Experts Offer the Ten Commandment of Book Reviewing
Experts offer The Ten Commandments of Book Reviewing
Are you passionate about books? Do you have the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers, yet are unsure about what makes a good review?
Veteran book reviewers Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards, authors of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, have written a book that explains how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review.
Here are their Ten Commandments of Book Reviewing:
1. Thou shall have no other gods before the reader. The review is not about the author, nor the publisher, and especially, not about you, the reviewer. Reviews are all about the reader. Don’t try to impress with pompous words in an attempt to glorify yourself or appear scholarly. Give readers simplicity and clarity. They’ll appreciate it. If they want verbose and fancy, they can read Shakespeare.
2. Thou shall not lie. Honesty is what defines your trade. Without it, you’re doing nothing but selling copy. When you give facile praise or sugar-coat a book, sooner or later readers will take you for what you are: a phony.
3. Thou shall try not to offend the author. Just as honesty is important, so is tact. There’s no need to be harsh or mean. A tactfully written, well-meant negative review should offer the author insight into what is wrong with the book. Instead of saying, “This is a terrible novel!” say, “This book didn’t work for me for the following reasons…”
4. Thou shall not eat the evaluation. Some fledgling reviewers write a long blurb of the book and leave out the evaluation. The evaluation is the most important part of a review. A summary of the plot is not an evaluation. Saying, “I really liked this book” is not an evaluation. The evaluation tells the reader what is good and bad about the book, and whether or not it is worth buying.
5. Thou shall not reveal spoilers. Nobody likes to be told the ending of a movie before having watched it. The same thing is valid for a book. If you give spoilers in your review, not only do you lessen the reader’s reading experience but you also risk being sued by the publisher or author.
6. Thou shall honor grammar, syntax, and punctuation. Don’t be one of those reviewers who are more in love with the idea of seeing their name online than making sure their reviews are well-written and thorough. Your reviews may hang around on the internet for years to come and will reflect on your level as a writer. Run a spell check, edit, revise, and polish your review, as if you were posting a short story. Get a good book on grammar, and punctuation, take an online course or listen regularly to podcasts such as The Grammar Girl.
7. Thou shall honor deadlines. If you join a review site where the turnaround for reviews is 3 weeks, then you should respect that agreement. If you promise the author to have the review ready in two months, you should honor this too. Be honest and straight forward from the beginning. If you’re so busy your turnaround is six months, make sure to let the person know. If for any reasons you cannot meet the deadline, contact the person and let him know. It’s your responsibility to maintain a do-able schedule.
8. Thou shall not be prejudiced against thy neighbor. Don’t assume that a self-published or small press book is poorly written. Give it a fair chance and let it speak for itself. Likewise, never assume a book published by a major NY house has to be good. You’d be surprised by the high quality of some small press books by unknown authors, as opposed to those written by big name authors whose titles are often in the bestseller lists. In general, most subsidy books are mediocre, but there are always exceptions. If you’ve had bad experiences with subsidy books, then don’t request them nor accept them for review. If you decide to review one, though, don’t be biased and give it a fair chance.
9. Thou shall not become an RC addict. RC stands for Review Copy. Requesting RCs can get out of control. In fact, it can become addictive. You should be realistic about how many books you can review. If you don’t, pretty soon you’ll be drowning in more RCs than you can handle. When this happens, reading and reviewing can change from a fun, pleasurable experience into a stressful one. If you’re feeling frazzled because you have a tower of books waiting to be reviewed, learn to say NO when someone approaches you for a review and stop requesting RCs for a while. Unless you’re being paid as a staff reviewer for a newspaper or magazine, reviewing shouldn’t get in the way of your daily life.
10. Thou shall honor thy commitment. Remember that any books you’ve agreed to review beforehand are being sent to you in exchange for a review. If your policy is not to review every book you receive, state it clearly on your blog or site so the author or publisher will know what to expect. If you have agreed to review a book, but have a valid reason for not reviewing it, let the review site editor, author, publisher, or publicist know.
The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards
180 Pages Twilight Times Books
Reference/Writing Trade paperback
Reference/Writing Trade paperback
The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing serves as an excellent reference tool and amalgam of resources. The book shows you how to write a well-written, honest, objective and professional book review.
Available online and at www.TwilightTimesBooks.com
About the Authors
Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published both online and in print, in publications such as The Writer, Writer's Journal, Acentos Review, Bloomsbury Review, Mosaic, and Multicultural Review, among many others. A reviewer for more than a decade, she now offers numerous book reviewing workshops online. She also offers workshops on the art of picture book writing. She's represented by Mansion Street Literary and Savvy Literary. www.MayraCalvani.com
Anne K. Edwards is an award-winning multi-genre author, reviewer and editor of Voice in the Dark Ezine. Her latest novel is the suspense thriller, Shadows Over Paradise, published by Twilight Times Books. www.AnneKEdwards.com
ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award Winner under the Writing Category!
2011 Global Ebooks Awards Winner for Nonfiction/Reference!
*US Book News National Best Book Award Finalist!
*Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist!
*EPPIE Award Finalist!
*Used for reviewing course at 3 US universities and 1 university in the Netherlands.
What People Are Saying
“There’s not a reviewer out there that wouldn’t benefit from this review of reviewing… this is a great reference book for libraries…”
–Heather Shaw, Editor-in-Chief, ForeWord Magazine
“This book from Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards is the first ‘Reviewer’s Desk Reference’ for book reviewers at all levels.”
–Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey, The World Audience
“As an experienced reviewer I learned that I do not know it all and will keep my copy of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing for reference. It is not a book I will loan out because it won’t be returned…If you want to break into book reviewing, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a must-have reference. Heed the author’s advice and you can write reviews that will get you and the books you review noticed.”
–Reviewed by Sharon Broom, Armchair Interviews.
“The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a useful took for both amateur and professional book reviewers, as well as book review editors. There should be no doubt that the good tips, thoughtful perspective and resource information can be of considerable value to anyone wishing to practice this art.”
–Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.
“I do recommend The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing as a must-have resource guide. Calvani and Edwards present a well-written gold-mine to potential reviewers as well as a source of information for experienced reviewers and authors.”
–Reviewed by Irene Watson, Reader Views.
“The Slippery Art… is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in book reviews – writers, reviewers, publishers, publicists, librarians, booksellers and readers.”
– Reviewed by Francine Silverman, Editor of The Book Promotion Newsletter
More Practical Advice to Remember When Reviewing
• Keep your writing style concise, direct and reader-friendly. Don’t try to impress readers with fancy words.
• Whenever possible, try to specify the intended readership. Some books are specialized and appeal to only one group of people.
• Stay away from clichés like “A real page-turner!” “Un-put-down-able!” It’s a pity, but even big newspaper reviewers sometimes use these expressions. You see them on the back of paperbacks all the time.
• Don’t let a few typos affect your review if the book is good. Even books published by major houses sometimes have small errors.
• Be advised that the most commonly preferred tense when writing a review is the present.
• Read different types of reviews to get a feel of what a review should be like. Soon you’ll be able to differentiate the well-written reviews from the mediocre.
• Try not to review books from family members, friends or people you know. The less you know about the author or publisher, the less chance of conflict of interest and the more freedom you have to be honest.
• If you read all kinds of books, then review all kinds of books, but if you mostly read books in one genre, then it’s more sensible to only review books in that genre. Your reviews will have more insight, more ‘meat’ when you’re familiar with other authors and books in that particular genre.
• Try to review books in the order in which you receive them. This will help in keeping up with deadlines and is only fair to the person who submitted it.
• If you plan to review books in all categories, make sure you understand the various types of genres and subgenres. It’s embarrassing to complain in your review that a story has highly improbably situations if the story in question happens to be a parody!
• Don’t be prejudiced. Don’t assume that a self-published or small press book will be poorly written. Give it a fair chance and let it speak for itself. Likewise, never assume a book published by a major NY house has to be good.
(See my review of this book tomorrow. Marilyn)