How to write a book review, tips for the recreational reader

It was a dark and stormy night...Imagine, if you will, spending a year or three (or five) tapping away on your keyboard prying the essence of your story from the depths of your being, shaping it, adding form, cutting fat, breathing life into your characters, culling anything that undermines your truthiness and when it’s as good as you can get it, you release it into the ether, and then what? Sometimes nothing for a long time. And you start to wonder why did you bother.

But then someone posts a review. Five stars. (Four is good, too.) They loved it. And it makes your day. It carries you for a week. Your lowest lows are never so low again because somewhere out there in the big, cruel world is someone who read your story and loved it. Your story has reached across time and connected with a reader. It is a magical thing.

This is the stuff that sustains us during the long, dark teatime of the soul.

I understand the resistance to posting reviews. After all, the author whose work I admire very well may read it. Like who am I to *write* an intelligent response to a professional work? I don’t want to sound stupid in front of my idols. It’s intimidating.

And you know what? You don’t have to write anything. You can just post your stars and that’s great too.

But if you do want to scribble a few words, here are some suggestions:

  1. Don’t worry about writing a synopsis. Someone else already has or will soon.
  2. Don’t worry about writing a long review. Who reads those? I’d rather read four or five short ones, getting that many opinions, than one long one.
  3. Your unique reader experience is as valid as a New York Times reviewer. As a reader, how do you feel about the story? Why did that story have meaning to you? Was there a character you related to or reminded you of someone? Did the story “stay” with you. If so, why do you think that is? Was there something haunting in its theme?thank you
  4. In your opinion, which readers would enjoy this story? Lovers of a particular author? Go ahead and name that writer. If I got a review comparing me favorably to a big name author, I’d be squirming around on the floor like a puppy whose tummy just got tickled.

Finally, on behalf of writers you have reviewed or will in the future, thank you. We write for ourselves but we publish for you. If an author says she’s glad you liked her book, she meant it – more than you can know.


17 thoughts on “How to write a book review, tips for the recreational reader”

  1. Oh my goodness you have peeked into my brain. I love every one of these points. I always think my reviews are too short, and too full of “OMG, go buy this book because……”. I struggle with writing a review because I worry that it has to be perfect. You may, in one single post, have gotten me out of my book blog slump. Thank you!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. This. So much this! Short reviews are often better than long, as far as I’m concerned. “I couldn’t put this book down!” … “I want to hang out with these characters.” … “This book reminds me of Janet Evanovich’s.” Short and sweet, like you’re telling a friend about it.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. YES! I’ll never forget the feeling of reading my first ever review on Amazon. A complete stranger had read my book and liked it! And truthfully, the shorter the better because there’s no danger of spoilers.

    I confess that years ago I didn’t think reviews influenced my buying decisions, especially with respect to products (not books). Now I don’t usually decide without reading a few of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re so right, and this is so liberating. If I write any comments about a book, they’re always short and just my overall reaction. I never feel as if they’re “real” reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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