Are you passionate about books? Do you have the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers, yet are unsure about what makes a good review?
Veteran book reviewers Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards, authors of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, have written a book that explains how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review.
Here are their Ten Commandments of Book Reviewing:
- Thou shall have no other gods before the reader. The review is not about the author, nor the publisher, and especially, not about you, the reviewer. Reviews are all about the reader. Don’t try to impress with pompous words in an attempt to glorify yourself or appear scholarly. Give readers simplicity and clarity. They’ll appreciate it. If they want verbose and fancy, they can read Shakespeare.
- Thou shall not lie. Honesty is what defines your trade. Without it, you’re doing nothing but selling copy. When you give facile praise or sugar-coat a book, sooner or later readers will take you for what you are: a phony.
- Thou shall try not to offend the author. Just as honesty is important, so is tact. There’s no need to be harsh or mean. A tactfully written, well-meant negative review should offer the author insight into what is wrong with the book. Instead of saying, “This is a terrible novel!” say, “This book didn’t work for me for the following reasons…”
- Thou shall not eat the evaluation. Some fledgling reviewers write a long blurb of the book and leave out the evaluation. The evaluation is the most important part of a review. A summary of the plot is not an evaluation. Saying, “I really liked this book” is not an evaluation. The evaluation tells the reader what is good and bad about the book, and whether or not it is worth buying.
- Thou shall not reveal spoilers. Nobody likes to be told the ending of a movie before having watched it. The same thing is valid for a book. If you give spoilers in your review, not only do you lessen the reader’s reading experience but you also risk being sued by the publisher or author.
- Thou shall honor grammar, syntax, and punctuation. Don’t be one of those reviewers who are more in love with the idea of seeing their name online than making sure their reviews are well-written and thorough. Your reviews may hang around on the internet for years to come and will reflect on your level as a writer. Run a spell check, edit, revise, and polish your review, as if you were posting a short story. Get a good book on grammar, and punctuation, take an online course or listen regularly to podcasts such as The Grammar Girl.
- Thou shall honor deadlines. If you join a review site where the turnaround for reviews is 3 weeks, then you should respect that agreement. If you promise the author to have the review ready in two months, you should honor this too. Be honest and straight forward from the beginning. If you’re so busy your turnaround is six months, make sure to let the person know. If for any reasons you cannot meet the deadline, contact the person and let him know. It’s your responsibility to maintain a do-able schedule.
- Thou shall not be prejudiced against thy neighbor. Don’t assume that a self-published or small press book is poorly written. Give it a fair chance and let it speak for itself. Likewise, never assume a book published by a major NY house has to be good. You’d be surprised by the high quality of some small press books by unknown authors, as opposed to those written by big name authors whose titles are often in the bestseller lists. In general, most subsidy books are mediocre, but there are always exceptions. If you’ve had bad experiences with subsidy books, then don’t request them nor accept them for review. If you decide to review one, though, don’t be biased and give it a fair chance.
- Thou shall not become an RC addict. RC stands for Review Copy. Requesting RCs can get out of control. In fact, it can become addictive. You should be realistic about how many books you can review. If you don’t, pretty soon you’ll be drowning in more RCs than you can handle. When this happens, reading and reviewing can change from a fun, pleasurable experience into a stressful one. If you’re feeling frazzled because you have a tower of books waiting to be reviewed, learn to say NO when someone approaches you for a review and stop requesting RCs for a while. Unless you’re being paid as a staff reviewer for a newspaper or magazine, reviewing shouldn’t get in the way of your daily life.
- Thou shall honor thy commitment. Remember that any books you’ve agreed to review beforehand are being sent to you in exchange for a review. If your policy is not to review every book you receive, state it clearly on your blog or site so the author or publisher will know what to expect. If you have agreed to review a book, but have a valid reason for not reviewing it, let the review site editor, author, publisher, or publicist know.
The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing serves as an excellent reference tool and amalgam of resources. The book shows you how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review.
Available online and at www.TwilightTimesBooks.com
About the Authors
Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published both online and in print, in publications such as The Writer, Writer's Journal, Acentos Review, Bloomsbury Review, Mosaic, and Multicultural Review, among many others. A reviewer for more than a decade, she now offers numerous book reviewing workshops online. She also offers workshops on the art of picture book writing. She's represented by Mansion Street Literary and Savvy Literary. www.MayraCalvani.com
Anne K. Edwards is an award-winning multi-genre author, reviewer and editor of Voice in the Dark Ezine. Her latest novel is the suspense thriller, Shadows Over Paradise, published by Twilight Times Books. www.AnneKEdwards.com
My Take on the Book
As a person that has been writing book reviews for a number of years now, the authors in this book are correct in the fact that there is an art to writing good book reviews and that sometimes it can be a bit "slippery". What was great about this book was that the authors spell out to the readers some of the tricks in the trade as well as providing a number of great resources for any aspiring reviewer in the back of the book itself. I liked how the book used real reviews to illustrate their points as well as giving you step-by-step instructions at how one should be reviewing and writing high quality reviews for any book that they are sharing. All-in-all, this was a great book that I would highly recommend to any current or future book reviewer as even though I have been reviewing for a while, I learned quite a bit in reading this book and I know that you will too.
All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.
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