10 Tips for writing book reviews and how it hones your writing craft

These are some of the books I've reviews in 2014. I have many more on my Kindle.

These are some of the books I’ve reviews in 2014. I have many more on my Kindle.

I began writing book reviews first because I love books and second because I wanted to help other authors promote their books. In the small secret place in my heart where true motives lie, I hope others would return the favor for my future books. In the process of writing 100 reviews I discovered it hones lots of writing tools writers use often.

Writing book reviews helps improve your writing overall and can help improve queries and proposals. If you want to try your hand at reviews whether for a paying market or retail sale sites such as Amazon or websites like Goodreads I hope you find value in these tips.

Tip # 1 When writing a novel review don’t give a spoiler. Whether you loved the book or hated it don’t give away the end. Don’t reveal who done it or the dramatic plot twist. This isn’t fair to the author or future readers.

Tip # 2 A review is not a book report. You don’t have to take paragraphs to retell the story in your own words. A brief sentence or two about the plot is fine. Your goal is sharing your take on the work as a whole. Retelling the whole story before adding your opinion makes it overly long and may cause readers to skip or skim it. Publishers don’t take the time to read overlong query letters either.

Tip# 3 A book review is a great way to practice writing tight. Try to give your review using the least amount of words to make your point. Flowery adjective can distract. Hundred dollar words that require a dictionary (unless this is an academic book for an academic audience) are also not recommended. Keep it simple but intriguing. Publishers want plot summaries for your book in various lengths to use for marketing. Writing other people’s novel summaries gives you good practice.

Tip # 4 Point out what you like about the story, how it spoke to you. As a writer I notice clever phrasing and creative use of time and place. As a reader I notice if I am drawn into the story or not moved by their dilemma. Tell the reader if you related to the hero or whether the setting was well-written. Publisher’s want to know how you feel audiences will relate to your book.

Tip # 5 If you didn’t care for the book be gracious. There are some authors who will be so offended by a bad review they will continue to argue with you in the comments. Being snarky may be fun but it creates nothing but bad feelings. Trust me, season your criticism with the salt of grace.

Tip # 6 Non-fiction reviews need to speak to the theme of the book and its value to the reader. Why was the devotional encouraging? How is it different? Why would you recommend it? Is the subject matter in a dog training book different or the same as those already in publication? The ability to compare and contrast is needed when writing a book proposal. The publisher wants to know how your book compares to others in the same genre. How is your subject matter different?

Tip # 7 On Amazon your review appears at the point of sale. So you don’t have to mention the name of the book and author in the first sentence of your review. The author’s blurb is handy too so you can focus on your opinion of the work rather than rehashing the story line.

Tip # 8 Use a catchy title to draw attention. Writing attention-grabbing titles is another great thing to add to a writer’s toolbox. A catchy title is the key to draw readers to your articles and blog posts/

Tip # 9 Magazines and e-zines have specific format that need to be followed. Look through your favorite periodicals. There is usual a book review section. Read the reviews for style and above all read the guidelines. Most of these reviews require the basics: book title, publisher and author information in the first few sentences. Send a query explaining the slant of your review and why you are a good fit to write it. For example if you are a baseball coach reviewing a book about coaching little league would be a good fit.

Having some knowledge of a field gives you the opportunity to write a book review for a specific audience. If you are an expert in fishing let’s say. You can approach Field and Stream about doing a review on some new fishing book. Or even a classic you feel has value. If you are not an expert but have an interest in the subject matter you can still do a review. Your book propels will need to tell the publisher why you are qualified to write your non-fiction book.

Tip # 10 Take your time and approach your review whether paid or unpaid like any other article. Be sure there are no typos or grammar errors. Present your best work. A publisher may see your review and it might open doors for future work so be sure it’s your best.

Do you have any tips about writing reviews or questions for me comment below.   One of my commenters will receive a $10 amazon gift e-card.