7 Tips For Writing Good Reader Reviews

The formal book review with its formal parameters seems to have gone the way of daily milk delivery, newspaper subscriptions, and the dinosaur.

Now we have reader reviews. Many of them are thoughtful. Many of them are like snarky cocktail party chatter. Yet, many readers never post a review.


They don't know what to say. They're afraid they'll get attacked by readers with different views. They don't see why they should take time to do this.I'd like to give the average book loving reader some tips.

What To Say

1. Don't worry about summarizing the book. There's already a product description on the book's webpage.

2. In an online review to be posted on the book's webpage, you just need to say how you felt about the book and why.

If you liked the book, say so. Then say why.

For example, if you were posting a review of Gone With The Wind, you might say: I liked this novel because it's set on a plantation in Georgia as the North and South are on the brink of war, and I love books set during the Civil War. Or, you might say, The heroine of this book is Scarlett O'Hara, a spoiled, head-strong young woman, and I like the kind of conflict created by women like that. Or, you might say, I like to read anything that is historically based and well-researched.

If you don't like the book, say so. Then explain why.

Using the above example, you might say, I didn't care for this book because I just don't care for books set in the Civil War. Or, you might say, I didn't like this book because I thought the character was self-absorbed and arrogant. I prefer to read books where the heroine is a likable woman.

3. Never include “spoilers,” elements of the book that are to be surprises, in a review.

4. Give your opinion of the book as it is written, not how you think it should have been written.

5. Do NOT allow your personal prejudices or attitudes about the author, the premise, the theme of the book, the manner in which it was published, or anything else not related to the book to intrude in your review.

Please don't ever make personal remarks about the author, i.e. anyone would have to be a moron to write a book like this.

To paraphrase what Danielle Steele once said about reviews: "Writing a book, getting it published, and getting bad reviews is like making a beautiful cake and someone comes along and sits on it."

6. Summarize your thoughts about the book and feel free to make recommendations such as, if you like southern humor, you'll love this book.

7. Always be respectful of the author and his time and effort. This doesn't mean suppress your true opinion. It does mean to present your opinion in a respectful, professional manner as if you were talking in person to the author.

Take The High Road & Ignore Those Traveling The Low Road

If you post reviews and someone makes a comment on it, for instance, This person is an idiot if he thinks this is a good book. (Or a bad book.) Don't answer back. Ignore the comment. Ignore that person. A fight can't start without 2 combatants.

Why Post Reviews

Believe it or not, writers try to learn from their reviews. If a thoughtful review mentions something the author is doing particularly well, she'll do more of it. If it mentions something she failed at, she'll try to improve. Good reviews boost an author during the long process of writing another book. Bad reviews may bring her down, but if they contain some insight, then they too are valuable.

Be responsible. Be objective. Be polite.

I think a lot of the acid-tinged reviews I see wouldn't be posted if someone had to say all that to the author's face and/or would have to sign their real name to the review.

Takeaway Truth

Please keep in mind that no one ever sets out to write a bad book. If you see a book in print, then you can bet the author spent long hours working on that book. Authors know that not everyone will like their "baby," but they expect literary criticism to be handled in an objective, friendly way.


  1. This was such a helpful post. I've got several reviews that I need to write and I found your tips very helpful! Will Tweet.

  2. Hey, Becky! Thanks. Appreciate the Tweets.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!