Hi! I’ve been asked in the past a couple of times how I go about writing my reviews. I think it’s really important to notice and accept that pretty much everyone has a different way of reviewing books. Some have very precise formats, some are short and opinionated, some are long and factual, etc. I personally really like checking out other people’s reviewing format because they may include things you don’t, or vice versa.
With all of that being said, this isn’t meant to be a concise plan to follow for book reviews. It’s the way I go about planning and writing my reviews, but that’s not to say that any one way is right or wrong! This is kind of just a simple guide to get new book reviewers started. I consider this to be a blogging guide for book reviews, but you can shorten it down or use what you want for other reviewing platforms (Goodreads, Amazon, etc).
Step One: Take Notes While Reading
Not everyone wants to do this, and that’s completely fine! However, it does help you to jot things down that you want to mention or make note of in your review. It’s easy to forget specifics after you’ve read 300+ pages. I personally have a 5 subject notebook that I use for all of my book/blog related things, and I take notes in there. I also use my phone occasionally if I’m in a more relaxed setting and don’t want to go fishing for a pen and paper.
Step Two: Information
Whenever you’re going to post a review of a book on personal site or blog, you need to gather all the information for it. This usually includes things like: the author, publisher, and publish date. Some people also like to include additional tidbits like the page count (which I include in my reviews) and the format that they read. You may also want to include an image of the book cover and the synopsis. This lets those who are reading your review get a sense of what the book is about if they haven’t already read it themselves. All of this information can be found easily online or from the book itself. I personally prefer to use Goodreads because it has all of the info I need on one page.
Step Three: Disclaimer
This step is specifically for ARCs/backlist books that were given to you for free in exchange for an honest review. If you don’t participate in things like that, you can skip to the next step!
So, if you’re still here and just starting out on reviews, you’re probably really excited to start getting free books. This is a possibility for even small reviewers like myself thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss, publicists, authors, etc. If you’ve made it to this point, congratulations! It’s exciting. However, it’s important to be honest with your readers about where the book came from. The idea behind free books sent to reviewers is that an author or publishing house gets honest feedback and the book gets a little promotion. As a reviewer, it’s really important that you’re honest about your feelings toward the novel. A part of this honesty is disclosing to your readers that the book was gifted for you.
Step Four: Rating
Rating can be hard so sometimes this step gets moved down a bit for me. Sometimes it is difficult to fully decide how you felt about a book until you’ve gotten all of your thoughts written down (or typed out). It may easier to rate after that, so really this is a step to do whenever you feel like you’ve got a good grip on how you felt towards the book. I personally like to go ahead and rate the book first if I can and then I’ll go back to my rating after writing my review and see if I need to tweak it. Generally, reviewers use a 1-5 star system since that is what is used on Goodreads, Amazon, etc.
Step Five: Introduction
Starting a review is always the hardest part for me. This isn’t necessarily an “intro”, but it’s a good time to give a little background info for the book. Often, I’ll try to sum up the main idea in the beginning paragraph(s). Sometimes, though, I just go straight into ranting.
Step Six: Negatives & Positives
The body of the review is where most people tend to differ in their formatting. Some people list everything they hated first, and then everything they liked. Some go by categories, talking about the plot first, then setting, so on and so forth. I think I have kind of a mix. I like to talk about each thing separately so it can be fully addressed. You’ll want to consider the:
… and possibly more. What I try to do is give each of these things a paragraph (or a couple sentences if there isn’t much to note) and talk about both the negatives and positives of each. I try to start out with negatives and then go into positives so that you end the paragraph on a good note, but sometimes thing don’t go entirely to plan.
Step Seven: Summing Up
Not everyone takes the time to give a summary of their thoughts, and that’s fine! Like I said before, there is truly no right or wrong way! I usually use the summary paragraph to say my overall feel of the book. I also like to go ahead and state in this paragraph whether or not I recommend the book to others. I find this to be a good way to wrap everything up.
There are a couple of things that I’ve written down for myself to keep in mind while reviewing, so I’ll share them as well. They are:
- The plot & pacing often mingle together or coexist. Sometimes (or most often), the pacing has a lot to do with whether or not I liked the way that the plot played out. If that’s the case for you, too, it’s important to mention that while explaining whether or not you enjoyed the plot!
- Characters does not just mean main characters. Whenever you start talking about how you felt toward the characters, don’t just focus on those who were forefront in the novel! It’s actually really notable when an author can develop background characters or if they are just there to weave in and out of scenes. When you’re referencing characters, it’s also a good time to approach any relationships you wanted to comment on! This could be family, friends, romantic relationships, etc.
So, that’s my very own personal guide to reviewing! It’s not a very strict format but it’s been the easiest way for me to go about talking about my books. I hope it was in some way helpful! But really, reviewing comes down to personal preference, so you can pick & choose what you take from my own routine. Just follow the flow of your own writing and you’ll fall into a routine that works for you!