Book reviews are a treasure trove for readers and can bolster sales for authors. More than sales, though, book reviews let authors know what resonates with readers. And, for readers? Reviews provide insights, opinions, and recommendations that help us make that oh-so-hard selection on which book we’re going to buy. Reviews don’t need to be complicated, but with a little thought and planning, they can dig deeper than summarizing the plot–most potential buyers already have gleaned that from the back-cover blurb.

1. Start with a Hook

Just like any good book, begin your review with an attention-grabbing sentence. Whether it’s a thought-provoking question, an intriguing quote from the book, or a brief personal anecdote, your hook should entice readers and pique their interest. It piques the interest.

Example: “Have you ever opened a book and felt like you were you knew the characters? That’s exactly what I experienced when I delved into [Book Title].”

2. Provide a Brief Overview

Brief. Like, a Speedo-swimsuit brief overview. I recommend you don’t copy/paste the back cover blurb unless you’re reviewing on your blog where that text is not otherwise available. If you’re on a sales site, the blurb is already there. Offer a concise summary of the book’s premise, main characters, and setting. This helps readers understand the context without revealing critical plot points. Be careful not to delve too deeply into the story itself. Readers want to be surprised by the books surprises. They want the story to unfold for them, just as it did for you.

Example: “In [Book Title], we follow the journey of [Main Character] and [Main Character] as they battle past secrets in [Setting], in order to [Brief Description of Premise and Conflict].”

3. Share Your Thoughts and Feelings

Authors want their books to move you because, let’s face it–those characters are real to the authors. The pain those characters go through, their joys, their triumphs–those emotions are very real and true to life. If a book made you cry, chances are good the author cried while writing it. This is where your personal perspective comes into play. Discuss your emotional responses, thoughts, and reactions to the book. Did it make you laugh, cry, or ponder life’s mysteries? Share your genuine feelings. Did it fill you with hope? Make you want to reevaluate your relationships? Seek healing?

Example: “The characters felt incredibly relatable, and I found myself laughing at their witty banter one moment and wiping away tears the next. It reminded me of my own relationship with my mom. I wished I could pick up the phone to call her.”

4. Highlight Strengths

Critique the book objectively by highlighting its strengths. These can include writing style, character development, pacing, and themes. It isn’t that reviewers can’t discuss where a book may fall short, but, I think reviewers need to do so with a heavy hand of compassion. Like, five-elephants heavy. Writing is hard. No book is perfect. “Flaws” are subjective. For every writer I know, no matter how good a book is, they strive to do better. Let readers use your reviews to find what they love instead of looking for things to judge.

Example: “The author’s prose was engaging and vivid, immersing me in the story effortlessly. The brief languid spot near the mid-point was more than made up for with the surprising twist and ending that left me sad the story had ended.”

5. Avoid Spoilers Like the Plague

One of the golden rules of writing a helpful review is to never reveal major plot twists, climactic moments, or the ending. Never. Not ever. Imagine you’re the next reader…would you want those moments spoiled? Or would you want the story to play out for you like the epic adventure or sweet romance it’s meant to be? Even in a genre like romance, where the “happily ever after” is a given– don’t give away the final major conflict or how it’s resolved. Share your excitement about these moments, but please don’t give them away. Remember, no one likes spoilers!

Example: “The unexpected twists and turns in the plot will keep you on the edge of your seat, and the ending? Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out!”

6. Comparative Analysis

If you’ve read similar books or authors, consider making comparisons. This can help potential readers understand where the book fits within their preferences and expectations. I know I’m always looking for more books that are like my favorites–especially when I’ve exhausted the backlist of all those favorite authors. Having a reviewer share that information to help me connect is gold.

Example: “Fans of [Author Name] or [Book Title] will appreciate the similar themes and character dynamics present in [Book Title].”

7. Conclude with a Recommendation

In your closing remarks, sum up your thoughts on the book and provide a clear recommendation. Who would enjoy this book? Is it suitable for a particular audience? Be sure to specify if you think it’s a must-read or a pass.

Example: “In summary, [Book Title] is a captivating read that will resonate with fans of [Genre]. If you enjoy [Specific Elements], then this book is a definite must-read for you!”

Writing a helpful book review is a gift to both the author and fellow readers. It guides potential readers while respecting the joy of discovering the story’s surprises. For authors, it helps new readers discover them by increasing visibility and building credibility. If you enjoy an author’s writing, leaving a great review is one of the best ways to show your support.

How has a review influenced you to read a book?

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