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How to write an online book review

How to write a book review

Writing an online book review can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. And it doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes to write.

For starters, why write a book review?

So. You’ve read a novel or a non-fiction book, you’re thrilled with it, and you want to let the author and potential readers know how fabulously entertaining or helpful it was. Or maybe it was just good enough, and you want to point out the parts you liked and those you didn’t. And on the extreme end, it’s so bad you want to warn people to not waste their money.

Writing a book review is a big way to thank authors and even help them. Most authors don’t earn much, after all, other than a few best-selling authors and indie publishers with a combination of writing talent, marketing savvy, and the means to get it all done. And when you consider the cost of publishing, whether indie or traditionally published, authors need all the help they can get. 

The truth is, the more reviews a book gets, the more exposure Amazon and other online distributors give it. It’s that algorithm thing that makes certain books come up near the top when you do a keyword or other search. And more exposure means more sales.

Plus, potential readers are encouraged to buy when they see how many copies others have bought, and the only way they can know is by the number of reviews. A book might sell 1000s of copies, but just a few reviews lead readers to think it’s a total flop.

Make it easy—keep your book review short.

There’s no reason to write more than a few words or a short paragraph unless you want to share your complete experience. At a bare minimum, “I enjoyed this” or “This book really helped” is great if you’re short on time or just can’t think of anything more. But mentioning why you enjoyed it helps everyone. Here are two examples.

“I love this story because the characters are weird, fascinating, and endearing at the same time, and the unexpected ending is great.”

“This very readable book provides valuable information I was able to use right away in my business.”

Don’t summarize the plot or information.

Authors already know what the book’s about, and potential readers can read the blurb and preview. Adding “Spoiler alert!” doesn’t help. Why “spoil” anything?

There’s no harm in mentioning story bits if you feel more comfortable with that approach or feel it’s necessary. Just avoid retelling the story or giving away too much. Rule of thumb: don’t give away anything more than what’s in the book description or the preview (the first chapter or so).

“Just when I thought vampires were done for good, this billionaire vampire love story swept me away. A female vampire as the billionaire—with two bratty vampire kids—adds a fresh twist to an old story. Well done! Highly recommended.”

“One of the best novels I’ve read in a while. It gets a little too bloody and gruesome for me, though, so I skimmed over those parts. But everything else is perfect.”

Provide solid reasons for your assessment.

Explaining what you like or dislike about the book is especially helpful to other readers and the author. Stand by your opinion with facts as you see them.

If you loved the book, say so and explain why. In fiction, a good story includes realistic characters, an interesting setting, or a well-paced plot. It might feature a main character you can identify with, detailed descriptions, and challenges you yourself have experienced. Funny, uplifting, ironic, bittersweet, exciting, thrilling, deep, and dark are all “facts” that can mean an enjoyable or rewarding story.

Non-fiction, on the other hand, is useful, helpful, fact-filled, or well organized. It can be insightful, detailed, perfect for beginners, loaded with tips, or written in an easy-to-follow format. Extras such as checklists or worksheets are also good reasons for a positive review.

Play nice.

If you disliked the book, try to be nice. Most of the time, readers don’t like a book simply because it’s not their thing. Nothing’s “wrong” with the book, but it just doesn’t appeal. Too much explicit sex or too “sweet,” too bloody or not bloody enough, or too complicated vs. too simplistic are common.

I don’t like Stephen King’s work, for example, because I don’t like horror. But I’ve read a few of his novels, and I recognize his talent. He has his audience, but it’s not me. So if I don’t like a horror novel by any author, why would I write a lousy review just because my taste is different?

A book review that claims a book “is a piece of trash” or “totally stupid” only reflects on the reviewer. Comments like that never stop me; in fact, they make me curious: why is this reader reacting so strongly? What pushes their buttons? It might be a sign I’ll like it.

But sometimes the book really is the problem. Maybe it needs editing or proofreading. Maybe, especially if it’s an ebook version, the layout is so badly messed up it’s difficult to read. Say so. Being objective rather than subjective will help other readers and the writer.

Not sure how to submit an online book review? Here are instructions for Amazon. Other online retailers are similar. 

These examples will help you write your own online book review for fiction and non-fiction.

It should take you only five minutes or less!

Five-star book review

I loved this! I could totally relate to the main character, and I loved the ending. Can’t wait for the next one!

This was just beautiful. The story warmed my heart, and I plan on reading it all over again starting tonight.

I really appreciate the detailed advice, tips, and instructions in this book. And the worksheets are great. It’s exactly what I need to make my business a success!

Good story. Held my interest throughout.

Four-star book review

This novel was great. I just couldn’t put it down. But some parts were confusing, and I had to re-read a few times until I could figure out what the author meant. Other than that, super!

Great story. I gave it only four stars because I felt the lovey-dovey scenes were too much. Just my preference. My favorite part is the ending, and I admit I cried. Keep up the good work! Hoping you’ll tone it down though.

This was really good, and I’ll mention it to friends. But I thought the style, especially some odd punctuation, made it hard to read at times.

I am deeply grateful for this book. It opened my eyes to different ways I can trim my constantly overbooked lifestyle and get my sanity and my health back. Thank you! PS I would have given it 5 stars but some sections didn’t have the details I wanted.

Three-star book review

This was pretty good. But I had a hard time liking the main character (I thought she’d change), and I wished she had solved the crime instead of her partner.

Great story overall, but there weren’t enough details and too much blood and gore. It also seems written for kids because it’s so simple (it doesn’t say), and I almost didn’t finish it. 

I thought this book would provide more exact information. I already knew about most of this stuff, but the blog post I read made it seem like a lot more. Some of the information was new, though, and I can definitely use it.

Loved the story. Didn’t love the grammar errors and typos.

Two-star book review

I’m only giving this novel two-stars because some parts were great, but other parts were like a self-help book. I didn’t finish it because I didn’t need the advice. I think two different books would work better.

This was a fast read and a basically good story. But the characters didn’t have depth or personality. Everything was just too easy for them, and there wasn’t any moral of the story or something beyond what happened.

This has great potential, but I couldn’t finish because of all the typos. I’m willing to forgive a few, but this has so many I moved on to something else.

I found this book somewhat helpful, but I’m leery of the advice because there’s no documentation or references to the studies the author mentions. The description hyped it up, but now that I’ve read it, I’m disappointed.

One-star book review

I wish I could give this more than one star, but I can’t. It looked good, and it was free, but there’s just no flow or organization. It’s like a bunch of blog posts thrown together.

I was shocked by the author’s lack of research. The story starts out great, and I was expecting more of the same. But the veterinarian’s treatment of the dog is totally wrong. I’m a vet technician, so I know what I’m talking about. And the way her boyfriend treats the dog—forget it. It’s abuse, and I couldn’t go on after that.

Stereotypes and the main character’s sexist and racist attitudes were a huge turnoff. 

This is more of a marketing technique to buy the author’s courses than an informational book. I thought it would be good, but there’s very little to it.

This book seriously needs a spelling and grammar check. Impossible to read.

If you’ve held off on writing a book review because you don’t have the time or don’t know how to write one, problem solved! It takes just a few minutes to share your experience with other readers and the author. Give it a whirl!

Comments and questions are always welcome!

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7 comments… add one
  • Leah, I’m glad you included the steps. I’ve wanted to leave a review before, but I never felt comfortable doing it. I’m ready now! Thanks!

    • You’re very welcome! And I’m so glad it’s helpful to you 🙂

  • Hey Leah, this is very instructional.

    I try to review most books I read. One question is are you suggesting the one-liners will do in each example, or that all the one-liners in each category need using for one review.

    One more thing – as a new author, each level reminds me of what I need to strive for and is not printed out on my wall. An unexpected bonus!
    Martin Haworth recently posted…Exciting News Update – New Affiliations and Publishing House!My Profile

    • Hey Martin! Glad it’s helpful to you.

      I’m not 100% clear with your question (comparing both parts). But let’s see if this helps.

      -A single sentence (one-liner) can serve as a book review in any situation (category), whether it’s a 5-star or a 1-star review or somewhere in between. The idea is that any review can be super short. It doesn’t have to be, but short works just as well as long.

      -No, you wouldn’t want to use all the one-liners for one review. Each one is intended as complete. And remember, those are just examples. You’d want to word things in your own way, although the examples are pretty common.

      Hope that helps!

      Nice idea to think in terms of reviews with regard to your goals!

  • Interesting ideas on book review…I am interested in taking up book review online, hoping it will boost interest of reading leisurely for me and my kids…

  • Some please recommend which service I should pick among the ones listed on this site.


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