How to Write a Book Review

Book reviews are not all created equally. As a reviewer, you can gain raving fans who hang on your every word...if you know what kind of details to give them, that is. Want to know how to write better book reviews and earn followers?

Take Notes

When you're reading, keep a pencil handy. If you hate marking up the pages of your book, or if you're on a kindle, use a separate notebook. I like to highlight quotes I found particularly delicious, and make a general outline of the character relationships and plot. This will help you when you move onto step 2, which is creating a brief summary.

Often we read a book and then want to talk about it -- but can't remember the details. By taking notes you'll make it so much easier to jump into writing your review so that it's compelling, clear, and spot-on.

Offer a concise summary - but leave out the important details.

The best way I've found to do this is write the review as if it were a long-form blurb on the back of the book. You want to leave tension and mystery so that the reader will want to pick up the book and read it herself.

Look at the backs of other books and get inspiration for what kinds of information you could include and what you should leave out.

It's especially helpful to find a book blurb for inspiration that's in the same genre as the book you're reviewing. Each genre has its own way of appealing to an audience. Ie. a mystery is going to sound different than fantasy or sci-fi.

Putting a summary first lets the reader decide if they're interested in the book depending on the book's own merit, which is why I suggest leaving your personal opinion for after the summary.

If you start off saying "I liked it," or "I found it really dull," you cloud the reader's ability to decide for themselves whether a) they trust your opinion or not, and b) if the book's summary suggests the same.

Once you've laid out the landscape of the book, the reader can then seek your opinion. After hearing about the plot, what you thought about will make a lot more sense than if it came before.


Include personal details by explaining how the book as a whole affected you.

Was it fast or slow? Was the writing on point? Readers want to hear how you felt when you read the book. Once you've established credibility by writing a solid summary, you can offer your own thoughts about the fluidity of the writing or the stilted dialogue.

Be sure to temper your opinions and back them up with the contents of the summary -- you don't want to undermine your credibility by slamming the author when the summary seemed like everything was pretty good.

Go deep.

For a stand out review, go deeper than just stating the plot and how you felt about the book. Give the reader some tantalizing information by answering the question, "What really stood out?"

Character development? Plot twists?

Make sure your language is up to snuff. Readers judge reviews based on how well they read, so please please edit your review and make sure your grammar and spelling are on point.

Wrap it up with a strong call to action.

End by telling the readers what you want them to do. Kirkus review has a rubric their critics like to use:

Buy It = this is a can't-miss, fabulous book; Borrow It = not perfect, but we think you'll enjoy it; Skip It = critical miss

Follow this recipe for a review and you'll build up a stockhouse of raving fans in no time!



Quick Tips for Reviewing a Book


Almost anyone can read a book, but not everyone can write a quality book review. Whether you're reviewing a book for business or for pleasure, here are a few handy tips for writing the best review that you can. Annotate and Take Notes

If you can, buy or obtain a copy of the book that you will be able write on. If you're only option is the library or a borrowed book, then take notes on a separate piece of paper. Either way, make sure that you write Down EVERYTHING that comes to your mind as you read- your reactions, your thoughts and questions, etc. Then write down the page number of whatever scene you are reacting to so you can go back to it later with ease. Don't worry about the quality of your notes or the spelling because you'll be able to edit them once you're done with the book.

Even if you think you can remember your thoughts after you read, why take the chance? Especially when you’ll need to go back and reference specific parts of the book, and not just remember your opinions.

As you read, try to pay attention to things like the pacing of the story, the originality of the ideas and how well they were executed, how professional the writing was, how accurate the writing was. Sometimes an author has a very clever idea but isn't able to execute it well.

Try to read the entire book within a short period of time.

The more time that passes in between readings, the more you'll forget of what you already read. If possible, schedule a day or two to just sit down and read the entire book. All of the details of the story will stay fresh in your mind, and you won't forget or miss anything referenced later in the book.

Don't rush yourself to finish, or else you might miss key information or important details. Read at your own comfortable pace, just don't take too many breaks from the book or be away from it for too long if you can help it.

Once you've finished the book, quickly write down your reaction of the entire story as a whole, now that you know the beginning, middle and end.

Decide your spoiler policy

At this point, you should decide (if you haven't already) what your spoiler policy will be. Whether you're just sharing your reaction, or reviewing the book for professional purposes, you need to think about how much of the story you want to give away to the audience. It’s more likely people will read your review if there’s no danger of spoilers, so if you think you can write a review without giving much away, then I encourage you to do it. However, there is nothing wrong with talking about spoilers and plot points, and even the ending, as long as you give a WARNING beforehand! Just keep in mind that some people plan on reading the book for themselves, and don't want to find out the ending before they've had a chance to read it and react to it on their own. It's true that there are some people like to know the ending beforehand, not everyone does, so just be courteous and play it on the safe side, tagging spoilers when necessary and giving people the option to stay in the dark if they choose.

Otherwise, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep your review spoiler free. However, if you are having trouble with censoring your review, but are still determined to keep it spoiler-free, then I recommend that you write your full review, spoilers and all, and then go back and edit out as many spoilers as you can, and try to speak more vaguely about any specifics you may have mentioned.

Turning your notes into a thoughtful review

The main reason I say that you should wait until you've finished the book to edit your notes is because you may realize that some of your notes may not be helpful or relevant once you know the final outcome. An example of this is when you're reading something like a mystery, and you believe the wrong person is the culprit and write your theories down, only to find that it actually turned out to be someone else. The things you wrote about your suspect aren't obsolete, they can be summarized in a helpful way. For example: “The book does a good job of keeping you guessing.”

Review your own review

Try your best to remain unbiased as you review the book. A good way to do this is to consistently evaluate your own opinions. If you think the author's jokes fell flat and weren't usually funny, then think about what kind of jokes you usually find funny. Instead of just saying that the jokes weren't funny, say that you have a different sense of humor than the author, and people who also dislike __ blank type of jokes also might not enjoy it.

Something that is really helpful is reading other peoples’ reviews of the book. See what others are saying, and why came to those conclusions about the book.

Be prepared to defend your ideas

If you criticize the book more than praise it (which is perfectly acceptable), then you may be contacted by avid fans of the book demanding to know why you gave such a negative review. But remember, there is nothing wrong with your opinion, even if they disagree with it. If necessary, you can deal with this by thoroughly explaining your reasons for criticism immediately after you give it. For example: Instead of just writing "I found Chapter ___ to be particularly lacking." Make sure you give a reason: “I found Chapter __ to be particularly lacking compared to the other chapters because unlike the others, chapter __ had no conflict, resolution, or even any new information that was necessary to the plot. I honestly feel that you could remove the entire chapter from the book and the story would not have changed."

Once you've stated your opinion, and given a reason to back it up, you can offer a suggestion about what the author could have done to fix it, or consider what the author's possible motives might have been. This step is optional, but if a possible solution to a problem comes to mind, feel free to share it.

One final thing to remember is that none of us are perfect. All writers have their weaknesses, but they also have their strengths as well.

Thank you and happy reading!


Standout Books


Standout books is an amazon resource for indie authors. From their marketing packages to their blog advice, they throw their best out there for all of us to benefit from. From this post, they tell us writers how to make your Anti-hero tantalizing and complex. For me and my main character Ella Bandita, the iciest anti-hero if you ever saw one, this post was especially helpful.

Readers love antiheroes. Complex, often morally questionable characters who make the choices heroes won’t or can’t, and open up exciting new ways of experiencing the world.

Choosing to write an antihero gives an author a lot of freedom for the plot to go anywhere they like, but it also presents unique challenges in characterization and structure.

So how do you write a great antihero, the kind that readers obsess over, even as they find themselves unable to root for the character’s success? It’s a little to do with presentation and a lot to do with author knowledge, but it’s also almost entirely dependent on your ability to understand that you’ll have to create from scratch some elements that heroic characters have automatically.

But, as ever, first things first…

Keep reading at StandOutBooks…