by Laura M. Brown)
Book reviewing used to be the purview of the elite. Now, thanks to the Internet, everyone's a critic. Your online book reviews can make a real difference: people almost always scan the reviews of a book before they make a purchase decision, and your insights can be a big help.
We're all familiar with the rant review--the one that either adores or despises the book. Writing a balanced review is more difficult, but it's also more helpful to your fellow readers. As you brainstorm, think from your readers' point of view. What information would be most useful to them? What do you wish you had known about this book before you read it?
These dos and don'ts can help.
Include some description of the book as well as your opinion. Put the book in context.
Be specific. Say why you liked or disliked the book. Throwing around adjectives like "terrific" or "disappointing" doesn't really tell the reader anything about the book. What exactly what terrific? What was disappointing?
Consider the projected audience for the book. Was it written for a specialist audience? A general reader? What kind of reader would get the most from this book?
Take a stand. The ultimate point of a book review is to make a recommendation. Your verdict doesn't have to be an absolute yes or an absolute no. Offering a nuanced opinion of a book often makes a more interesting review.
Give your review a title that reflects the content of the review. Don't just use the book's title as the title of your review.
Don't go on too long. Unless you're writing for the New York Review of Books or the Times Literary Supplement, your readers are probably not looking for an article-length review. Online book reviews should be brief and concise.
Don't fall into the trap of summarizing the book. Provide just enough summary so that your points are clear to your readers.
Don't trash the book because it wasn't what you expected. Unless the book was misrepresented, it's your responsibility to understand what you're buying before you buy it. Trout Fishing in America isn't really about trout fishing, and Fear of Flying is not for nervous travelers.
Don't spoil it. If you're reviewing a work of fiction, don't give away key plot points or the ending of the story.
Don't be nasty. If you didn't enjoy the book, don't be insulting or snide. Let your reader know calmly and unemotionally why you were disappointed.
Don't give the book a bad review if you're really mad about something else. If you bought the book online and experienced bad customer service, don't take it out on the poor author with a one-star review and a rant about shipping delays.
In this new, more democratized world of book reviewing, you have a big responsibility--both to authors and to your fellow readers. Book reviewing online can be loads of fun, and if you provide really useful insights, you might even develop a following as a reviewer!
*Blogger's note: A lot of bloggers talk about this subject. My opinion is what it has always been. I agree first of all you should never trash a book. Someone spent time on it. I do not, if you notice, give stars out. It is not a good system. Just write a good review, use your words, and you should not need stars or roses or hearts or whatever people use. I have always found something good in a bad book. And I wrote as positive of a review as I could for bad books. No need to hurt anyone's feelings. You can be firm and point out something positive but get your point across that you did not like the book.
And next - you bloggers that tell us the whole book - STOP!!! SUM IT UP! No one wants to read a long review and no one especially wants to read the whole book in a shorter version. I see too many bloggers do this. I may have had one or two lengthy reviews that I have done but you will find my reviews mostly very concise and I do not give anything away. So for the readers, tell a reviewer in their comments if their review is not good. Or tell them they spoiled the book for you. People have to learn. I would want someone to tell me my review was not good. Luckily I have never been told that. I got it downpat :)
Basically this was a simple article but a good one and when you write a lot of reviews, it is good advice to follow.