Everyone has their own way of doing a book review and in a way that is how it should be. Always remember a book review is an opinion. That being said and out of the way, I do think there needs to be some common considerations taken.
I don’t believe published book reviews on volunteer sites should:
- Be for tearing down an author and that author’s work.
- Nor do I think a poorly written book should be praised.
- And being paid for a review just doesn’t cut it, unless you work for a site that has ads and also gets paid for the service of book reviewing like major newspapers or magazines. But that’s a job, not a volunteer thing. And even then, honesty is the best policy. For most of us, receiving a good book to review is a nice perk of book reviewing.
Poorly Written Books
Yes, I’m beginning with the tough one. I’ve read books with a great idea, but poor execution. I’ve written books like that as well. We all have to learn and we get excited to get that book out and into hands. I’ve put my novels away, come back to them months later, and found so many mistakes that I didn’t realize were there before.
Personally, I offer the author an out up front. If I read the book and the review is less than a 3 out of 5 Rating, they can choose not to have it published or go forward with it. It’s up to them. If less than a 3 and published, I will make a note I have the consent of the author to do so. This consent is a question on the LWI site Book Request Submission Form. (Why do I give this out? I feel that by putting faith in me and providing a copy of the book to me, they at least deserve that option. If I buy the book myself…I have the option to post as I see fit.)
If the author says to publish, then make certain to be professional and do not write to destroy and tear down. Your Rating will give the reader one idea of what the book is, while your words explain things. Some people want to see a reviewer go off on an author and make fun of them. You won’t find that on LWI. We’re mature adults who are teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, authors, and university students. We take our role in the career of an author seriously.
You have to decide ahead of time what your idea of a great book is. Some may protest at this idea, but there needs to be some reference point to go by. If you are considering F. Scott Fitzgerald or Hemingway as the great, a 5 Star read, then a 4 may be an extremely great review from you. I tend to lean this way, but I do still let the book itself stand on its own merits. I do give a 5 or a round up to a 5 from something like a 4.8 at times. But for me to do that it MUST be a great book and MUST connect with me. As always, every review is an opinion. The more books you read in the genre areas you like with a reviewer mind the more you come to recognize great writing in those areas. But then you have entertaining writing as well. Book Reviewing is not easy when you are doing it seriously.
Keep in mind that even though the book is great there still might be that something you didn’t like or that bothered you. Is it something worth sharing? Did it stay with you? If if did, then you may want to refer to it. Why? Credibility. You want your review to mean something.
For the LitWorldInterviews site we include the basic information for the book such as Author, Title, Publisher, Publication Date, ASIN and so on. You can look at any of our Book Reviews and see our basic layout. Many Book Review sites include this information. We do add some to it, such as Author, Title, Genre, sometimes formats available and pricing (If I remember to do it on mine). You can checkout Book Review of Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton to see how I put a book review together and how the Book Information looks.
A Book Review, for me, is a way to advertise for an author. Therefore, I include as many of the online ways to connect to the author as I can, and I include a profile/bio of the author.
Writing the Review
Most likely if you are reading this you are wondering what you should include in the review. There isn’t a magical formula. Things I attempt (as always depending on my memory and excitement level) to include are:
- At least the basic story idea and main characters.
- Things that I connected to without giving away too much of the story.
- How the flow of the book is.
- How engaging and immersing the story is.
- If the characters and voice are authentic.
- If the setting is authentic, especially if describing an actual place. (You may not know this part but if there is something described that nags at you, such as a high-rise building in the middle of a swamp, then that may be an issue for you.)
- What genres the book falls into as far as you feel. A book may be classified as a Romance by a publisher but in reality be Literary Fiction that has a relationship in it, but has very little to do with what people consider as Romance.
- Comparison to any big ‘stars’ of the literary world that may help people connect to the feel of the story and thus prompt a person to purchase the book.
You can checkout Book Review of Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton to see how I put a book review together and how our rating system works.
Is it a MUST to include all of the above, or even half of the above? No. Those are suggestions, and there are plenty of other things people include. Your goal as a Book Reviewer is to give your opinion of if the book is good or not and provide enough information to send a reader off to purchase the book.
One thing to remember about Book Reviewing is to find your voice. There are a great many reviewers out there and in order for you to convey what you are wanting to say you need to say it with honesty, and that will come out as your voice. You can look here on LitWorldInterviews and see we all have different styles and voices. My style is dictated by the book and my enjoyment of it and you can easily tell by a review I have done if I truly loved a book or not before you even get to the Rating at the bottom.
A Book Review isn’t all about proper sentence structure. Sure, you want to be professional, otherwise people will wonder what do you know about reviewing a book. But you are reviewing for story, engagement, flow, and things of that nature. You are telling a story of your own when you write a review, and as James Patterson says, “Focus on the story not the sentence.”
Ronovan is an author, and blogger who shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer though his blog RonovanWrites.WordPress.com. His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge and the creation of LitWorldInterviews.WordPress.com, a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources. For those serious about book reviewing and interested in reviewing for the LWI site, email me at ronovanwrites (at) gmail (dot) com to begin a dialogue. It may not work out but then again it might.
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