Book reviews are everywhere: on television, in newspapers, in magazines, and especially online. In fact, there are hundreds of blogs dedicated to book reviews. In the world of book reviews, there are two major types, professional reviews and reader reviews.
Although authors hope to get as many reviews as possible, they also hope to see the differences between the professional review and the reader reviews.
Professional reviewers more often take an objective approach while readers are more subjective. And while reader reviews often focus on the book’s emotions and how it made them feel, professional reviews are much more rigid, focusing on the craft elements of writing, the subject, scope, and genre.
Here’s what a professional review covers:
The Basics: Talk About Subject, Scope, and Genre of Book
A professional review will always cover the basics. It will identify the book’s title and author, and if the book is fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, etc. Describe the context—the setting, and the general problem or conflict in the book (for example, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the reviewer might say that a group begins a journey to destroy a ring that could ruin the world). Talk about the key characters. Review the plot line without giving away any secrets.
Next: Thoughts & Critiques
Next comes their reaction to the book. Did they find it interesting, memorable, worthy of recommendation? Here, the professional reviewer will discuss central issues the book raises and how the book’s message and story affect the reader. Has this book changed the way the reader thinks about something? Right here, the quality of the story and the writing itself will be under the reviewers magnifier—was the storyline original, was the quality of writing good, or in need of editing and development?
If the review is going on a blog, the reviewer will provide links so readers can easily purchase the book, or so they can learn more about the author, the genre, or topic. These links serve as springboards so readers can explore more of the literary world.
The worst type of book reviews are ones that feel forced or, even worse, paid for. When book reviews sound less like an honest critique and more like a paid advertisement, you’ll lose your readers—fast. Unfortunately, we all know that not every book is good. Any professional reviewer has to approach reviewing a bad book tactfully and without being hurtful. After all, there’s always the chance that the publisher or author will read the review. A professional reviewer should be respectful but truthful.
A professional review should never be wholly negative. The reviewer should provide constructive criticism. If they didn’t like the book, their job is to explain why. In addition, their review will highlight the book’s successes alongside its failures, and explain why these failures might have occurred and how they could have been improved. For example, if the reviewer couldn’t engage with the character or if the heroine annoyed them, he should explain how it could have been better. A professional reviewer will never attack the author personally.
Most professional book reviews tend to be about 500 to 1,000 words, depending on where the review is posted. Blog and online media usually opt for longer reviews, while print media like newspapers or magazines usually want shorter reviews.
A successfully written book review will inspire conversation and feedback, and keep readers coming back for more advice on which books to read and which ones to skip. An honest and clear review will inspire any reader.
The next time you read a review look for these qualities.
My next week’s blog will tackle what a reader should cover in their book review.