It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book blogger periodically falls out of love with reviewing books. I must admit that I’ve felt this too sometimes – like I have nothing of value to say about a book that hasn’t already been said, like I can’t truly make up my mind on how I feel about the book, keep changing my star rating and so on. If you seem to be stuck in a similar rut, read on to find 7 simple book review tips that will help you improve your reviewing skills.
#1: Provide information about the book
This is the most basic step that will improve your book review in a matter of minutes. The reasoning behind this is that your audience isn’t going to be familiar with every book you read. While I think a review on a book blog should have a section about the book, I find it unnecessary to have the synopsis in a Goodreads or Amazon review as the site will already have it along with other book information.
Synopsis is a must-have and it doesn’t hurt to include links where the audience can find out more about the book or buy it. I personally like to include the genre, age range, publication date, content warnings, synopsis from Goodreads before I start my review and purchase links towards the end.
#2: Make notes while reading
One thing I’ve found that helps me out is writing down some key initial thoughts after I finish the book. I jot down briefly about how I felt about the characters, whether I found the plot interesting and how I liked the writing style so I can expand on those later on when I write my review. You can also keep a small set of questions handy that you can answer at the end of the book and then base your final review on those, which can help lend structure to your reviews as well.
You can write it down in a notebook, a Word document, a notes app or even the private notes section on Goodreads. I use Notion on my phone and laptop to make notes. I also try to finish my final draft within 3 days of reading the book.
#3: Create your own style
I really like it when a reviewer has their thoughts organised beforehand rather than rambling all over the place. One popular method is to list your likes and dislikes. Whatever you decide on, it’s a good practice to stick to that so your reviews look coherent and well thought-out.
I talk about characters & relationships, plot & world-building and writing style & themes in my book reviews. I like to provide factual information in a detailed manner while also talking about my feelings so that the readers gets a balanced perspective. Check out my review of Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon for a peek into my review style.
#4: Edit and revise
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone mention this but this is something I make sure to do for all my reviews. I give myself a day between my first draft and my revision, so I can put some distance and analyse it objectively to cut out unnecessary details and provide a more balanced perspective. This is especially important for negative reviews as a particularly strong reaction may be unnecessarily hurtful or muddle your judgement.
I like to provide a balanced perspective, so taking a look at others’ reviews will often let me pick up on a few things that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise and then examine what I felt about them. Sometimes I end up adding those to my review as well. If I’m not #OwnVoices for a certain type of representation, I try to hunt for #OwnVoices reviews so I can highlight if there are any issues/problems that my bias/experience didn’t allow me to see.
#5: Be careful with spoilers
I was spoiled for Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and I couldn’t like the book as much as I wanted to because I knew the mystery all along. Sometimes, it may be necessary to post spoilers to fully illustrate your views on a certain scene/aspect in the book and discuss it with other readers. If that is the case, make sure to include them as an expandable section upon clicking so readers can choose whether to see it or not.
I prefer to keep all my book reviews spoiler-free on all my review platforms. Goodreads automatically handles spoilers inside tags, but you can use simple HTML and CSS to do it on your blog too.
#6: Include a rating and recommendations
A rating towards the start or the end will give a clear indication of your overall thoughts on the book. You can get as creative with your rating scale as you want to stand out from the crowd (check out Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books‘ cute ratings) or you can also do away with the system completely. Even a small paragraph summarizing your feelings and recommendations for other readers at the end will add more value to your review.
Regardless of what you thought about the book, every reader has different tastes, so adding this helps people decide for themselves whether to pick the book up for themselves. You can take it a bit further and add pairing notes for each book with similar titles, music or food pairing recommendations, aesthetics or mood boards and so on.
#7: Be honest
This seems like a no-brainer but I think it’s worth repeating as integrity is a very important aspect of book blogging. It’s quite common to do paid reviews or receive a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review in the book blogging community. Make a mention of that somewhere in the review so you cover your legal bases.
If there’s any kind of compensation involved, make it clear from the start that you will be posting your sincere thoughts and that the other party, be it the publisher or the author, has no say in the content of your review. This disclosure is a must if you are leaving your review on Amazon. Read through Amazon’s Community Guidelines to get an understanding on how to word your promotional reviews.
How do you format your book reviews? What does your reviewing style look like? Any recent book reviews that you want to share with me? Let me know in the comments section down below. Have a stellar weekend, readers from Earth!