Book reviewing has increased in popularity over the past few years, especially since COVID in 2020. Now, it seems like almost everyone has done some kind of book review. But for anyone who hasn’t, or isn’t sure how to, here are some of my key tips to getting started as a credible book reviewer.

Where to Start:

Choose a book

This is the most important part of this entire process. Without the book, there’s no review to be made! For the purposes of this article, I’ll be using Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo as my primary example. The goal is to find a book that you’re looking forward to, it doesn’t have to be something popular and it doesn’t even have to be something new, any book that you’re interested in is a great place to start reviewing.

Choose a platform

   This can seem daunting since there are so many platforms to choose from, but being aware of your target audience and preferred style of publishing reviews will give you a great jump start.

Tiktok is a great place to get started reviewing, especially if you’re new to it. One of my favorites for getting started is Vocal.media. I post reviews there then link it to my social platforms, plus I usually tag the publishers and authors on social as well.

What to Research:

Figure out what’s important to you for your criteria

For me, I judge based on Dialogue, Exposition, Characters, and Overall Story. To me, these are the most important qualities of a good book. Your qualities my be different—like Grammar, Character Relatability, or Usage of Tropes. Whatever you find is the most important for what you think makes a good book, judge based on that criteria. It doesn’t have to be four, you can have as many or few criteria as you want. It’s your review—do it your way!

Read some other book reviews by trustworthy reviewers and see what main qualities they mention. Use other reviews as an outline when you’re starting out. You’ll find your own voice soon enough, but getting the first review posted is the biggest step.

Be honest

Don’t be afraid of being honest, and if you don’t want to review a book because you didn’t like it—you don’t have to! If you Did Not Finish (DNF) a book, you you are under no commitment to review it unless you actively agreed to with either the publisher or the author.

Every Advance Reader Copy I’ve gotten came with the agreement that I would publish and honest review. This means they have faith in their book and believe that their reviewers will genuinely enjoy it! If you decide to publish a review for a book you really didn’t like, it’s common courtesy to NOT tag the author. For good reviews we tag them, for bad reviews we simply post. Always mention them by name, but you don’t have to always tag them. Remember, your reviews are for other readers first and foremost. By tagging the author you are pulling them into the conversation, so make sure you want them to be involved before you tag them.

Knowing Your Sources:

Check their number of followers

If you’re looking for books to review or people to follow to learn more about the process, check their follower count. It sounds vain, but they have their followers for a reason and usually, it’s because people trust their opinion.

Some of my favorite reviewers on TikTok are @ezeekat and @caitsbooks.

Reviewer credibility

Look for their “bad” reviews, see if you can find any books they really didn’t like

Most people who review books for a living, have to publish the good with the bad, there may not be many they didn’t like, but you should be able to find some somewhere. A bad review doesn’t mean they’re trashing the book, it simply means that they’re saying, “Hey, I didn’t really like this, but you might.”

If someone is ONLY discussing the books they didn’t like, that’s an immediate red flag. They don’t know what they like and are taking it out on the authors and books that they think are bad. Trust the reviewers who try to build up authors and give honest reviews of books without being disrespectful.

Citing Your Quotes:

Annotations

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used those little Post-its to keep track of important scenes and quotes. You can also make notes on those without writing in your book. Some people love to annotate, some people hate it. There’s really no one right way to do it, just so long as you are reading and absorbing the information, that’s what’s important.

Quoting the book

When quoting the book, make sure you have two things before the quote: the author’s name and the book title. And whenever you quote the book, make sure you add the page number in parentheses after or in-text before the quote. For example, if I were writing a review for Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, it would probably look something like the following:

    • “Celaena closed her eyes and smiled. She could think of no better Yulemas gift than for Cain to be found dead the next morning.”

    • The quote that really struck me the hardest was on page 262, “Celaena closed her eyes and smiled. She could think of no better Yulemas gift than for Cain to be found dead the next morning.”

You can do one or two quotes throughout or you can add all your quotes at the end of the post. Both of these methods work, it’s just a matter of what you prefer and what platform you’re posting on.

It’s your review, write it your way!

Follow the Trends:

Google search recent publications

By googling the books published within the past year, you can find out what’s new and what’s rotating on the internet. Discussing and posting about new and popular books is one of the best ways to get your name seen by other reviewers. Look for new books in your favorite genre then find one that sounds interesting.

You can also watch other reviewers and see what they’re enjoying. If someone’s review is so good that you decide to read it, make sure you tag them in your review so they are getting credit too. Book reviewing has become a community more than a solo activity. Spend time with the community around you see who likes the things you like and let them know when you enjoy something they recommend via the comments on their post or video.

Finding more information

For more information on how to write a book review, check out this BookTrust article about the very topic! It’s extremely short but packed with great information to help get new reviewers started on their journey. This article has a step by step breakdown of their recommended process and advice.

The second article I would recommend in by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This one is a bit more lengthy, but is packed with fantastic information and offers great advice on coming to critical conclusions. It specifically designed to be able to help with both academic and leisurely writing.

Lastly, if you decide to review books, make sure your main reason is that you simply, and wholeheartedly, love reading.

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