7 Quick Tips for Book Reviews
The quality of a book is often judged by the reviews it gets. And rightly so.
So, while positive book reviews can do wonders in terms of generating a lot of interest around the book , a critical appreciation or a balanced review is really the need of the hour today. It is as much as the responsibility of the reviewer as it is of the author to set expectations about the book right up front.
Book reviews from expert, trusted sources as well as the regular customers who have bought the books, all play very significant role in setting out the future expectations for the book for authors as well as for the potential readers / customers.
The books that do well in the market are often the ones that have ‘attractive covers’, a very ‘well written synopsis or blurb’ and is getting ‘rave reviews online’ apart from of course the author’s popularity which is a given fact. Having said that , at the end of the day, it is totally up to the author to decide which reviews or feedback to really pay heed to. And history tells us, the books that have been considered ‘risky’ & ‘completely out of sync’ from the on going reading trends are the ones that have gone on to become the bestsellers & classics of today.
At Writersmelon, we have been running Review Programs for books for over 6 years now. While, I personally may not have gone ahead and written a lot of reviews myself but what I have tried to do all these years, is to really dig deeper into the art of writing ‘Book Reviews’ from many different aspects.
My learning I believe is very much applicable to other type of reviews as well, say a restaurant review, a travel destination, a product etc.
So what exactly book reviews should be all about?
How best can it be written so that both author & other potential readers benefit from the review that you have written. These are some of my check list that I try to follow when I write Book Reviews.
Hope these quick tips help you too!
1. Don’t be a spoilsport :
Really , that is like the last thing you can do being a trusted book reviewer and a blogger of repute.
I mean this in two ways , ONE – of course don’t give away the suspense , trust me both author & the potential readers will hate you for this and will think twice to come back to your blog again !
And SECOND , the really important one that also sets the foundation & philosophy with which we started our Review Program on writersmelon.
I understand not all books can be written & edited with utmost perfection. And there are simply too many books that are coming out in the market these days. There are hardly that many good editors & producers who can make a lousy book look good.
Getting a book published hardly takes anything these days. And reaching out to a standard set of reviewers / bloggers is often the first thing that comes to an author’s mind.
But again just think , a book is a book at the end of the day. It is a piece of creation just like the breakfast you made today. It may not be good for you but may be for somebody else. Say someone who has an upset stomach or something. 🙂
So why write off the book completely?
Criticise the book with some logic and not just for the sake of it. And how about leave some room for others to share their opinion too? And I totally understand the temptation is really very high to show the world that you are a well read person who really understands literature, language & the true essence of how a story should be told or written. Point taken. It’s really a great thing to be a voracious reader & to be able to critique a book.
But still, don’t be a spoilsport.
2. Honesty is the best policy for writing any review
Don’t confuse this with what I just said. There is a thin line between critiquing & criticising. And in cases of blogs, honesty & connection is what people really look for. They very well know that these might be a sponsored post, the blogger might have been paid to write this and for that matter the book itself was a freebie. But still you see you have readers who are ready to take a chance, they still trust you with your review. And so is the sponsor, as they have come to you because of your authority in the blogosphere, because of the followers you have earned.
3. Context setting is crucial
Have you seen Book Reviews that start with the Book blurb and ends with the author intro and some fillers in between?
I can tell you there cannot be anything more irritating than this. Writing a lousy (read lazy) piece of content is the biggest disrespect you can do to your reader & to yourself.
Don’t write if you cannot get the right words. Just excuse yourself, take more time , go out refresh yourself and show that you are committed but you have no control over your creative energy. Perfectly understandable.
Sure the author did not pay you to review the book & you have a fairly successful blog that attracts visitors & advertisers who are paying you to write that well thought out & structured piece of content which you otherwise write. This review was probably a formality or an obligation you just could not say no to. Everything understood. But still, think about the reason you started blogging at the first place? Just ask yourself. Once.
So how do you set the context while writing a review?
Suppose you are reading a book on parenting, or say a simple romantic story. You need to tell your readers what all did you expect from the book just by reading its blurb or by looking at the cover. What kind of thoughts or emotions did it invoke?
Or why that parenting book was so important for you as you are in that life stage where you needed to hear that kind of a story.
4. Pour your heart in the main post body
If you are able to attract your readers during the context setting or the introduction piece, your half job is done.
But now it is the time to actually perform and say everything that you want to. Cover every aspect , every minute detail in as little words you can. Crisp, Clear & Direct. Yes , you read that right. Less is More. Totally.
Today, the readers hardly have the time to read anything beyond 500 words, in fact in most cases it is between 100 – 200 words and up to 10 bullet points maximum. (I am for sure taking a gamble writing this long ramble, but anyways). Even if you think the book needs to described more, then try doing interesting things with this section.
Consider bullet points , Q&As or simple phrases that your readers can quickly scan through.
I try to answer some of these simple questions when I sit to write a Book Review. Answering some of these points, simply opens up my mind to various aspects of the book that I read.
a) What is unique about the book ? What are some of its key hooks ? – Characters, the city / time period, the suspense , the plot , the relationship. If you really think back there can be a number of things you can ponder about.
b) About the author , past work (if any)
c) What kind of people do you think will like the book or may be something like “if you like/don’t like that you will like / don’t like this” kind of a view.
d) And what were some of the major disappointments, places where you were let down as a reader?
f) If it is fiction – Was the story entertaining , did it touch your heart , did the story or the characters feel real or was the imaginary world interesting enough?
g) If it is non fiction – Was it educational, Were the resources or advice given in the book relevant, useful, practical, believable?
h) Was the book able to hold the attention till the end?
5. Know a little more than just the book in hand :
Once we are clear with the fundamentals of reviewing, lets go a step further and see how do we add more value to the piece that we have written.
It is extremely good to know a little more about the author, her other books (if there are any) or similar books written in that genre. This may look like a little over the top, but trust me this will establish your credibility and expertise like no body else. It will also give you a perspective and will help you form a solid opinion about the book.
This will immensely help the author and will make her come back to you again !
6. Build some credibility
This is more of a blogging tip than a review tip actually. It is always good to link internally, find opportunities where you can also introduce your readers to the other posts that you have written. You may want to mention things like you have done X book reviews in the past, and you have simply loved X Y Z books by this author or books that are similar to this.
You may also share links of blogs that really inspire you, reviews of your fellow bloggers. Links from amazon , Goodreads and other sites where the book is available. The cover price of the book, publisher etc all of these are good to know information and also tells about your sincerity and commitment to the piece you have written.
7. Conclude like a king
Yes , you are the authority on your blog. So give that rating that you feel that is right for the book. Don’t hesitate to give one star if you really think the book is lousy. Quantitative feedback is important & if you have justified your rating well enough in the post so far, it is a good barometer to consider.
And what about negative reviews?
Like those one star reviews and sometimes written in really bad taste & filled with lot of bitterness by the reader? How do we deal with that? How do you as an author or a reviewer deal with such situations? Well , this I believe is an ocean in itself, so let’s park that thought. Will come back with a post that talks about Writing & Dealing with Negative Book reviews in detail, sometime later in the month.
So, tell me what do you think? Do you as blogger or as an author still believe in Book Reviews?
I hope this article was helpful and it does inspire you to read more books and review them. An author works really hard to bring that piece of creation to you. Once you start loving the world of books & writing everything that you do on your blog will start making sense to you and your readers.