7 Tips for Writing Book Reviews

A Tour of London Bookshops: Skoob Books

I was asked on Tumblr for some tips for writing book reviews and although I rarely even call myself a ‘book reviewer’, I thought I’d post them on here too in case they are helpful to other people.

1. Practice. I know, know, but it’s so true! I read through some of my old reviews (over 2 years) sometimes and a lot of them are not very well written. Sometimes I don’t even say anything. But I think I’ve improved, 171 reviews later – and it’s become slightly easier!

2. Read lots of reviews. I found it easier to review once I started becoming familiar with reviewing styles. Think about what it is you like or dislike about other reviews, which will then help you think about how you should write yours. For example, I do not really like reviews that just tell me what the book is about. I’m not interested in that (for I shall read the book and find out for myself) – I want to know what you thought! So I try to make sure that I’m concise when writing about the book’s storyline. (But it’s really down to personal taste at the end of the day).

3. Grab a notebook! I found it easier to review once I started writing them down on paper. Everybody knows what it’s like to stare at a computer screen for hours and realise you’ve only written a few lines of an essay’s introduction, and It’s the same for book reviews. Writing on paper means I cannot delete words or sentences, trying to perfect them – that can come later once I’ve written down the outline. I then go through it properly once I’ve typed it up.

4. Spoiler alert! Make sure you let people know before they start reading your review if there are spoilers. You do not want to ruin the book for anyone.

5. Be honest. I’m a firm believer in being as honest as possible, which means sometimes you will write negative reviews. Unfortunately I’m unable to do this myself as I work in the publishing industry (although I will never positively review a book I didn’t actually enjoy), but I urge others to talk about the books that disappointed them as well as the books they loved. I’ve picked up a YA dystopia novel because somebody criticised it for having romance, which doesn’t put me off at all!

6. A little extra. I like to include a little more information alongside my review: a rating out of five (based on Goodreads’ system), category and genre (e.g. ‘Young adult – dystopia’), whether it’s in a series, a link to the book on Goodreads, and a link to where you can buy a book. It’s not necessary, but I think it’s somewhat helpful. Other people may include links to other reviews of the same book, a suggested soundtrack, what other books you may enjoy/are similar, etc.

7. Most of all, enjoy it. Don’t write reviews just because you feel you have to! If it starts to become a chore, try writing other book-related posts that aren’t reviews (e.g. a list of your favourite mystery novels).

What are some of your tips?

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19 thoughts on “7 Tips for Writing Book Reviews

  1. Good tips! I only started writing book reviews relatively recently but I’ve been a film reviewer for longer. I like to keep notes (usually just in my phone) as I read, so as I have those thoughts to refer back to and structure the review around.

    This one is perhaps less relevant for blogging, but wording reactions in a way that isn’t simply “I thought that…” is a lot more engaging for a reader. It’s also fun to try to emulate the style of the book a little bit if it’s doing something interesting.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. As a newer “book reviewer”, I appreciate your pointers – especially your suggestion to write first on paper, and to SAY something.

  3. Hi, I’ve just found your blog, and love it so far! I just started my own, and have written my first book review, i’d really appreciate if you could give it a read and tell me your thoughts on what I could improve.
    x
    http://veritygreen.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/the-night-circus-by-erin-morgenstern/

    • Thanks for following, Verity! :) As for your review, personally, I really love it when people say why they picked up a book – not everybody does – even if it’s one line, so I love that you did that. It’s also concise and once I finished reading, I felt I had a good understanding of why exactly you enjoyed it. Hope to see you round the book blogosphere!

  4. Great list of tips. Practice – yes! It is hard when you first begin because you’ve likely read others reviews, seen the variation, and you’ve got to allow for time to find your voice and what works for you. And spoiler warnings are great, although it might not look good, the way some bloggers use white text is useful, it stops you reading anything accidentally. My own tip would be to simply remember who the target audience of the book is, most people do this, but when someone doesn’t it can be awkward.

    • Thanks Charlie! I rarely put spoilers in my reviews, but sometimes when I review a sequel I make sure I let people know in case they start reading. I don’t think it has to be flashy – just a little note at the top is polite!

  5. Good tips. I write for a living, but writing book reviews is a very different ball game, and you just have to find your voice.

  6. I like these tips, expecially the last one!

  7. Your advice are awsome :)

  8. Would you put in spoilers even? I’m not sure a review should contain a spoiler at all.

    • I think it depends on the person, especially since we’re more book bloggers than book reviewers.

      I see reviews on book blogs as being for two types of people: people who’ve not read the book (reading to find out more, whether to read it) and people who have (for discussion, see whether others felt the same way). Some people may want to discuss a particular part of the book they especially liked/disliked, which may be a spoiler for people who haven’t read it, but this is fine if it’s clearly mentioned. I like to make it clear if a book I’m reading is a sequel or next in a series in case somebody doesn’t realise and I end up spoiling the first book for them.

  9. Wonderland Events

    This is a wonderful post and I sure it is going to help me out for writing a review.

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