How to Write a Review

Because I, like many indie authors, need book reviews to prosper, it’s crossed my mind to wonder why so few readers write them. There are lots of theories.

1.Readers are lazy and/or can’t be bothered to take the time. They read books, toss them aside, and move on.

2. Readers don’t think their opinion matters; the pros do the reviewing, and no one cares what anyone else thinks.

3. Readers aren’t sure what to put into a review.

As for #1, there’s nothing I can do except implore you to reconsider. When you like a book, the only way other people get to share your joy is if you tell them about it. Likewise, when you hate a book, you can help others avoid inflicting the pain on themselves.

With #2, I’ve written about this before. There are professional reviewers out there, sure. They read what the Big 5 publishers give them. That’s it. The ones that lower themselves to the level of reviewing indie books require payment to spend their time doing so. That’s where you, the ordinary reader, come in. You read it, you have an opinion, and there are probably at least ten thousand people who will agree with exactly what you liked or hated about any given book. It’s a small way to help your fellow readers find something awesome or steer clear of something awful.

The issue then becomes #3: what the heck do you put in a review? If you were a writer, you’d be writing your own books, after all, and if you had the skillz to be a pro reviewer, you’d do that. Fear not. It’s not that tough.

What makes a good review?

It’s about how the book made you feel. Did you race through the story, eager to discover what happened next? Did the characters feel like real people? Would you pick up the author’s next book? Was there any point at which you thought something along the lines of ‘that’s just plain ridiculous’? Were there editorial problems bad enough that they distracted from the story (typos, confusing turns of phrase, continuity breaks, etc.)? How seriously did it take itself? Does it delve into controversial topics?

The answer to every single one of the above questions is good to put into a review. If you read my reviews, you know I take a little time and put some effort into it. No one is required to do that. A few simple statements suffice. For example, with my most recent review, of Strike, I had a few hundred words to say about it, but I could just as easily have put the following:

Entertaining, but a little empty. Not enough happened, and most of the characters didn’t feel real. Campy, cute, and a straight line from start to end. I liked it without being awed by it.

That doesn’t quite say all the same things, but it gets the message across. A review like that helps other readers set expectations. It sounds like a light-hearted summer beach read, probably best suited for those who aren’t looking for lots of depth and complexity. Which is useful information.

That’s it. Give others a hint of what to expect, and say what you think. Be brief if you want. Just please, please say something.


  1. Hi from frigid Ottawa, Ontario. I found your article recently through a member of my local writing group. I found it very helpful in that you encourage readers to provide even brief reviews after finishing a book. I have been linking to it often while encouraging reviews for my novel. Thanks!

    1. Thanks! It came from a conversation I had with a friend who read my book. I asked him to write a review, and his response more or less boiled down to “Er? What do I put in?”

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