When you open the covers of a novel, many times you’ll see quotes from critics who have read the book. When you shop online, you read what others have to say about a book. You can even find reviews on fiction work on blogs and reader community sites. So, there isn’t much to writing a fiction review, right?
There is more to it than you think.
Purpose of a Book Review
Before you go off trying to write book reviews, you need to fully understand the purpose of a book review. I can’t tell you how many book reviews I read that do nothing but restate the synopsis of the book. If I want that, I’ll read the back cover or the marketing blurb. A few reviews tell me if the reader liked it or not. So, what? If you liked it, tell me why. We might not like the same things. If you didn’t like, please explain why because it might be the difference between we wasting money or enjoying a book.
The purpose of a book review is to tell the readers a teeny bit about the story, how you liked it, and praises and issues you have found it. You are helping your readers decide whether or not they want to buy the book.
Read the Book
Never ever write a review without reading the book. Do you really want to buy a book based on the words of someone who didn’t read it? Of course, not.
Now, what if you begin reading the book and just don’t like it? First, try to finish it even if you find it is not your particular type of book you like. As a reader, I would enjoy knowing that you don’t like it not because it is horribly written but because it is not your type of genre. If I typically like what you do, I might avoid it. Second, can you not finish it because the writing is so bad and/or the editing distracts you from understanding anything? In that case, you might want to trudge through it but still write a review despite that. Let your readers know why you couldn’t finish the book. If you are still doubtful, ask a friend to read it, too. Get their opinion. I have done that a few times and discovered it was just bad writing. I either wrote a review warning people or just didn’t write a review at all.
Basically, read the book before you review it. You are more credible that way.
Make Notes as You Read
I didn’t do this much when I first started reviewing books, but experience has taught me that it helps a lot. Take notes as you read.
Keep a piece of paper in your book, maybe as a book marker. Note things you want to mention in your review. Note things like
- Are there editing mistakes?
- Do the characters seem real?
- Is there foul language?
- Are their embarrassing or gory scenes in the book?
- Does it keep you interested?
- Is the plot good?
Note whatever you would want to know before opening up a book. I find that I note particular things the author does well as in describing emotions or the scenes.
Create a Review That Reflects You
Don’t write a review that is like everyone else’s. Find a way to write a review that is you. If you are a funny person, make the review a funny to read. When I read the review, I should be able to find the real you in it.
My readers know by reading my reviews that I enjoy almost any genre. They know that I don’t like horror and am aware of many of my readers likes and dislikes. They know I love a new twist to an old plot. They get to know me through my reviews.
Know Your Audience
In your reviews, let the audience know that you are thinking of them. Many of my readers don’t like foul language. I tell them if there are any F-bombs in the book and how concentrated. I tell them of intimate scenes and if they can easily be skipped over and not lose anything of the story. I tell them if a ‘spiritual’ book is not what they might assume. I read and warn them.
Also, tell them what they will like. Let them know that if they like funny they should read it. Point out what most of your readers will like, as well.
An Example of a Book Review Template
Got a better idea on fiction book reviews? Good. Now, you need to write it. I’ve written hundreds of book reviews so far and I’ve found a template that works good for me. I don’t always follow the template exactly, but it helps guide me in my review so I don’t forget anything.
Introduction — In the introduction, I touch on the genre, author’s name, title of the book, and a little bit of what I thought of it. You don’t tell too much. You want to draw the reader in to read the rest of your review.
Synopsis — Here I tell a little bit about the book. I do not usually do more than 3–5 sentences. You don’t want the review to be mostly a synopsis.
Pace — I talk about the pace of the story. Is it fast? Is it too slow that I can’t keep reading?
Plot/Storyline — Sometimes I combine the ‘Pace’ with this section. Here I talk about how well developed the plot or storyline in. If the plot was too confusing, I state that. If it is complicated, exciting, or boring, I let the reader know. This is the backbone of the book.
Writing — At this point, I talk about how the writer actually writes. Are they good at character development, dialogue, keeping the reader guessing, or what? Do they write in a highbrow fashion or too elementary? How are they as a writer?
Warnings — This is where I put things the reader might want to be wary about. I mention language (f-bombs and such), intimate scenes, blood and guts, paranormal creates, and anything that might be offensive to someone.
Praises — Note what the author does well. I like to tell my readers if a mystery was hard to guess which isn’t that often. This is where I really help the author’s ego when I can.
Author background — I don’t use this part much. I mainly use it for non-fiction books, but it can come in handy for fiction works.
Recommendations — If I don’t use the praise section for my recommendation, I do it here. I summarize how I felt over all and if I think it is worth buying.
Note — This is where I put my disclaimer on where I got the book. You have to legally do that now. If I do it from a book tour, I use their disclaimer. Normally, I put something like, “This book was purchased with my own funds.” You can also say, “This book was provided by the author (or publisher) with no expectation of a positive review.” I have even said, “This book was a gift.” You have to let your readers know where you got the book.
Icons — Not all reviewers do this. I’m just starting do and am not too consistent. I like to use icons for readers to quickly glance at and know if they even want to read the review. The icons tell the reader if it is a romance, mystery, has warnings I give, or is a great read.
You don’t have to use this template. This is what works for me right now. I will change it and create a better one as I go on. Create your own. Have it reflect you.
Make me want to read your review
What is the story about?
Will I not want to put the book down or die of boredom?
Is the plot is easy to follow?
Does the writer accomplish what he set out to do?
What would a reader be offended about?
What does the author do well?
Tell me more about the author
Do you recommend the book to me to read?
Legal disclaimer — Tell me where you got the book
Give me a quick glance about the review
Do It For Your Readers
You are writing your reviews for your readers. They are reading your review to see what you have to say about the book before they spend their money. Write your review to help them make the right choice when it comes to fiction books.