I guess I am a book reviewer. Or something.
Actually, I love doing book reviews, but before I started out, I made sure to make a few “house rules”. I went out of my way to do reviews for people who like to write fiction. It’s fun. I get to talk about voicing, plotting, thematics, etc., in snobby writer terms.
I encourage everyone to review the occasional book on their blog. There are certain universal rules that make for a good book review:
Don’t internalize your review
The interwebs is rife with reviews that go “me me me me me me me (interesting thing about the book) me me me me me me.”
Don’t do that. Mainly because it’s been done before. A lot.
When you make a conscious effort not to broadcast your internalization of the appreciation or criticism of a book, the review comes across more professional and with deeper meaning.
This is a subtle point: while it seems there is a small gap between expressing why you loved something in terms of your feelings, and why you love something in terms of the art presented—that gap is an ocean. We all have opinions on art, we all feel art, but when we talk less about the artwork itself and more about ourselves, the context of the review changes, and usually not for the better.
Don’t meta the author
This happens all the time, even in reviews in magazines and newspapers. Rather than letting a book stand on its own, the reviewer tries to pick apart the work based on knowledge of the author or an attempt to examine the author’s motives.
This is elitists behavior. The reviewer usually comes across as either an ass or a creepy stalker, either way it’s lazy. Like super-duper-you-are-not-being clever-you-are-being-a-dork lazy.
Picking apart an author is a great academic exercise—only valuable to other readers when the reviewer examines the story on its merits first, and only if it’s done without an agenda.
Do buy the book
A book review carries more weight with readers if they know you purchased the book. More importantly, the book review has more meaning to you.
Do develop some house rules
Are your reviews comprehensive and all-encompassing? Are you going to post negative reviews even while searching for an agent? Will you have a common theme to your book reviews?
Spending a few minutes thinking about simple house rules makes things a lot easier. When I pick up a book to review, it sticks to a common theme (must deliver value to target audience) with a few ground rules (if I don’t like the book, I don’t review it).
Books books books books!
As writers, we love books. The online community is broad and diverse. A well-written book review not only serves my bursting need to talk about the cool stuff I read, but at the end of the day, serves other people who hop on the Internet tubes to read other’s thoughts.