First I think reviewers should understand what the point of writing a review is. Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Goodreads, ect… allow readers to write reviews to help other readers decide whether or not they will like that book. Above all else your review should provide helpful information to other readers about the content and feel of the book.
Here are ten tips to being a good reviewer…
1. Finish the book – Many people write reviews for books they don’t finish reading. Personally I have a problem with this. Book ratings and reviews should be based on the entire book. Reading only part of a book and writing a review would be like watching only part of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and telling all your friends that it’s a horribly depressing movie. If you’re going to comment on a book, comment on the entire book. (And if you absolutely cannot make it to the end, at very least make it clear in beginning of your review that you did not finish reading.)
2. Don’t just give a summary – Readers can read the back blurb to know roughly what a book is about. Give information about the storyline but make sure you’re also sharing your opinion. Did you like the plot, characters, setting, writing style? Overall how did the book make you feel?
3. Read other reviews – See how other people organize their thoughts to help you find your review writing style. What did they do that you liked, were they funny, straightforward, well-organized? And, what did they do that you didn’t like?
4. Use proper English – Write in full sentences and use real words. This is a book review, not a text message. Remember, you’re writing this for other readers to use as a source of information in their purchasing decision. If it’s not worth your time to write something legible, it’s simply not worth your time to write it. Spell-check and re-read your review before you post it.
5. Double check names – I see reviews all the time where the reviewer spelled the author’s name wrong, or a character’s name wrong, or even misspelled the title of the book. Spelling mistakes like this stand out, and can even be confusing to those reading your review. This can also be embarrassing, so do yourself a favor and take a few seconds to make sure you spelled all names correctly.
6. Explain what you liked AND what you didn’t – This may seem obvious, but often reviewers will only state one or the other. Sometimes they love a book so much they have nothing bad to say. And if you’re writing a review for your all-time favorite book you may not have anything negative to say, but for every other book other than that one - or those few - favorites, you will have things you liked and things you didn’t. If you give a book four stars tells us about all the good things about it, but then also tell us why it didn’t get five stars. On the flip side if you write a negative review, don’t forget to mention things you were happy about with the book just because your overall opinion of it was that you didn’t like it.
7. Be professional – As I mentioned above a review is for the next potential reader. It’s not a way for you to send the author a note, or to bash a piece of work. Just because you have a certain opinion about a book doesn’t mean other readers will agree with you. For example don’t say a book is terrible because it has a love triangle and you hate love triangles, and you think all books with love triangles are cliché and not worth reading. Say that that was something you didn’t like about the book and that love triangles aren’t your cup of tea, but be respectful of the fact that some people love love triangles. Even if you gave a book, say 2 stars because it had a love triangle, that may actually be a review that encourages someone who enjoys love triangles to buy it. (Check out The Positives about a Negative Review)
8. Take notes as you go – I read on my kindle and will often highlight and type a note in when I come across something I love, hate, don’t understand, ect…. If you read paperbacks maybe try buying post-it’s and writing yourself notes as you go. Once you’re done reading being able to go back and be reminded of those little moments that made you think, or favorite lines can help you write a more in-depth review.
9. Don’t spoil the story – Sometimes it’s impossible not to comment on a part of the story that happens to spoil, or give away, part of the plot. Sharing spoiling information is fine so long as you put a warning. Maybe try and save spoilers for the end of your review and clearly mark them so those who want to be surprised when reading can be. Goodreads lets you hide your spoilers behind a clickable link simply by putting these html tags around the spoiling information <spoiler> Spoiling info here </spoiler>.
10. Be honest! – No one really has a hard time being honest about a good review, but it can be hard to write bad reviews, and if you find yourself unable to write an honest review, don’t write one at all. Remember, reviews are to inform potential readers about a book. Reviews are not a place for you to rave about a friend’s novel to help them sell more copies. Support friends by giving them honest feedback to help them improve their skills.