Why Book Reviews Matter & How to Write Them

We’re always talking with our members and publishers to find out how they use NetGalley, and what is important to them when it comes to finding titles, reading them, providing Feedback. Recently some of you told us that you would like some tips on how to write a book review and what happens once you submit your review to the publisher via NetGalley.

First, I’d like to start with why your reviews are important to the success of the book and the author. Since most titles on NetGalley are pre-pub and not even yet on sale, publishers are making them available for a very specific purpose: to gain feedback and insight from you–professional readers and influencers. These reviews will later help inform consumers, too.

Publishers (and authors!) really love a thoughtful, insightful, meaningful review. They can be used in many ways: as a blurb on the printed galley or final book jacket, in marketing/advertising materials, to help build a blog tour or other online promotions, to spur excitement in-house and with sales reps, etc. Don’t take our word for it–here are a few anecdotes straight from our publishers (and scroll down for some tips for meaningful reviews, too!):

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Dina Sherman
School & Library Marketing Director
at Disney Book Group

 

 

 

 


Former Associate Digital Marketing Manager at St. Martin’s Press:

“I love exchanging emails with readers at netgalley@stmartins.com, but I have to say we’re also very thankful for how conscientious NetGalley readers are about using the Start Feedback button. It is so useful for our publicists and marketers to be able to look back at a particular book and see all the reviews NetGalley readers have submitted in one convenient location.

And it makes it much easier for us to contact you directly in the future with books suited to your personal tastes. For example, many of you submitted reviews via NetGalley for Jay Kristoff’s fantasy debut Stormdancer. When it comes time to send out egalleys of the next book in the series, Kinslayer, I’ll use the NetGalley reviews to guide me as I start to build my contact list.”

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Pamela Brown
Marketing Director at Mulholland Books
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Lili, Children’s Publicity Intern at Bloomsbury USA (read the full post here):

“Submitting reviews is always a good thing! It ups your review ratios which we do see and it shows you’re reliable, which makes people more inclined to send you things and if you keep working with them then, who knows, one day you may be auto-approved! …auto-approved members are mostly those people who have been diligently supporting a house for a while that their name just sticks out.”

Tips for Writing Book Reviews:

As important as it is to understand how a review can impact a book, it’s also important to know how to write a review. We’ve asked some of our members, including professional reviewers, bloggers, and publishers, what they think makes a good book review.

  • Any review that you write should be constructive, whether it’s positive or critical of the book. Make sure to tell your readers why you liked or disliked certain aspects of the book vs. just stating your opinion with no evidence.
  • Be authentic and share your unique voice with the reader through your reviews. Your followers and publishers want to hear what you think of the book, and in your own voice. Treat this as if you’re talking with a friend, or stating your case at your book club.
  • Publishers appreciate critical reviews as well, as long as they are constructive and give thoughtful comments.
  • Strive to be kind in your brutal honesty. Avoid being hurtful in your constructive criticism–authors are people too!
  • Engage your reader(s) immediately in your review – use that first sentence to state your opinion.
  • Do include comments on the plot, character development, setting, theme, the writing style, any artwork or graphics included, extra materials (like a reading guide, glossary, etc.), dialogue, are the facts reported correctly (for nonfiction), does the book fit in its designated genre and age group.
  • Do include your full review and a link to where it is published online when pressing the Feedback button in NetGalley.
  • Do let the publisher know if you’re also cross-posting your review on retailer websites.
    • Check the publisher’s preferences either in your approval email or on the publisher’s page on NetGalley to find out when they’d like reviews to begin appearing online.
  • Do not include spoilers in your review (no one enjoys spoilers).
  • Keep in mind that galley copies have not gone through their final stages of copy-editing, so you may spot some grammar or spelling mistakes – but those will likely be corrected before the book goes on sale.
  • Proofread your review for grammar, spelling mistakes, typos, etc. before publishing it.
  • Most importantly, focus on your own goals for writing the review.
    • Do you want people to read this book?
      Tell them why they should seek this particular book out and read it. What would make you purchase a book you read a review about?
    • Do you think this is a book your readers should skip?
      Let them know why you disliked it – maybe the writing style wasn’t up your alley, or the plot didn’t quite work?
    • Do you want your readers to become a loyal follower of a particular author or publisher?
      Again, state your case and provide evidence for why they should do this and make sure to provide the book/author/publisher website and social media links so your readers can follow them – the author will thank you!
    • Are you recommending the book as a group read?
      Then let them know what makes this book conversational, why there is a lot to unpack about the characters, plot, etc.

Even if you don’t leave a full review, publishers still want to hear from you–see our tips for other types of Feedback that are helpful to the success of a book.

For more tips for writing book reviews visit:

Recipes for Success: 8 Tips for Writing Good Book Reviews
Guest post: Janice Harayda, novelist, award-winning journalist, and founder and editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews

Recipes for Success: How Publishers Use Your Reviews
Guest post: Cassie Galante at St. Martin’s Press

Recipes for Success: 5 Top Tips for Writing a Book Review

Recipes for Success: What Makes a Good Review
Guest post: Cindy Minnich, Nerdy Book Club

I hope you’ve found this information helpful & and if you have additional questions, feel free to add them to the comments section below! Best, Tarah Theoret

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60 thoughts on “Tips for Writing Reviews

  1. This was a very helpful article. When I am standing with a patron in the library stacks, I can express my feelings and give short plot details, but I’m never any good at writing them in reviews! Thanks for the links to help me make my reviews better!

  2. I always find that reading a book is the enjoyable part but writing the perfect review is so hard sometimes! I am very thankful for this article, Netgalley.

  3. Great tips. My reviews are usually only 1 to 2 paragraphs at most. I often wonder about reviewers who feel that they must go through the entire story in their review. I know I’d rather read shorter, thoughtful reviews, I already know the gist of the book from the website.

    How do publishers react to these types of reviews? Curious

  4. Great tips! Though in regard to spoilers, I admit that I sometimes do end up including them in reviews, in part because what counts as a spoiler for some doesn’t count as a spoiler for others. I don’t like to give away the endings to book, but it can be hard to talk about certain impacting scenes without mentioning the scene in the first place. I do try to add spoiler tags and a “highlight to read” bit when I’m posting the review on my website, at least.

  5. I love the idea of writing the review as if I were talking to someone about the book. Too often I try to follow a pattern with my reviews and they all end up like cardboard cutouts of each other, all sounding the same.

    I can’t wait to try this new approach to my review writing.

  6. This article is great. Ever since I started reviewing romance novels for a review site, until I started my own blog just last month, I was provided a set way to write my reviews. This is it:

    1. Introduce the story (who are the characters, and what happens in the story. Preferably something that relates to the book’s blurb), so you’re not giving away any spoilers.

    2. Talk about plot, dialogue, characters and if it’s a romance novel – the relationship between the characters (was it a sweet romance or offered a good amount of romance). Give examples of each.

    3. Give your overall opinion, would you recommend it, and what readers do you think would enjoy it the most. If it’s a series, but the book can be read as a stand-alone, would you recommend the series also.

    This outline has certainly helped me over the years, even if some of my reviews sounded similar. Yet, I found the best way, for each review, not to sound too similar is by giving examples Really good examples, such as what you liked or didn’t like about the book. I find I always leave something out, no matter how many times I proof read my reviews. Still, at the end of the day, I do the best I can. I’ve learned from different authors that they have to take the good with the bad, and it’s the reviews that are the most constructive that are going to win new readers over. .

    1. Thanks for sharing your reviewing guidelines. I’m going to try it out. I write a lot of reviews and often feel they are too long. Maybe this will help me keep them shorter.

  7. I have to agree with others on here, being very new to reviewing this article has become my “go to” when I have writers block or just a little unsure of how my review is coming along.

    Thank you!

  8. Great insight for a new book reviewer like myself in order to be able to start off on a good foot. I’ve started following an outline so that I can be sure to be consistent in my reviews and always try to write how I would like to be given feedback on a piece of writing. Direct, clear but kind and with alternative solutions to help me get redirected.

    Thanks for the article!

  9. It can be tricky writing about the plot. As Bibliotropic says, what one person thinks is a spoiler another may not.

    What I want to see in a review is what the basic situation of the story is, what kind of story it is, whether the characters are well developed and worth spending the time with, and if the writer makes good use of the language, whether with transparent prose, or beautiful language that’s a pleasure in itself. I try to include these things in my reviews. I hope it’s helpful to readers.

  10. I found this article very helpful. It is nice to see what exactly publishers are wanting out of a review. And it will help me to be a more constructive reviewer!

  11. I’m a fairly new blogger so this helps tremendously! I always try to tell how the book made me feel in my reviews, I will work on telling the why’s too. 🙂

  12. Thanks for posting this informative article. Still goes back to three simple points:

    Be honest,
    Give constructive positive feedback and
    KISS

  13. I am really liking this feature on NetGalley. I love the tips and hearing directly from the publishers what they are looking for in a review.
    I like the list of resources that I can refer to when I get “stuck” on writing a review to help motivate.
    I am a big believer that every book is not for everybody, but every book is for someone. I try very hard to keep this in mind when writing my reviews so others can understand what I liked about the book and why someone else should read it.
    Now that I am inspired, I am off to write a couple of reviews.

  14. My reviews tend to be short, contain a brief summary, and often compare titles to other books, movies, or TV shows that have a similar plot, theme, or tone. I use this style because that is how I discuss books IRL, and because my students and their families are my blog’s intended audience. They may not read blurbs from publishers or have heard of upcoming releases except through the blog, so a plot synopsis is important to them.

    I was glad to see that an authentic voice is important to publishers.

  15. I always try to do my best to give honest, thoughtful reviews. I’m not one for long, drawn out reviews that are winded. I feel like I can get the necessary information out there without giving a written essay. I enjoy reading fellow book lovers reviews and writing tips are always helpful to all of us. Thanks.

  16. Thanks for the review tips! I try to be constructive when reviewing, but sometimes, I just really like a book and don’t know why. Now, though, I can be better at reviewing. And, thanks to other reviewers that help me to help my patrons on books I don’t read!

  17. Thanks for making this available on my Dashboard. The article is very helpful and the links for further information I found to be so helpful.

  18. Wow….! Very helpful informations I gathered out of this article. Thank you to the writer of this article. I earnt so many things & hope include those facts to my future reviews. Thanks Once again.

  19. Thanks for this reminder! The information is very helpful and makes it easier to respond as a reviewer.
    Thanks again.

  20. I always try to discuss the book a little and say my opinions about the book in an introductory paragraph but I have begun to break up my reviews into a spoliery and non spoilery section with a very obvious divider between the two. That way if there is a specific thing that I want to discuss that is a spoiler I can do it, and people can come back later or even read the spoilery section (which always includes the novels trigger warnings) but the review covers everyone.

  21. As I have a brand new blog of book reviews, these are very helpful tips. Thank you for sharing them! I think I’ve hit most of the key points in my reviews, but I’m always looking for ways to improve them. Thanks for the great links to other resources as well!

  22. I appreciate the tips and I enjoyed and found the comments by other readers/reviewers encouraging in my quest to write impacting reviews to the books I am grateful to have the opportunity to read and review. I enjoy it.

  23. Thank you for this helpful information. I am just beginning to write book reviews and these tips will really help me with writing a better review.

  24. Some of my partial reviews have even made the back covers or in author praise in some authors books. I just do a more detailed blurb plus I give details why I loved it so much! For instance I review mainly for Scottish historical romance. I put in that the author did amazing research on the actual true history facts or if iconic heroes make appearances i. the story.

    I also put in a heat rating as some readers love sexual content and some hate it. I think it’s important readers know this information. I tend to give long reviews but without spoilers. If a series I put in the order number and all the titles In the series I get a big positive response for this. I also put in author appearances and signings in some of my reviews

  25. I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thanks, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your site? cekdfadfdkdfffdd

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