Reviewing books can bring you some great perks — all while helping authors succeed. It’s a win-win! IF your reviews don't suck, that is. I originally wrote about this topic on my Medium page, so most of this post is going to be pulled from that one.
One of the best ways to support authors is by reviewing their books online. If you become good at it, you can even get perks like paid jobs, free books, and notoriety for your reviews.
Most of us are familiar with writing product reviews on sites like Amazon, but a strong book review requires more effort than that. Here’s how to develop the skill and engage review readers in any genre!
Devote Yourself To A Decent Word Count (But Don’t Overdo It).
There’s a book review sweet spot in the 300–600 word range that you might want to aim for. Reviews that go any longer than this are less likely to hold readers’ attention, but shorter ones don’t cut it as a professional-level review.
Word count can vary depending on the genre of the book you’re reviewing. If it’s a mass-market fiction book or something in the romance genre, shorter reviews are usually a better bet. If it’s a work of literary fiction or an academic nonfiction title, you can expand your word count to be 1,000 words or more.
The key is to retain the elements of the review (read on to hear more about these) without overwhelming the potential reader with too many details. And be sure to tag your review if it contains spoilers!
Know The Elements Of A Good Review.
A strong book review usually contains a few basic elements. Here’s a quick list so you can keep them handy:
A concise, engaging summary of the book — this doesn’t mean a synopsis. Rather, you want to give readers an idea of the book’s genre, basic storyline, and trajectory. This is also where you’ll include the book’s title and the name of the author(s).
A paragraph detailing the authors’ style and skill at telling the story, with your opinions being the main aspect of this analysis. Were you engaged with the plot, or bored? Did the story and characters impact you, or were they too chaotic/underdeveloped/etc.?
A strong conclusion summing up why a reader would or would not benefit from/enjoy the title you’ve reviewed. Describe the kind of person who would be looking for this book and let them know why they would or would not be disappointed. Add in anything else you’d like to say and then wrap up the review.
You can craft a review however you’d like, but these pillars are usually expected by the people reading those reviews. You want your review to be useful, engaging, and informative — without going on too long or flying off on a tangent.
Be Genre-Conscious In Your Book Review.
Writing a lengthy, stylized analysis of an action-packed thriller is unlikely to garner much enthusiasm for you or your reviews. When reviewing a book, you should be cognizant of the kind of person who will be reading what you’ve written.
Just like the author of the title itself, reviewers need to be aware of what features the genre is based on and why readers enjoy it. Romance is a character-driven genre, for example, so your review would focus on the protagonists and their relationship rather than the plot.
If someone is reading a self-help book about coping with depression, they aren’t going to be that interested in your personal story or opinions. They want to know how well-informed the suggestions in the book are, whether or not the author is credible, and if the information in each chapter is likely to help them.
It’s fine to review many different genres, but you should know how to switch between them. Otherwise you’re not going to elicit much respect (or appreciation) from readers — not to mention the authors trying to reach them.
Conclusion — Practice, Practice…Well, You Know The Drill.
To review books with any consistent results (such as paid opportunities or a following), you obviously need to read frequently. The more you read, the more content you produce, and the more you’re supporting the authors who produce the work you consume.
It’s a win for everyone, really. And if you find that your reviews aren’t getting traction or hitting home with a significant audience, switch things up and try a new genre or method. Post widely and don’t be afraid to apply for work on sites like Book Browse or OnlineBookClub.Org.
Mostly, posting frequently on popular sites like Goodreads and Amazon will help you to build traction. Make sure you share your reviews on your blogs, social media sites, or email newsletter if you have one. You never know who will appreciate your insight!