Common mistakes in writing reviews
When it comes to writing a book review, many authors make the mistake of writing reviews that are long winded, or give up too much information. However, there are article layouts, and even some designs that will help increase the effectiveness of your review.
In this article, I want to lay out some things you should consider when you write your next review. To do this best, we’ll discuss some design elements to your review, as well as how to structure your writing. I’ll even provide some examples of both book and product reviews so you can see it in other industries as well.
The Writing Structure of a Perfect Book Review
When it comes to writing a book review, many authors jump right into creating a full synopsis of everything that occurred and add some commentary about their thoughts as they go.
While this may seem like the right thing to do, there is actually a stronger way to layout your review:
· Quick Synopsis
· Pros and Cons
· Concrete Grade
Let’s start with the hook
Creating a Hook for your Book Review
Like the intro to a regular blog post, you should create an engaging hook to get your reader interested in the book itself. When doing this, one angle I look to use is by discussing the story of how I came about the book.
Was it a recommendation from a trusted friend or colleague in the industry? Did you find it on a list of top books in genre? Or, was it at the behest of another author? Either way, what made you decide to buy the book, sit down and read it, is usually a good start.
Otherwise, another angle for your hook is to discuss why you choose to read it, if there isn’t a story about it. Perhaps there were elements to the cover or the book description had something that caught your eye.
Finally, if there isn’t a why or how to your choice that you think is engaging enough, think about using the first sentence or two of the book’s amazon book description. If the author is good at their trade, they probably wrote a great hook to the book description.
This is where many authors fail in their book review. Instead of writing about their thoughts on the book, they spend most of the time giving every detail the book. This is far from what you should do.
Instead, think of this like a written movie trailer. Give them an idea of what the book is about, but more so in a way that would make them want to read it. This means not giving too many details or any hint of an ending.
A rule of thumb I like to use for this is 3-4 sentences max. The most important part to the entire book review isn’t how you retell the story, but what your professional take is on the book itself. So, be quick, and get to the good stuff.
Writing Pros and Cons
I love to call this section the pros and cons or likes and dislikes section because it reminds me to give both sides. Too many times I’ll either focus on the negative of a book I didn’t like or vice versa.
When you’re overly negative or overly positive, this can cause readers to lose credit for your take on the book. Therefore, be intentional to provide both sides.
One trick that I’ve seen other industry reviews do that I think authors should start thinking about is creating boxes in the article that recap in a visual way the pros and cons or likes and dislikes for a book. You can see from this example how they used large images of pros and cons and check marks and x’s to denote their recap of the product.
To create pros and cons like this, most Wordpress Themes have something like that built into them. Or, if you are using a WYSIWYG editor like Thrive Architect, or Divi, you can easily build these using their templates or designing it yourself.
Concrete Grade in Book Reviews
When it comes to giving a final grade or final thoughts, I believe many authors fall short.
First, they fail to give a concrete grade or result for the book. It sort of comes across as wishy-washy and thus, doesn’t help their readers make a decision. However, to be an effective book reviewer, you should have a final conclusion to the review.
“Yes, I absolutely love this book and I will recommend it to anyone who likes books such as …”
“In the end, no, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone for the following reasons…”
However, if you’re more diplomatic like me and don’t want to create enemies or hurt people’s feelings, then one method you can use so as to still give a concrete grade would be to liken the book to something else. For example:
“While I didn’t like the book for these reasons…I still think that people who like books like this or this, would probably enjoy this. It just wasn’t my kind of book.” That’s still concrete enough, but also plays a diplomatic tone to it.
Another thing that I think authors should start developing in their reviews, that other industries are starting to do is give actual grades. I’ve started seeing them in product reviews like this one, but as you as you can see, they broke down the product into different components or aspects, and gave each aspect a grade with a final overall grade.
This helps your readers compare your previous grades to the current one. It also allows you to compartmentalize your review as well. Some ideas on aspects book reviewers should use would be Entertainment, Pace, Characters, Writing, and Overall.
A Little Extra to Make Your Review Look Even Better
Just having a well-written book review isn't going to guarantee that it will be read. Most reviews on the Internet aren't read in-depth at all. Many people are skimmers instead of content readers. So, to get more skimmers to slow down and read your quality content, you'll need to cater to them and make your review more exciting.
Formatting and Spacing is Essential
When writing your book review, you need to keep in mind how it looks on screen. Does your review contain large walls of text? If so, you need to reevaluate your spacing considerations. Online readers prefer to devour their data in little bite-size pieces. This is why you’ll see many successful blog sites such as Momdot break up their long-form content into smaller paragraphs. Although there’s plenty of content it’s easily digested by everyday readers.
If you need help further breaking down your article, utilize numbered and bulleted lists. These provide more height to your article and cut through the monotony of block text. Unsure as to what should go into an ordered list? A good rule of thumb is that any dataset over three entries long can fit neatly into a list.
Add Personal Proof to Build Credibility
Unfortunately, there are quite a few sites and bloggers out there who post fake reviews to spam their affiliate sales or more nefarious reasons. And this has made the community wary of bad review sites and untrusted reviewers.
That’s why it’s so important to be honest within your reviews. Don’t just steal blurbs and quotes from other reviewers to craft your own.
One technique to help build credibility with your reader is to post pictures of you with the book in hand—if possible. This will let your reader see that you've obtained and read the book being reviewed. Plus it continues to build your connection with your readers.
Extra Idea: Creating List of Books
I know this isn’t a book review, but it is a great idea that you should also consider. Why not create a list of your favorite books? Or, create a list of favorite books for each favorite genre or subgenre?
As a reader, If I love reading your writing, then I’d love to see which books you like. Furthermore, you can use amazon associate links for each of the books and make some decent commissions.
If you do decide to do this, then I’d absolutely recommend you create a organized list that includes the book cover like Top Sci Fi Books does here with their favorite LitRPG books. As you can see, they are clean and it is easy to scroll through the books.
So, if you aren’t currently reading a book or can’t come up with a good book review, then think about creating a favorites list.
Writing a quality book review isn’t an impossible task. And by breaking it down into sections, you can make your review turn out better than ever. But remember, just because you have a well-written review doesn’t mean that it will get read.
So, be sure to take advantage of formatting and other attention-grabbers to keep your readers interested and engaged.
Dave Chesson is the book marketing Super-Nerd behind Kindlepreneur.com. His focus is on providing in-depth, actionable information for indie authors, such as his recent guide to book writing software. His free time is spent reading, immersing himself in sci-fi culture, and spending time with his family in Tennessee.
What are your thoughts here, readers? Do you conduct book reviews on your blog? Why or why not?
Image credits: Pixabay.com