A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Online Book Reviews

Three parts to the puzzle

Over the past two weeks, I’ve discussed websites, blogs and social media for writers. To finish the puzzle, this time, my focus is on posting book reviews.

With the boom of self-publishing, over one million new titles are released each year in the US alone. One way to make your book stand out is by having book reviews, but why should an author spend time reviewing other people’s books?

  1. To review it, you first have to read it, and whether you view it as research or pleasure, writers need to read, read, read.
  2. To construct a review, you have to analyse the book. Again, a great discipline for an author.
  3. A review gives you something to post on your blog or social media to keep your readers engaged.
  4. What goes around, comes around. While you shouldn’t post a review with the expectation of one in return, by writing it, you encourage others to do the same, and hopefully the culture will be contagious.

There are a myriad of online booksellers where you can post reviews. So where should you start? I’ve used Goodreads and Amazon because they are my go-to sites.

Time commitment: After reading the book, it depends how quickly you can write a review. The actual posting doesn’t take long. Your comment will be verified before it goes live, so your post might not be visible for a couple of hours.

Degree of difficulty: For both Goodreads and Amazon, you will first need to set up an account, which is easy.

On Goodreads, the option to write a review only appears after you click a star rating. Once you click on that option, it’s straightforward.

You can only write a review on Amazon if you have made a minimum spend of $50 in the past 12 months. This is a relatively recent change, made to prevent spam accounts from generating reviews. There seems to be some confusion about whether ebooks count towards that $50. For this reason, I had difficulty to begin with on Amazon, but now it’s smooth sailing.

Cost: Zero, assuming you have reached minimum spend on Amazon.

What should you write?

  • If you want to be scholarly, there are guidelines for writing formal book reviews, but you don’t need to go to this length to be useful to both the author and potential readers. Even a couple of succinct sentences can be enough.
  • To get started, try this proforma: [Book Title] by [Author Name] is about [list key themes.] [Protagonist name] is a [describe key character] protagonist who shows that [key outcome]. eg. Past Tense by Lee Child is about history, courage and good versus evil. Jack Reacher is a tough, yet righteous protagonist who shows that sometimes you have to stray outside the bounds of the law to achieve justice.
  • Be honest, but be kind. There’s a lot to be said for the old adage, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

That brings me to the end of my blitz on creating an online presence for author. Stay with me as we move into 2019, for more about writing, careers and expat life.

Note: Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, as I’m sure there is much to add to this discussion. I am happy to update the blog with reader input.

Next time: a bit of fun up at Mansfield with The Case of the Mysterious Rose Saboteur.

Next writing blog: The Book Publishing Flowchart.


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