How to write a book review – please do!

Authors love reviews – this is not a secret!

But after you’ve closed a book, why should you bother to write one? How do you do it? And who can write a review? What’s considered a ‘good’ review?

Whoa! Let’s take a step back…

Why write a book review?
Analysing and expressing your thoughts about a book you’ve read can help you understand it better and thus enrich your reading experience. Additionally, and more practically, book reviews are crucial in helping other readers understand what a particular book is about and whether they should invest time in reading it. An honest and well-written book review can also help your favourite authors. Reviews not only provide valuable feedback for the author – or at the very least, some much-needed praise and/or positive critique – they also boost visibility of books on sites like Amazon, helping more people find (and purchase) the books that you love and want to recommend to others.

Some tips…

  • Before writing, consider who the review is for: online retailer e.g. Amazon, magazine/newspaper article (what readership?), book site e.g. Goodreads, your own blog, serious review journal, e.g. London Review of Books, genre review site/magazine e.g. Discovering Diamonds Reviews, HNS Historical Reviews or Mystery People magazine.
  • Consider the style, tone and length of review appropriate for the publication while not sacrificing your own.
  • Do not be intimidated into thinking your review must be erudite or cover several pages. Some of the best reviews can be only three lines long.
  • Key guideline: it’s about the book, and not you.

A few general guidelines

  • Make notes. By the time you have finished the book, you’re bound to have forgotten things you wanted to include in the review. The physical action of writing helps commit those points to memory.
  • Read the whole book unless it is so dire you can’t bear it. But be prepared to say why if asked.
  • Any review that you write should be constructive, whether it’s positive or critical.
  • Engage your readers immediately in your review – use the first sentence to state your overall opinion.
  • Strive to be kind in your brutal honesty. Avoid being hurtful in your constructive criticism – authors are people too!

Nitty gritty

  • Mention the main theme, genre, whether it’s part of a series, or a debut.
  • Does it fit into genre conventions or not? Does that make it a better’/more interesting or engaging book?
  • Does the book give you a sense of the place it’s set?
  • What is the author’s ‘voice’ like?
  • Mention the plot, character development and the writing style
  • Is the dialogue lively or dull, correct for the period/setting?

Your reactions

  • Other readers don’t want to hear just the facts. They also want to know what you think about the book, and how it made you feel! Did you like the story? Hate it? Why? Explain your feelings towards the book as best you can. What particularly excited you? What made you want to throw the book away (If you did)?
  • What do you think the author did well? What do you think the author could have done better?
  • Be authentic. Your followers/readers want to hear what you think of the book, and in your own voice.


  • Include comments on any artwork or graphics included, extra materials (like a reading guide, map, family chart, glossary, etc.), whether there are any incorrect facts. (Check very carefully before you do!)
  • DO NOT include half the plot, or heaven forbid, the whole plot, or spoilers in your review (No one enjoys spoilers and it’s mean).

Watch your formatting

While most book review sites and retailer sites such as Amazon prefer you write in a simple format, you can make it readable and enjoyable by other readers with these guidelines:

  • Avoid writing just one big block of text. Space out your paragraphs so your review is easily readable.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS ever in a review.
  • Don’t use punctuation excessively, such as using multiple exclamation points or question marks.
  • Proofread your review for grammar, spelling mistakes, typos, etc. before sending it in or publishing it. A simple typo or error in your book review might discredit your review in the eyes of readers.

These are just a few guidelines – you do not need to do all of this, but hopefully, they may help to encourage you to leave a review after you’ve finished reading that book on your bedside table.

Happy reviewing!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

2 comments to How to write a book review – please do!

  • lydiaschoch

    This is great advice. I definitely do think it’s better to be a bit more formal in books reviews. They’re important pieces of writing.

    • Alison Morton

      Thanks, Lydia. Yes, I think reviews need to be written so they are clear, especially if they are for publication on a review site or in a magazine. However, I wouldn’t want to exclude or put off anybody from writing their authentic and heartfelt thoughts on, say, a retail site.

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