#LEVELUP: All About Writing Reviews
*this post includes affiliate links I have with Amazon*
Hello everyone!! If you haven’t heard, I have a new weekly blog series called “Level Up” where, every Sunday, I’d touch on a way to take your blog and/or business to the next level. You can check out all the other posts in the series here! Now, today, I wanted to talk about some key things to keep in mind when reading books for review, and what to include when writing your review. As well, I list out some formats to use, some ways to spice up your review + more! Grab my free downloadable, the Review Booklet, and follow along….
Key Questions To Think About When Reading:
- Are there any mature/adult themes in the book?
- ie. are there any trigger warnings you should include at the start of your review?
- If the book is based on a real setting or a true story or includes some historical information, does it seem to be accurate? If not, how do they differ and do you think it made a huge difference to the characters and/or plot?
- ie. did a book somehow describe the New York subway as always being really quiet and tranquil and not smelling bad? Talk about how (un)true that is and if it would have vastly changed a character or the plot if the description of the subway was more accurate.
- Do any of the characters share a marginalization with you, and how were their experiences similar or different to yours?
- Do the characters feel like real people you could meet on the street and talk to or do they feel one-dimensional?
- Was the book so good that you didn’t want to put it down or did you feel like you had to drag your feet through it?
- Similarly, did the book move really slow or too fast to the point of being inaccurate?
- If the book included a crime or mystery, could you see any of the twists coming? Did you guess the ending too early and was correct without anything possibly changing your mind?
Things To Do While Reading To Help You Later:
- Take quick, bullet-point notes about certain ideas you might have for the plot or what you think about a character or scene in the moment
- Post-it-note those “omg” scenes and big moments you want to come back to and talk about later
- If reading via e-book, you can do the same kind of thing as with print books:
- Highlight quotes
- Screenshot pages of “omg” scenes
- Include notes linked to a specific page or chapter
Things To Consider When Writing Your Review:
- Is your review going to include spoilers, whether for the book itself or for previous books if it’s in a series? If so, make that known at the start of your review (and in your title too!) even before including the synopsis because the synopsis can be spoiler-y too.
- Did you relate to any of the characters or did the setting remind you of somewhere you’ve been? If so, talk about that! You don’t need to get too personal but I love reading reviews where there is some kind of connection.
- Is the book written about a marginalization you don’t identify with (ie. disabled, Muslim, and/or Black etc)? If so, it might be helpful to find and link to other reviewers who do identify with the marginalization(s) and can more better talk about how the book reflected their identity. I really want to do this more as it’s a really good way to lift up the voices of the people who can better talk about an aspect of the book I can’t.
[Related: All About ARCs]
What To Include In The Review:
- Picture of the book cover
- Book name and author name
- Synopsis of the book (I use Goodreads to help!)
- Praise and criticisms about the
- Writing (Style)
- Overall thoughts on the book
- Would you recommend the book? If so, is there a specific target audience who might like the book or, on the flip side, is there a group of people who shouldn’t read the book (like someone under 18 for any really steamy books, for example)
- Conclusion + a parting question to the reader to increase engagement
Ways To Spice Up Your Review:
- Livetweet as you read the book and then incl the tweets in your review
- Recommend some similar books or movies
- Do it fast style → 10 Second Reviews
- Include a music playlist that reminds you of the book or a specific character
- Include some fashion looks inspired by characters in the book or the book character
Ways To Format Your Review:
- In essay form – in a couple of my reviews, I’ll talk about things outside the typical categories (see below) like talking about why I wanted to read the book or delve a little deeper into some ideas or themes in the book, and write a few paragraphs without any subheadings like I would if I’d reviewed by categories.
- In bullet points – sometimes, my thoughts about a book are really scattered and I don’t know where the review will go so I end up just doing bullet points of every thought in my head about a book and hope it makes sense.
- By categories – one type of paragraphed review I do is by breaking it down into major categories like plot, setting, character, writing etc and then doing my review for each section.
- By character – sometimes, like in my One Dark Throne review, the book I’m reviewing has multiple points of view and has multiple main or important secondary characters that I want to talk about individually.
- As a 10 Second Review – one thing I used to do years ago when I felt burned out by writing long-form reviews was to do 10 Second Reviews. Instead of writing out all my thoughts, I would just come up with around 10 words or phrases that matched what I thought.
You can see examples of all these different formats in my handy-dandy Review Booklet. Feel free to use them as a template when writing your own review. If you do the 10 Second Review feature, though, please link back to/credit me in your review. As well, please note that an example of the “by character” format is not available as my main review example contains spoilers.
Things You Can Do After You Post Your Review:
- Post it on Goodreads and/or Amazon* – when I go to read a book – specifically if it’s outside of my usual genre/tropes – I’ll go check Goodreads or Amazon reviews to see what my friends and fellow reviewers thought. Plus, for Amazon, it helps boost the book as, the more ratings and reviews (no matter if good or bad), Amazon takes notice and can promote it better.
- Schedule it out to your social media – unless someone watches your blog every single second of the day, most likely, they’re not going to (immediately) know you posted. So, to get people reading your post, schedule it out to social media and let em know that you’ve a new review up!
- Post it again to social media a few times – not everyone lives on the same timezone or is even on social media all the time (even if they seem like it) so it’s very easy to miss a post someone wrote. To combat this, post it a couple of times over the course of several days / weeks / months during different times so you can capture the most amount of viewers possible. Just make sure not to spam your timeline as that can deter people from reading the post, and, even make them want to unfollow you.
What NOT To Do In/With Your Review:
- Write blanket statements like “no one will like this book” or as if something is pure fact when it’s your opinion/experience – whether or not someone will like a book all comes down to preference. As well, you can just say “in my opinion, the plot….” or “in my experience, this character ….” This is especially important when writing about representation in a book as something I’ve had to learn is, just because a character shares your marginalization but does something you think is incorrect or wrong, doesn’t mean they are actually wrong. The experience just doesn’t match yours, but it might for someone else. If there was a better way to possibly navigate it, you can say that but don’t say something is objectively wrong unless it’s an actual fact.
- Assume an author’s identity/marginalization or lack thereof – authors are not liable to give up every single identity or marginalization they fall under, whether they write about it or not. So, don’t automatically assume that another straight author is writing a book with gay characters or that someone who hasn’t talked about their mental illness is out of line.
- Use specifically gendered pronouns – just like the last point, you never know someone’s identity so, unless the author has made it clear in their bio, just stick with the author’s name or they/them pronouns.
- Tag the author in your review and/or send it out to them directly – whether it is a good review or a bad review, don’t tag the author. The criticisms and praise available from someone outside the author’s already-made hemisphere of help can be hurtful and damaging and, honestly, the review shouldn’t really be for the author anyway, it’s for fellow readers. There’s no need to tag an author or link them to the review.
Aaaand that’s all about writing reviews! Thank you to Mo and Kitty who helped me with a few things in this post! I hope this post helped anyone out there hoping to write or get back into writing reviews. So, with that, congrats we Leveled Up! Now, do you have any tips to writing reviews that you’ve learned? Let me know in the comments below!
And, if you have any questions now or at any point in the Level Up series or if there’s something you generally or specifically want me to talk about, feel free to comment below, tweet me @AvidReaderBlog, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Thanks, have a great day/night, and tata for now!
*this post includes affiliate links I have with Amazon 😀