Saturday, November 4, 2017

Writing Book Reviews—A Door Into a Publication

Use writing book reviews as a road to publication
by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

One of the problems with being a new writer is. . . you’re new. Like a new employee, you haven’t established that you can show up, advise the customers, be on time, or are able to run the cash register. (Ugh, I still have nightmares where all the keys are blank.)

And like all new career seekers, we scream, “How am I supposed to get experience if I can’t get a job?” (Ever heard that before?)

My answer to my students was often to suggest they find some way in the door, then prove they were able to do the job. Simplistic, I know, but it often worked.

So unpublished writer, you may want to write for a magazine, journal, or publication. Or, you’re an author and you want to increase your platform; in other words, you want to get your name in front of more people interested in your topic. Or, you’re a speaker and want to build up your credentials. One way to do all three is to write book reviews for publications.

Many magazines, journals, even newspapers, carry book reviews for books of interest to their readers. I have a friend who writes about the local history of the South Carolina upstate. He could do a column reviewing books written by local authors and/or about the region. If you write mysteries, there are several magazines for mystery writers and readers.

How Does Writing Reviews Help a Writer?

1. A review gets your name in front of readers with your interest. Select a magazine that deals with your topics or targets your desired audience. The readers will see your byline and see you as part of that community.

2. It paints you as an expert. That’s a word that makes some of us jittery, but the more you read, the more it fits. And because you are regularly in the periodical, the reader will look to you for your advice. And by reading in that field, you are gaining knowledge and become an expert, whether you can accept it or not.

3. It encourages you to read. Reading is one of the best ways to grow as a writer, whether you’re reading in or out of your subject. Reading lets you grow your vocabulary and see or hear how others structure or tell their story.

4. And if you write only non-fiction, read fiction. Reading about the life of a potter helps to make your story more alive and enriches the vocabulary you can use in your book. It makes you more knowledgeable on your subject. My friend who writes local history would do well to read other books and articles on history, local and other, so he can grow his knowledge and be able to compare his local characters to, say, those from the southwest. What did his great-grandmama and Annie Oakley have in common? How do the pottery of the upstate and the pottery of the Navaho compare?

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that.”  Stephen King

5. It gives you a chance to show an editor or publisher your writing ability and professionalism. I once wrote a review that was published in a career developer journal. The editor later asked me if I would write another for a last minute submission. I wasn’t able to meet the deadline and I called and asked for an additional weekend. She agreed with no problem because she knew my previous piece had been accepted on time.

Publishers have their own ways of doing their reviews, so before you start, like in all writing for publication, read their guidelines from their website and read some examples.

Most reviews run from five hundred to eight hundred words. They are just sneak peeks at who the audience for the book is, what the book is like, how you liked it, and how to purchase it. They are not your school book report, where you dig into details and find the book’s themes and motifs. A review just answers the reader’s question of whether this a book that I’ll want to read or not.

If you’ve written your bio and think it’s pretty thin, look at your to-be-read pile. Are there any books that a publisher may like to have reviewed? It may turn into a win for them, and a byline for you.

Happy writing. And if you’re do NaNoWriMo, remember to get up and walk outside occasionally. 


Writing book reviews—a door into a publication - @TimSuddeth (Click to Tweet)
Tim Suddeth has been published in Guideposts’ The Joy of Christmas and on He’s working on his third manuscript and looks forward to seeing his name on a cover. He is a member of ACFW and Cross n Pens. Tim’s lives in Greenville, SC with his wife, Vickie, and his happy 19-year-old autistic son, Madison.  Visit Tim at and on Facebook and Twitter. He can be also reached at


  1. Mr. Tim; what a novel idea. I've often shared my own viewpoints (as a running dialog sometimes) on books I have read or am reading, but never thought "my opinion" might be something valued by a publisher or author. I see your point though as this being a great way to introduce yourself within the writing community. Thanks again for the great advise, and God bless.

    1. Thank you. Happy reading and I look forward to seeing your byline.

  2. Any way to get your name out there is a plus. I was recently a guest host on a blog and I wrote a review for my friends new novel. Things like that are huge for us and a plus for the blogger and the writer if our piece is good.

  3. Funny. I read this email right AFTER I submitted a book review. Thanks for adding some ideas on how to improve, and to continue writing book reviews.