the shadows, but it won’t accept divorce.”
5. Identify the main theme
Identify the main theme and tell the reader if you think the author has made a good case. Going back to my example above, I might write that, “Tolstoy highlights the hypocrisy of a patriarchal society where an adulterous woman is treated very differently from an adulterous man. At the same time, this society is undergoing profound change; for some change is too fast, for others it’s not fast enough.”
6. Be honest
It’s no help to anyone if you don’t give an honest review. Explain why you like or don’t like something. Is there too much description? Not enough? Does the story move along, are the characters believable, relatable? What about the dialogue – is it natural? Was there anything that took you out of the story?
And that works both ways, so write about what works and what stood out to you.
7. Use constructive criticism
Be constructive. “I didn’t like this book” is no help to the prospective reader. If you can’t find anything constructive about a book, don’t write a review.
Critical reviews are important, particularly in the era of self-publishing. Many indie authors will go through the process of using beta-readers, professional editors, and proofreaders. Unfortunately, others do not. Often an honest review may be the one thing that saves a reader from awful writing, non-existent story and dodgy formatting.
A good review should leave the prospective reader with two things: the reviewer’s opinion of the book, and an understanding of whether the book is well-written, or not.
Why Should You Write A Review?
A well-written review takes creativity; writing a review is an opportunity to display yours. Plus, you love discussing books! Think of a review as an extension of a book discussion where you are helping another reader on their way to their next read.
Go forth and review – prospective readers will thank you.
YouTube Channel: Yaasha Moriah
Featured image via Ten Penny Dreams