How To Write A Book Review

I came across a presentation on writing book reviews and was curious, so decided to give it a listen. For those of you who don’t know, Goldenwest Editing reviews books*—some voluntarily and some professionally—and I’m always looking for hints on how to do them better. While I liked the presentation, the reference books the person recommended were almost 10 years old and in internet years, that’s archaic. A quick look at recent reviews of the books and yep, didn’t buy them.

But, it had me thinking, so I went down a rabbit hole or three looking for advice online on how to write book reviews and I wasn’t impressed. Hence, this post.

  • Do be objective.
  • Do be specific as to what you liked/disliked—give examples.
  • Do give your recommendation while also stating who would enjoy this book.


Let’s start with why are book reviews important?

Depending on where books are listed, the more reviews a book has, the greater the likelihood of the book being promoted to more readers (yes, I’m looking at you, Amazon) versus books with few to no reviews. And with that comes the potential for more sales. For authors/publishers, there are also different book deals and lists (e.g. NYT Best Selling Author), which ultimately means more sales and more readers. Hopefully.

If you’re a member of any author groups, authors will tell you not to worry about how long your reviews are, what matters is if you like the story and that you post your reviews on retailer websites.

But sometimes that isn’t enough.

The reviews should include:

  • Title of book:
  • Stars: We use the basic 1-5 star rating prevalent at so many retailers.
  • Summary of story: Basic story description.
  • Review: Our review of the story (see below for an example of what to include).
  • About the author: Usually provided by the author and/or publisher.
  • Find it on Goodreads: We use Goodreads for our URL links. Even though it’s owned by Amazon, if authors/stories are wide, then there will be links to different retailers available on Goodreads.
  • List of other books if it’s part of a series, or other books we may have reviewed by the same author, and we’ll link back to those reviews.
    Page count.
  • Categories: If you are building a book review blog, then these come in handy. If you’re unsure what to use, check out the book listing to see how the authors/retailers categorize it. Examples: historical romance, science fiction, contemporary art, literary fiction, etc.

How to write the book review

If you plan on writing reviews regularly, then I would suggest creating some sort of template, check out ours for ideas. Once you have an overall format, you may be wondering how do you write the actual review?

Again, having some sort of template to use as a guideline may help you get started, but at the very least, consider answering some questions.

  • What did you like/dislike about the book: Whether it was a mesmerizing story, a sweeping saga, characters that were difficult to like or relate to, jazzy dialogue, etc. To help with this, if you’re reading an eBook, you may have the option to highlight quotes that you like/found interesting, which you can do as you read and then after, you can use some of the quotes in your review.
  • Who is this book for: Teens, YA, college age, lovers of angst, dystopian aficionados, etc.
  • Overall assessment: What did you think? Love it? Learned something? Immediately went out and bought more books by this author?
  • Why choose the rating: If you’re doing this on your own blog, you might want to choose a different method, but we tend to follow the 1-to-5 stars rating. If you want to provide additional details in terms of why you chose that score, you could consider adding something like this.
  • Content: 3.5/5
  • Editing: 2/5
  • Formatting: 4.5/5
  • Pacing: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Dialogue: 4/5
  • Book cover: 4/5
  • Content: Mature readers, at least 18+

Eventually, you’ll want to look to developing your own voice as you start to hit your stride. If you’re looking to develop a niche, based on preferred genres or areas of expertise, you might want to limit what types of books you review. Or not. That’s up to you.

Types of niches

If you have a website already and merely want to add to it, then based on who visits your website, maybe tailor your reviews that way? If you’re a graphic artist or have a love of fonts and graphics, consider emphasizing the covers in your reviews (there is an audience for that). Admittedly, I don’t often look at book covers, as it isn’t something on my radar. For me, when purchasing books I tend to look at the following: if it’s an author that I read all the time, I will most often buy the newest publication without reading the book summary much less knowing anything about it. Other influences are the book’s description, the categories it’s in, reviews (I will check out the 1-3 star reviews first, more on that below), and possibly use the preview if I’m still undecided.

Why do I look at negative reviews first?

I started doing this years ago when shopping for products online. While I do love seeing glowing reviews and I will scan them, for me, I find more value in what people didn’t like as I check to make sure their complaints aren’t deal breakers for me. With products, negative reviews that point out issues with quality, difficulties with customer service, under/oversized, etc. all play in to my decision-making. With books, if too many people complain about the editing to where it’s a distraction when reading, that’s one of the first no-buys for me. While I can overlook quite a bit, if it’s bad enough to throw me out of a story, then that’s a no go. If someone is complaining that a character is too much of something and that happens to be something I enjoy, then THAT book will probably be a one-click for me.

Dos and Don’ts of Writing Book Reviews

  • Do be objective.
  • Do be specific as to what you liked/disliked—give examples.
  • Do give your recommendation while also stating who would enjoy this book.
  • Don’t be an asshole. Seriously. If you don’t like the author or you took personal offense to something in the story, that’s on you. Move on. There’s no need to be a jerk and write a scathing review simply because you got your panties in a wad.
  • Don’t give spoilers. If something huge happens in the story and it excites you, you can make a vague mention of it, but don’t give it away. That’s rude.
  • Don’t report problems regarding formatting or content quality to Amazon or other online retailers.

    So let’s close this.

    Most importantly!

    Have fun. If you’re just starting out, choose books that you’ve enjoyed and are excited to share with others, and then, get started. If you’re looking to challenge yourself, Goodreads has a reading challenge every year where you can pick a set number of books you hope to read for the year. You can use that platform as a way to track what you read and also where you can start writing book reviews.


    *Goldenwest Editing doesn’t get paid for the reviews we post here on our website. Those are strictly voluntary. There are occasions where I might have received an ARC, but generally, we own the books we’re reviewing and we encourage you to do the same.