Saturday, March 26, 2011

How To Write a Book Review

  Good morning, everyone! Well, I've tried my hand at writing book reviews before, but it's definitely something that could use improvement. They say that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach, so I thought I'd try this method. Also, book reviews are one of those things that seem deceptively simple - after all, a review is just your opinion of a book, right?

 Well, it turns out that there's a little more to it than that. I've noticed that with most of the reviews I've received, the reviewer starts out by first summarizing the plot. This is a technique that shows that you've been paying attention. It's one of those tips that they give you in counseling sessions as well - if you can repeat back to the other person what they've just said (the gist of it, you don't have to repeat verbatim) - it shows that you've been paying attention.

  One of the things you have to decide is your own policy when it comes to whether to give "negative" reviews or not. Many sites do not give negative reviews, and if they receive a book that they do not like, they will pass it off to someone who will give a good review of it. Personally, I think a good way to address the parts of a book that you don't like, is to give constructive criticism. It all ties in to your job as a book reviewer. What are you trying to accomplish by being a reviewer? Ultimately, I think a reviewer's job is to point out the places that an author can work on, in order for them to improve with time and with the writing of later books.

  You have to decide on a format policy. Will you only review physical copies of books, or will you also accept electronic copies? Or both?

  Many sites have rating systems. Stars seem to be the most commonly used objects in a system, and rating systems seem to typically go up to 4 or 5 stars. I've also seen some fantasy review sites that use swords and such.
  Not sure if I've forgotten anything or not. But suffice to say that book reviewing is not as easy as it might seem at first.


Nayuleska said...

Book reviewing can be as simple/difficult as you make it.

Initially I think I tried summarising the story, but that took me ages. So I just post up the book blurb from the website (or very rarely from the book if it isn't on the website). That way I can delve straight into what I feel about it.

Negative reviews....I give them. Some books I confess to giving up if they are dire and I don't review them. But I review most of them. I always try to say what I liked about the book first, then go on to what didn't work. I like to make clear that those parts might work for other people, and sometimes I can be in the wrong mood for a book which leads to a less than favourable review. I try and be constructive though, and avoid saying 'this book stinks'.

Format policy - I review anything :) Although I prefer paper copies, I'm now used to reading PDFs on my laptop (I don't have an ebook reader) with a cup of tea/chocolate milk beside me. It feels normal now.

I notice that a lot of reviewers stick to one or two genres - that's something I find extremely difficult because I love so many books!

Rating systems - I had a more complex one with paperclips, daggers and more. I ditched that for hearts. Although now I seem to forget to give the rating unless it's my shorter reviews, which get a rating out of 10.

I think the important thing is to experiment with different styles of the above until you figure out what works for you as a reviewer. What works for me doesn't work for some of my fellow reviewers. The most important thing we have in common is our love of books.

Er...apologies for the essay!

Kimber An said...

I think you both gave great explanations about reviewing. I know some people may be interested, especially if they're aspiring authors. But, they're nervous. The thing to do is just plunge and be yourself. Readers appreciate authenticity, warts and all.

I decided early on to only give positive reviews for two reasons:

1) I don't have the self-discipline to make myself read something I don't like.

2) I decided I was in it to help other readers find the books they'd love, anyway. If I loved it, they might too. More joy for everyone! And that didn't leave time for books I thought we'd all hate anyway.

I keep hearing how important blogging book reviewers are becoming to authors, even the bestsellers. It's true I received brand new hardback novels, instead ARCs, on occasion while I was reviewing. The reason is, and I've seen it, readers like a candid review by regular folks.

***They know *we don't get paid.* We review for love of books alone. That means a lot to them.***

I've noticed readers figure out which reviewers they can count on to tell them about books they'll love. I do this as a reader too. I'll never forget the reviewer who claimed to haaaaate and loathe and despise Romance novels with babies and children in them. Yet, that's all she seemed to read and review! I quickly learned to get whatever books she claimed to hate.

So, keep up the good work, reviewers. Have fun and do your thing. Both authors and readers are counting on you.
P.S. If you're an ***aspiring author, it bears repeating that you ought to be reading voraciously*** as part of your education. Book Reviewers receive most of their books *FREE* from authors, publicists, and publishers. These are New Releases too. Plus, the constant writing and interaction with readers and authors is excellent practice for good things to come.
So, go ahead, set up a book review blog and drop me an email. I'd be happy to send Crushed and/or Sugar Rush along as your first guinea pigs, as well as connect you with this awesome network of blogging book reviewers I've been privilaged to fall in with over the years.

Nayuleska said...

I've discovered a friend is writing a novel, and she's interested in reviewing books so I'm filling her in on it all this weekend.

Yes - do take the plunge! Kimber An was the catalyst for my book review blog. I admired Enduring Romance, and dreamed of stacks of books to read. Nearly 2 years on and I've got that dream.

It's fair enough only giving positive reviews.

Yes - book blog reviewers are becoming more important over here in England.

I second the 'read lots' if you're an aspiring author.

1) You find out what's on the market which helps to figure out where your work would fit in

2) You get to deal with publicists who are some of the nicest people going,

3) Free books (not guaranteed & shouldn't be expected when you first start) but they can happen quite a lot - It's a rare week if I don't get a single book through the post. I've discovered that I actually quite like chatting with everyone, which will hopefully be good for the future.