What’s the one thing that’s worse than reading a terribly dry book? Reading a terribly dry review about a book! Here are some tips by our Senior Editor to help you rise above the noise and catch the attention of book pros.
1. Choose wisely. You don’t have time to read everything, let alone review it. So choose carefully. Unless you're one of the "big voices," it will be nearly impossible to make an impression as one more review about the latest, hottest best seller. But you can make an impression by highlighting quality works by emerging authors. You’ll be the proverbial big voice in a small room instead of the other way around. You can help direct attention to your review by sending a copy to the author, publisher, and/or publicist listed on the author’s website.
2. Grab the reader’s attention from the beginning. Open with an interesting fact about the author, the background of the book, the main themes, or even use an especially powerful quote from the book.
3. Tell your audience what you’re reviewing. Include in the first (or second at latest) paragraph the title of the book, name of the author, the publisher, and when the book was released. For example: The 53rd Parallel by Carl Nordgren (Light Messages Publishing, May 2014)…
4. Offer a concise summary of the book, being careful not to give away any spoilers. This part of your review shouldn’t last more than a paragraph at the most.
5. Tell your reader what you think about the book. For fiction, include your thoughts on the plot, the writing style, the characters, and the structure. Tell your audience both what you liked most and what you liked least.
6. Remember that you are reviewing a book, not the author. It’s ok not to like something you’ve read––but don’t make it personal by attacking the author’s character.
7. Include at least one quote-worthy soundbite. If your review is favorable, publishers and publicists will want to pull a concise one or two line quote from your review to use in promoting the book––this is especially true for books by emerging authors. They’ll cite you and your blog, which in turn provides good publicity for you. Publicity materials and book jackets don’t have room for a 500 word review, so including a concise soundbite will allow industry professionals to highlight your review. (If your review isn’t favorable, a soundbite can still help you get quoted by other reviewers and readers.)
8. Avoid clichés. Janice Harayda, novelist, award-winning journalist, and founder and editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews, offers this concrete advice: “Avoid more than obvious clichés such as ‘a must-read,’ ‘ripped from the headlines’ and ‘sends chills down your spine.’ Kill ‘relatable,’ ‘unputdownable’ and other publishing-industry neologisms, too.”
9. Check your writing. Proofread your review (or bribe a friend) to make sure your grammar and spelling are correct. Nothing undermines your authority to critique an author like bad writing.
10. Wrap it up. Offer a quick wrap-up summary of your review and include what types of readers might like this book. For example: “Fans of The Sugar Queen (Sarah Addison Allen), The Lost Recipe for Happiness (Barbara O'Neal), or Julia's Chocolates (Cathy Lamb) are sure to wrap themselves around Can't Buy Me Love by Summer Kinard.” Offering a recommendation based on readers’ preference highlights your expertise and helps guide your audience.