How to Review Books (3)

I am going to break this down into two parts, how to write a review and how to post a review. I will start with how to write a review. If you are new to reviewing and it makes you nervous, feel free to write your review out in Word, OpenOffice or some other text program first and then copy it when you post it. If you are old hat at reviews, you can simply write it into the provided space while posting.


How to write a review

1. How to write a simple review: Reviews don’t have to be book report. This isn’t high school. Amazon requires a minimum of twenty words. Goodreads doesn’t have any minimum requirement. If you are stressing about what to say a simple “I really liked it” or “it wasn’t for me” on Goodreads is better than nothing.

For Amazon here are several twenty word reviews.

“I liked this book a lot, it held my attention from start to finish. I would recommend it to others.” (20 words)

“It was a really good insert genre and readers who enjoy that genre will probably also enjoy this book. I know I did.” (23 words)

“I usually like science fiction books but I couldn’t buy into the premise of this book and that ruined it for me.” (22 words)

2. How to write positive reviews: One of the things that puts off many would-be reviewers is how to write a positive review. It’s ironic, it’s books we love that make us want to write a review, but figuring out what to say about them is often harder than reviewing a book we are critical of. Writing a positive review is an art form.

Many five star reviews are nothing but vague praise. This isn’t helpful to the next reader and often comes across as fake. You see glowing praise and assume the author got his/her best friend to review the book. What should you do instead?

Take a minute and think about what you loved the most about the book. Then write about that. “I really loved how the main character wasn’t the stereotypical heroine, but felt like an ordinary girl like me.” “I loved the way the author made the setting seem so real, even though this was a fantasy book.”

Mention similar books. Some of the most helpful reviews I’ve read, positive and negative, mention other books. “It was a gritty fantasy in the same vein as Game of Thrones” tells the reader two things. If they liked Game of Thrones, this might be a book they’d like. If they don’t like Game of Thrones, they should maybe pass on this book. When readers get directed to the books they will love, everyone wins.

3. How to write a negative review: Yes, I am going to tell you how to write a negative review. I am going to give you permission to write negative reviews, even if they are about my books. Because I believe negative reviews can be as helpful, or more so, then positive reviews. I’ve often been swayed to buy a book by a negative review, because the reviewer was angry about something that I personally like. Negative reviews direct the wrong readers (meaning readers that won’t like it anyway) away from a book, and that’s as critical to success as finding the right readers.

When writing a negative review it’s helpful to keep a couple things in mind, the first and most important is that it ideally shouldn’t be about the author. It’s about the book. Be clear about that. If you feel that the author is advocating something immoral or is offensive because of something they said or believe, it can be hard to separate that out. But if you use the review button to unleash personal attacks you will likely find your review flagged and removed. Instead focus on the book and why you didn’t like it.

We don’t all like the same thing. No book is going to be universally praised. And that’s okay. You didn’t like this book, but someone else might. The more specific you are, the more this will come through. A lot of readers don’t like first person narratives, but then again, a lot of best sellers have been told through that point of view. So if that was what turned you off to the book, say so. Different readers have different tolerances for sex, violence, controversy, cliches or mediocre writing. Comments like “too much sex” will warn some reader away while bringing others to the table.

How to post a Review

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