How to Write a Quality Book Review

One of my lesser known guilty pleasures includes browsing Quora while I’m laying in bed or otherwise needlessly bored. Last night, I came across a question asking about tips for creating a well-written book review. Naturally, there were lots of answers and most of those I read were spot-on. I was not able to tell how many of those individuals actually run book blogs, but I felt the need to go a little more in depth – so I did. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to post the tips I listed here, for my readers that are considering getting into reviewing as well. So… Enjoy!

Tips for Book Reviews

  • Ratings. Some people use them, some don’t. If you do, be consistent. The majority of my reviews are three skulls (my version of stars). This means the book I’m reviewing is okay. I’m not generous when it comes to five star/skull reviews and my readers know this. As a result, they pay close attention to new reviews tagged with five skulls. A three skull rating does not mean the book is bad – it simply means that it isn’t spectacular or genre defining.
  • Consistency. I have a predetermined layout for my posts that are reviews. I follow this template so my readers know where to look for the information they are seeking. This gives my reviews a uniform appearance which some publishers have told me they find neat and professional looking.
  • Avoid spoilers. Remember, you want your readers to read this book if you enjoyed it. Spoilers ruin a book and if you give them away, your readers are less likely to bother with picking up the book. If you do post a spoiler, make it clearly known at the beginning of the review. This gives your readers the opportunity to turn away from the page.
  • Be informative – but not needlessly so. Some reviewers post all the details of a book, including author bios, page count, ISBN, and more. As a reviewer, I find this an unnecessary deterrent. Instead, I will post the blurb, copied from Goodreads, with a link to the books Goodreads page. All of the aforementioned details are already there, if you need it for some god awful reason. Links to purchase the book are also there if you aren’t a book store’s affiliate. If you are, remember to practice consistency as stated above. I always put my affiliate purchase links at the bottom of my review, right after the rating for convenience and ease of use.
  • Avoid vulgarity. Seriously. This is unprofessional and in some cases may make an author feel attacked. Instead:
  • Be constructive. What works? What doesn’t work? Does the book drag on? Are the characters flat? If it’s not an advanced copy (which is typically unedited), does it need a second set of eyes?
  • Be honest. I avoid vulgarity, but I do not sugarcoat things. I am not here to boost an author’s ego or coddle them; I write my reviews for readers. Don’t sacrifice your integrity and always remain unbiased.
  • Do not rise to bait. Sometimes, and this is far more prevalent in the indie community, authors react poorly to criticism. One such author, Jacqueline Howitt, made herself famous for this poor and unprofessional behavior by retaliating on Big Al’s Books and Pals to this honest review of her novel, The Greek Seaman. For some reviewers, this is a turn off. I have seen some book bloggers stop reviewing indie authors all together because of similar incidents with authors. In fact, I had a book I reviewed at three or four skulls despite numerous editing errors (the story itself was fairly compelling and I enjoyed the banter between characters immensely) that, upon telling the author, she vehemently denied their existence. (She actually came back a few months later to tell me I was right, but then proceeded to attack a reviewer for rating it two stars. As a result, I pulled the review from my site, while simultaneously informing the author that I do not condone this sort of behavior. This ties in to one of my other tips relating to honesty and integrity. Snide, nasty comments in response to an author’s retaliation is no more professional than their behavior and I find it best to simply withdraw my support of said writer or allow them to dig their own proverbial grave. Poor reviews happen. It’s part of being an entertainer, and in the end that’s precisely what a writer is. You are not beholden to giving books excellent reviews, even indie ones.
  • If you do not finish a book and choose to write a review (which is a heavily debated topic as to whether or not you should), tell the readers why. Do not give it a one star review simply because it wasn’t a genre you enjoy. This is misleading and unfair. More often than not, the reasons why I cannot finish a book include editing that is supremely lacking or books that are so dreadfully boring they put me to sleep. When I do finish a book and review it poorly, such as The Cutaway, there’s usually something fundamentally wrong with it (and in this case, The Cutaway did not fit the genre it was listed as at all, along with numerous other errors that you may read in my review).

And most importantly, have fun!

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