BOOK REVIEWS 101 by Mirella Sichirollo Patzer

Posted by on Mar 31, 2014 in Book Reviews | 1 comment

Mirella 4The importance of a book review

Whether you are avid reader, a devourer of books, a casual reader, or someone who only picks up the occasional bestseller just before heading off for vacation, writing a brief book review can have a huge impact to readers and authors.

From a reader’s perspective, book reviews are necessary to help us find those really great books we so dearly love to curl up with on a cold winter’s night or while sun-bathing on a summer day. If you’re browsing on Amazon or Barnes and Noble for that next great read, book reviews help us make an informed decision about what book to purchase.

From a writer’s perspective, however, book reviews are necessary to help raise a book’s visibility among the thousands of other books available on on-line stores, to help spread word of mouth, and to provide critical feedback. As writers, we learn from our mistakes and knowing what readers like and don’t like, can help us plan for and write better books in the future. .

So who should review a book? EVERYONE! After all, we each have the right to comment on something we purchased and let others know whether the product was good or not. Did you know that Amazon only requires a minimum of 20 words to post a review? Yup, that’s all it takes; not much time huh? Of course, in 20 words, you can’t give much more than your opinion, but if that’s all the time you have, then I encourage you to go for it. Saying something is better than not saying something at all, and authors and readers will likely take your opinion into consideration when shopping.

Never review a book if you have not read it in its entirety. I can’t emphasize this enough. Only then, can a review be deemed credible, legitimate, and ethical. It is grossly unfair to the author and potential readers to write a one or two line review on a book the reviewer has not finished, nor fully experienced. It is tantamount to your neighbor telling potential buyers about your home when they’ve never been invited inside. Such reviews are disrespectful, unprofessional, and not based upon fact. They can also come across as bullying. Potential readers want to know what a book is about, why you liked or disliked the book, and what are its qualities or shortfalls. That’s what helps them make a purchase. That’s what sells a book. That’s what you should strive for.

So what constitutes a good review? A well-written review can help that author’s work stand out among thousands of other books. Here are some basic tips to help you write a great one:

1.      Only review books that appeal to you. In this electronic age where authors periodically offer their books at deep discounts or even free, readers are amassing thousands of books whether they like the genre or not. If you hate World War II military novels, then chances are that reading one won’t be to your taste. Stick to reading and reviewing what you like best. Not only does this help the author, but it will establish your reputation as knowledgeable in the genre you are reviewing.

2.      Try to write the review within a day or two of having read the book. This is when the details are freshest in your mind. Recall the good and bad qualities of the book and jot them down. Based on these qualities, form your overall opinion. Now you can begin writing.

3.      A good book review need not be long. In fact, it’s preferable to keep them brief as possible because it is unlikely that potential readers will toil to read a lengthy review. I like the review to be no longer than two paragraphs. Less is always more…so don’t be long winded. Write briefly and succinctly.

4.      The first paragraph of the review should be a brief summary of the book including the title and author’s name, and whether the book is a sequel or part of a series. These are the facts and you should present them in a neutral manner.

5.      The second paragraph is where you offer your analysis. Here you tell the reader exactly what you liked or disliked about the book. You can comment on readability, plot, pace, characters, how engaging you found the story, inaccuracies, and other strengths or weaknesses. Never personally attack the author. Keep your focus strictly on the story and its merits.

6.      The final few sentence of the review is where you state your fair opinion and recommendation. If you have a scoring method, usually 1 to 5 stars, this is where to include that information.

7.      Also keep in mind that in a review, you need not include the entire plot of the book. This again makes a review it too long and no one will read it. And never reveal the plot twists or the climax of the story. These are known as spoilers. It usually discourages readers from purchasing the book.

Posting a review

Once you have finished writing and proofreading your review, consider where you might post it for maximum impact. If you own a book blog, that’s an ideal place, but bear in mind that it is only your followers and people aware of your blog who can read it. Rather, consider posting it online book vendor sites. This is where readers are actively searching for books and reviews, and by adding your review, it is more visible by readers. Make sure you link your blog to your profile. Starting an account and downloading a review is usually very easy. In addition, to the online vendors like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo, also post your review to sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, and Librarything. They are excellent social media sites where avid readers gather.

Becoming an official Book Reviewer

Reviewing books on a more professional level is extremely rewarding. For those of us who are avid readers, becoming a book reviewer can be very rewarding. It is never a paid job, but in exchange for a fair book review, publishers and authors agree to send you a free copy of the book. Like everything else in life, it will take some time for you to establish your name and for your reputation to grow. If you are interested in becoming a book blogger, here’s some simple steps on how to get started.

Create a Blog

First, you’ll need a book blog. Creating a blog through Blogger or WordPress is simple and free. Choose a good blog title, one that describes you and your style or genre of books you read.

The most important step of all is to link your blog to Twitter and Facebook, and other online social networking sites. This will help you become known so publishers, readers, and authors can find and approach you.

Create a Review Policy

Once you’ve created your blog, the next step in the process, is to create a review policy and post it to the blog. Here you can describe the types of books and genres you accept, what formats you accept (i.e. paperback, PDF, Kindle, or ePub), and where you post your reviews. A word of note here: the more formats you accept the better. This is the digital age, so it will be worth your while to invest in an ereader or to put a Kindle or Kobo app on your tablet or cell phone or computer. Sticking to paperback format only is fine, but you will be limiting yourself. You may also wish to include a rating system if you have one, and other information that is unique to you.

Track your books

Always keep a record of the book you receive, title, author’s name, release date, and sender’s email. This is important because it helps you manage your workload, set priorities, and know when to stop accepting books. You need to ensure you notify the person who requested the review when the review is posted and to provide the online links where they can read their review, so keep good records.

Getting the word out

Now that you’ve set up your blog, how do you begin putting the word out that you are ready to review books? Authors are always eager to find book reviewers. In fact, there aren’t enough reviewers out there, so this should be relatively easy.

A great place to start is The site is easy to navigate and all you have to do is set up your profile and you can begin requesting books. This site is for ebooks only.

Here’s some other sites where you could create an account and post to in your search for books to review:

And last but not least, as a reviewer, your word is your bond. If you’ve accepted and received a book to review, you must follow through! Always be fair with your reviews, never be scathing or overly emotional. Your reputation and credibility depend on it.

In summary, authors spend years researching, writing, rewriting, editing, and proofing a novel. Literary agents, editors, and publishing houses may also have invested time and money in a project. Taking a few moments out of your busy day to leave a brief review on Amazon is greatly appreciated and a valuable resource for everyone involved.

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer, March 31, 2014

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer writes sweeping historical novels set in exciting periods of history. From the medieval eras to the early 18th century, her novels are known for intriguing characters, fascinating heroines, and an abundance of plot twists. Her favourite setting is Italy, she has also written about early Canada and medieval Germany. She lives in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada with her husband and family. You can learn more about Mirella and her books at her website website, on Amazon, or at her blogs, History and Women and Historical Novel Review.



One Comment

  1. Mirella – This is such an excellent and very timely post. I am an author but feel intimidated by crafting reviews. I think it is a personality failing – but I loved your words. I wish every person who reads books could see this – for I believe I am not alone in my reluctance to write a review. Maybe we think we have to be literary perfect and write 500 wods. Not so, I am taking your advice to heart and will let you know how it goes!! Many thanks, Judith