Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Writing a Valuable Book Review

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

Sitting on the cusp of a new book release, the reality of good book reviews weigh heavy. The natural questions of acceptance raise our worry level just a smidge. Will readers like the book? Will they even post a review? What about the hate reviews?

I’ve often wondered what good a review is. They do serve a higher purpose. Whether you have one book review or hundreds showing, they guide the possible reader to your work.

Writing a review is more than telling others that you liked the book. Though that is a primary purpose, a review can make or break the success of a book, simply because those bad ones always seem to be the ones that stay at the top of the pack.

The purpose of a review is to let others know about the book. How they liked it and what impressed them most about the words you’ve written. It doesn’t have to be 800 words long to make a strong impact. The biggest impact is that the reader took the time to post it. These days, this is a plus. 

Dos and Don'ts for Writing a Book Review
Write one: Getting a reader to write a review is a chore so how do we make that happen? Truthfully…write an impactful book. When a writer truly crafts a strong story that moves the reader, their excitement forces them to want to share. Whether your book is just a great story or a piece of non-fiction that speaks to the masses, a well-written book will move readers to want to share it. That aside, learn to make writing a review part of your reading habit. Every time you read a book, post a review.

Write a review, not a novel: Goodreads is a great place for reviews. The problem with Goodreads is reviews are paragraphs long. When a reader looks to purchase a book on Amazon, they tend to read the first three to four lines. I asked readers, what makes them read or not read a book review?  Their first response – I like a short review. Second, I hate it when a review tells me the whole story. This circles back to “short and concise.” These takeaways tell me something. Make your review short to the point. Don’t paraphrase the entire book. The average reader wants to know: 1) do you like the book  2) was it a fast read or slow and thought-provoking  3) would you read more from this author? As you pen your reviews keep that basic information at the forefront. A good review is short and gives the reader the answers to the questions they seek about the continuity of the book.

Pen with kindness: I get it when a reader hates a book. It’s important to go into reading reviews with tough skin. Every book is not going to be loved by every reader. My first novel was a very hard subject and to top it off, the bad guy was a pastor. I knew the subject matter would draw some heat. To my surprise, only a handful of reviews were harsh and only one was horrible. A reader accused me of being a horrible person and if that wasn’t enough, she attacked my family. It upset me but truthfully it probably worked to my advantage for some readers, sparking a curiosity to see exactly what horrid things I had done. When you write a review, even if you hate the book, be kind. Simply state that this was not a book you enjoyed and why. Here is an example of a 1-star review written nicely.

I can’t lie. This was not a book I’d recommend. It was filled with violence and I’m just not good at reading that stuff. In fairness, the writer of this book made an engaging book which is why I finished reading it. If you have a history of being abused, you may want to skip.  

The reader didn’t care for the book, but she was honest and kind in her remarks.  Avoid getting personal. It does nothing for either of you.

Respond to bad reviews: Many folks will tell you to just look past the bad reviews. Don’t respond. I would say, respond with gratitude even when you want to attack the reviewer. If I receive a bad review this is my response. Thank you for taking the time to read ___________. I realize it wasn’t your cup of tea, but I wanted to thank you for investing your valuable time in reading and posting a review. 

Why do I do that? 1) the reader bought the book. That sale generates a royalty payment. 2)everyone’s time is valuable and worthy of a thank you. They may not like my book, but they took the time to purchase, read, and post a review. When you get a bad review, simply be grateful for the positive. Don’t respond with a snide remark. That only makes you look bad. When you respond in kindness, the reader may just give you a second chance with a different book.

Don’t mention you know the author: One sure-fire way to have Amazon rip your review from the list is to mention you know the author. Big no-no. These reviews appear to be coerced or paid. Do your review and your author friend a favor and stick to a tight concise review without the fact you know them personally.

When you read, write a review. Keep the suggestions in mind and you will see how writing a review becomes something you anticipate.


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for christiandevotions.us and inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Chrisitan Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.


  1. Cindy,

    Thank you for this valuable post about the importance of book reviews. As an author, I know how hard it is to get these reviews. As a reader, for many years when I read or listen to a book, I write a review--on amazon and Goodreads. I've written over 1,000 amazon reviews and over 600 Goodreads reviews. It does take time but important time in my view to help fellow authors but also to help fellow readers--who are making buying decisions every day based on those reviews.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

    1. Thanks Terry. It is important to help our fellow peers and a review is a simple way to do that.

  2. So true, Cindy! Reviews are our lifeblood. I've gotten some as short as "I loved it" or "Great book" and even those are good, especially if the person is listed on Amazon as a "verified buyer."

  3. Me too Miss Ane. It means a lot to move a book up into the view of the Amazon eye.

  4. Thanks for your valuable information. Truly enjoyed the message it brought out. Reviews are so helpful and important. Thanks a million. Keep up your good work.

  5. This is great advice. I write a lot of reviews for fiction. I see writing reviews for books in the inspirational market as a ministry; with the hope of getting stories that share God into the hands of other readers.

  6. Thank you for this helpful post, Cindy. I admit to sometimes agonizing over writing a review, often for the very reasons you cite. I've learned brevity is king. We writers love words. They're our business. It's important to know when to wrap it up.

    1. Just write that it wasn't your favorite type of story but the author did a good job...unless of course the author didn't...then eeek. Lol Be kind and polite.

  7. Excellent post, Cindy! Thanks for sharing such helpful information.

  8. I'm a book reviewer. Thanks for the tips and encouragement.

    1. If you do tons of reviews then keep in mind, readers don't want to know the full plot of the story. And thank you for reviewing books.