Three Things to Do When Writing a Book Review (And One Thing NOT to Do)

All writers covet considerate reviews from readers who appreciate the hard work they’ve sandwiched between their book’s covers. Additionally, submitting thoughtful reviews can be an excellent way to earn bylines for your writing resume, while being a good literary citizen of the writing community. Even one-liner 4- and 5-star reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Target, and Walmart can help a new writer get noticed among the bestsellers whose work always ranks at the top of most search engines.

So how should you go about writing a good book review? What should you do—and what should not do?

  1. As you’re reading, jot notes about the things you love in the story. Mark quotes or powerful lines that move you. Use those in your review (note the page number for bonus points).
  2. Think about and mention the story elements, such as memorable characters, sensory and setting details, or lines of dialogue that stick with you. Write about what surprises you in the story. (Be sure to denote a “spoiler alert” if you plan to give away the ending.)
  3. What about the story will you take with you? What will you remember long after you close the book’s cover? Chances are, if it moves you, it will move other readers to whom you’re recommending the story.
  4. Do NOT review books you don’t like. Sure, some say any attention is good attention, but if you’ve watched a two-year-old have a tantrum in a grocery store, you know that’s not true. The writing community is its own microcosm, and you don’t want to be known as “that spiteful writer” who dissed the work that another reader or writer loves. Let it go and move on to write glowingly about the next book you love.

Where can you publish your well-written review? Many local newspapers and library newsletters seek book reviews, especially those written by local authors. If your review is especially detailed and thoughtful (and includes quotes with the page numbers on which they appear), you may submit it to one of the literary magazines and journals that publish well-written book reviews. Bonus: some will even pay you for your review!

Here are a few you can try (be sure to follow their guidelines, as each is quite specific):

And while you’re here, check out some of my published reviews (linked on my Publications page) for inspiration, examples, and recommendations for your next great read!

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