As many avid readers know, book reviews can be magical. Not only are they book recommendations, they’re also bridges to our fellow bookworms all around the world. Reviews offer a chance to share your thoughts with other readers and to keep track of your own musings on the books on your shelf, but many find that writing a review isn’t as easy as it seems. To help our NetGalley members craft the best reviews possible, we’ve put together a list of 12 tips for how to write a book review. Whether you’re reviewing books on NetGalley or your personal blog and social media accounts, this guide is sure to help take your reviews to the next level.
Describe the plot
First things first: Your readers will want to know what the book is about. But describing the plot needs to be a fine balance in a book review. You want to share just enough to hook the reader without giving too much away and without veering into book report territory. Give a bit more background on the plot outlined on the book’s jacket, and focus on any elements that you feel particularly strongly about or you think that your readers will want to be aware of. If you’re reviewing an audiobook, you’ll need to also talk about the narrator, pacing, and more. You’ll find our tips for writing audiobook reviews here.
Spoilers—enemy number one of readers everywhere. Most readers take spoilers very seriously, but they continue to pop up in book reviews. Often, spoilers can be tempting to share because they are frequently the elements that gave the reviewer an intense reaction (a sudden twist, a shocking death, a surprise unveiling). But make sure you don’t rob any of your readers of that genuine emotional reaction or discovery. Unless your reviewing platform offers a way to hide spoilers, avoid them completely or at least add a “spoiler alert” warning to your review.
Consider content warnings
Content warnings can help readers be aware of elements of a book that might trigger traumatic memories, cause anxiety, or are generally upsetting. Providing them in a review is a helpful way of giving readers a heads up about what they’re in for so they can make a healthy and informed choice about whether or not they want to engage with that book.
Find the hook
There are two hooks to think about when writing a book review. First, how to make a reader stop scrolling and read your entire review. Second, in cases of positive reviews, how to convince them to pick up the book. Don’t wait until the middle of your review to try to catch the reader’s attention. Try to hook them from the very first sentence. Think about what made you pick the book up, and use that to inspire your own way of writing about it.
Make your opinion clear
This tip might seem obvious, but sometimes a reviewer may get caught up in describing the plot and forget to offer their own insight. We recommend making your thoughts clear as early as possible and throughout the review. As you describe the plot, share your opinion on the things that worked or didn’t when it comes to the writing, characters, and events of the book. Tell readers why they should (or shouldn’t) pick this book up.
Find your voice
Readers choose to follow certain reviewers because of similar reading taste, but also because they enjoy their review style. Celebrate your uniqueness in your book reviews. Provide the insight only you can offer. This is an opportunity to share your passion with other readers, so make it personal. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t happen immediately. Rewrite, hone your voice, and keep reviewing. Your signature style will develop as you go.
Ratings help to give readers an immediate sense of how you felt about a book. If you review on a personal blog, decide on the rating system that works for you and make sure you clearly explain how it works to your readers. Professional reviewing platforms like NetGalley provide readers with a pre-set rating system. NetGalley’s system pairs stars with a likelihood of recommending the book to fellow readers. Think about how the way you personally rate books fits into their system. For example, if you give half stars on your blog (or in your mind!) but the platform doesn’t have half-stars as an option, decide if those should be rounded up or down.
Consider the reviews you’ve read
Browse through NetGalley to read reviews and find examples that you think are effective. Ask yourself what it is that you like about the review, and find ways to showcase those same elements in an original way in your own. Maybe you’re swayed by great pull quotes, thorough plot summaries, or a review with a strong voice. Do you love reviews that are conversational, like you’re talking with a friend? Do you want a bit of humor in your book recs? Or do you prefer a serious tone, to convey how much thought you’ve put into your feelings about the book? These are all techniques you can use to make your own reviews even more successful.
Explain both praise and critiques
When it comes to book reviews, it’s important to explain both your praise and critiques of a book so that other readers get the whole picture. For example, don’t just say that the book has great characters—explain what makes them great. Don’t tell readers that the book was boring—explain which elements failed to capture your attention. This will help readers to understand your point of view and decide for themselves whether or not this is a book that they might enjoy. Thoughtful praise and critique often can also be a great starting point for a continued conversation about a book. Click here to read our tips for writing a critical book review!
Think about the audience
Let readers know if this is a book you’d recommend, and to whom. Not every book is suited to every reader, so you’ll want to be specific about who is likely to enjoy it. For example, you’d recommend A Game of Thrones to fans of historical fantasy, not urban fantasy. But it may also be a great recommendation for those who love a good political thriller. Keep in mind that even if a book didn’t fit your personal reading tastes, there’s a chance it may appeal to other readers and your review could help them discover it.
Proofread before posting
The fastest way to lose credibility with your audience is to have a typo-laden review. Give your entire review a final read before posting to catch any spelling or grammar errors, including checking facts you share, the spelling of author and characters names, pronouns used, and any quotes you use. The last thing you want is for a reader to stop following your reviews because you accidentally kept calling the main character Jay Catsby.
This is also a great time to add a disclosure statement! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires readers to disclose if they received a review copy of a book. In reviews, members should include a simple line like, “Thank you NetGalley and (publisher) for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.”
Reviewing can be a labor of love, but it’s a job that should always bring you joy. If you ever find yourself feeling burned out, take a break and remind yourself of why you started reviewing in the first place: to share your love of books with readers all over the world.
Great summary. I write quite a few book reviews and this has helped me think more about what I should emphasize and how to phrase my comments. I like the reminder to have fun, too! Thanks!
I have seen it written in many places that book reviews should be impersonal. Keep the focus on the book, not on the reviewer. Probably good advice if one is looking to make a living at it. But I often find that a personal touch adds a lot. Not all books will touch those individual nerves, or connect to one’s life experiences, but I have found that when books do, incorporating those elements gives my reviews considerable extra punch. Also, I have found them among the most fun to write.
Excellent points! Thanks!
This looks great!
Thanks for the great tips on writing book reviews. I often wonder what would make my review stand out or really express my feelings about a book. I totally agree about careful proofreading before being posted. I am also turned off if a reviewer has grammatical errors, misspellings, and exhibits poor writing habits. I also agree that a good review should give the reader a little glimpse into the personality of the reviewer! ❤️📚
Great tips and very helpful suggestions!
Loved this article 😊
Very useful article. Thank you!
Thank you so very much for the tips! Been doing reviews for over a year now and I’m getting better at it! One thing do hate is your not dc king a book report! I try and getting better,I don’t want to know a bunch when reading a reviewing but ,just enough I say to wet my whistle! I never thought about using the humor think I will try that when it’s warranted! Thanks again,will let you know if I think I am improving ,lol,can’t get any worse than I am now!!Maybe when I write one I will have you look at it for me. I will send you a copy!!
The tips are good and helpful. As I read other reviews I do get insights into way to present my views. But I refrain from being too much of a critic in respect to the author’s effort in writing so many pages. Thanks for the tips.
I’m trying to write my 1st ever review and to be honest I’m nervous. I really like the author and the book was amazing, so I’m worried about letting the author down. These tips are going to be invaluable, so thank you.
Thank you very much, this was very helpful in helping me get started! I’m so excited!
Thank you for these great and helpful hints for writing a book review. I am new to book reviewing online but have been giving book reviews in the 5 libraries I have worked in, over the past 20 years, as an Assistant Librarian. I have loved reading since 1st grade and have tried to pass that passion on to family, friends, and strangers! I write brief reviews on BookBub and GoodRead, while keeping a list of all the books I have read.
This was very helpful! Thanks
Write a book that is not only going to fill your pocket but is also going to satisfy your mind and heart. In essence, to write an amazing book, you must be an amazing, passionate author.
Lots of good tips on writing a review. I don’t agree on including a summary of the story in my reviews. A summary can be found on the jacket front fly or on various websites. I believe a review should include the rest of the items you mentioned and should be my personal viewpoint of the book. Then the reader can make their own decision on whether or not to read the book.
I agree with you, Kathy C., about foregoing the summary of the story in the book review. Not only is this information available on the book jacket or online description, but reading review after review that begins with a summary becomes tedious. I’m really more interested in what people think about the book rather than their summary of the plot. I definitely agree with all the other tips offered. Thanks for your helpful thoughts!
I understand that you want to your reviewers to put some thought into their reviews. I read a lot of books (200 plus a year, not including the ones I don’t finish). I review most of them and I get a lot of positive comments on my reviews. The reason why is I am honest, and I explain to the readers how this books relates to events in my life. The response is that readers respect my reviews because I have a worldly view and have experienced events that most people have not. For example, I wrote a review about Mohammed Ali biography and the author include a lot of current events that were going on during that time. This was when I was a teenager, and I remember those events and Ali’s life relevant to me because he was reacting to what was going on at that time. So yes you can write a long review, and describe the plot, but if you can’t explain how the book makes you feel then you have lost your audience.
I’m finding out what is proving difficult in writing reviews is that some books have almost the same theme/plot. For me, it’s like watching an exciting weekly TV series that engages me and I want to continue until the season ending. I really can’t complain about the authors because I tend to pick my favorites. Any ideas on how to write a good review?
Thank you for this article! I have a brand new book blog and reading thru these tips gave me a few ideas to keep me on track while writing a review. I do like that the information is conveniently separated so I can just glance at the topics when I need to. I’ll be saving this for ease of reference. Thanks again!
Just wondering about book covers we love, do we mention that in the review? Some book covers are just beautiful, and some are fairly ordinary.
If a cover really makes an impact should we also give credit in our review of the book?
Thanks for your insightful tips,
Great question! While it isn’t necessary to talk about a book’s cover in your review, if it had a particularly positive impact on you it’s definitely worth mentioning. You can also use the Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down option on all book pages to show your love for favorite covers, or by selecting that it’s what drew you to the book when making a request!
Thank you for these tips. I will try to leave reviews in accordance with these suggestions that will be a credit to the company and to the authors that have shown confidence in my commitment to be a reliable and honest reviewer.