Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How To Write a Book Review

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A 1874 Sholes and Glidden typewriter (the first to use a QWERTY keyboard), photo by Kosmopolitat, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Writing a book review or telling a friend about a book is the best way to say thanks to an author.” Everyone has heard that before. But most people I know are uncomfortable writing one. In fact, it’s hard for me, and I’m a writer. So I thought I’d write up some suggestions to help readers who’d like to write a book review, but don’t know how.

1. It’s not a book report. You don’t have to write a page long treatise on the book. In fact, shorter is better. No one reads reviews that are over 250 words. Unless you’re a reviewer for the New York Times, and only people with degrees in English (like me) read those.

2. It doesn’t have to be stodgy. In great reviews, the reviewers often mention their personal reactions to a book. (Even NYT reviewers do this.) It gives the review a chatty feeling, as if your friend is saying, “Hey, read this!” One of my favorite reviews of Screwing Up Time starts like this, “I started reading this at the gym, which was a big mistake because I was howling with laughter on the stationery bike (very bad gym manners!).”

3. It’s not rocket science. Talk about what you liked. Was it the plot (what happens in the book), the characters (the people and their personalities), or the setting?

4. Don’t feel self-conscious. No one is grading your book reviews. Authors are grateful for reviewers—you make their day. (Unless you do something like “I hated this book because it wasn’t romance/sci-fi/erotica/etc.” Um, if you only like one genre, then probably you should only buy that genre.)

5. It's not hard. Amazon will talk you through setting it up. If you prefer, you can write it out in MS Word and copy/paste your review into the review box.

6. Don’t say I’ll write it tomorrow. As Nike says, “Just do it.”

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