This is a guest post from Alan Eggleston.

You have just read a great book – how do you share that wonderful experience with the world? You write a book review! But how do you write a book review, and equally important, how do you write a good book review, one you don’t feel like a dufus for after you post it? Here are a few hints and tips that should help guide the book lovers among us.

By the way, these hints and tips apply equally to books we don’t like. If you are willing to share your great experiences with other readers, shouldn’t you want to share your bad experiences, too?

General Guidelines

First, keep in mind, your book review is about the book and your experiences with it, not about you. So, don’t intrude on the review with asides or trying to be overly entertaining. Review the work.

Second, the review is about the reader, not about the author. Put the reader, who wants to know if he or she should read the book, in your shoes. Write for the reader, not the author.

Third, be honest. Don’t be abusive, but give an honest appraisal of the book from your perspective. Now, some authors do read reviews to learn how to improve their art, but some bristle at poor reviews, so also be kind. And keep in mind that while a good review can increase sales, a poor review can scuttle sales. Honesty serves the reader and the author equally.

Specific Tips for Goodreads and Amazon Reviews

Most review sites like Amazon and Goodreads ask you to rate the book, usually from 1 to 5. Each site uses the ratings a little differently, but keep in mind that a 1 and a 5 should be very rare. For Amazon reviews, a 3 is borderline for success. So, save a 2 for a book you really don’t like and a 1 for complete failure. These numbers can mean a difference between being promoted on the site and falling into a black hole.

Include a brief synopsis of the storyline, without any major reveals or spoilers. This tells the reader what the story is about and gives them some context for your comments.

Now go into your reaction to the book.

  • How did you feel about the book? Did it leave you feeling uplifted – why? Did you feel disappointed – why? Is it your favorite book of all time – why? Did you have a hard time putting it down, or did you find it hard to plod through it – why?
  • Give specific, concrete examples of what you liked or disliked about the book, elements like character development, use of setting, plot, pacing and detail, for instance. Cite examples, without giving spoilers. If the book is nonfiction, focus on detail, organization, passion for the subject, language and depth of topic.
  • Do you praise the author? If the author truly earned praise, certainly, but explain why. The last thing you want to do as a reviewer is sound like a suck-up. That will turn readers off.

Note that language with passion in a review can increase page ranking on Google. If you really like or dislike a book, it’s fine to be passionate about it, but if all your Amazon reviews contain the same strong reactions, Google may discount your reviews and, thus, your page rankings.

Book reviews don’t have to be any particular length, but keep in mind that content online tends to be shorter. So I follow the rule: Keep it short and simple (KISS). Give the review the detail it needs to pass on your thoughts, but don’t slather on the praise or belabor the critique. People basically want to know if the book is good or bad and why, not read a treatise.

If you write a review for more than one site, don’t use the same review – rewrite the review for each site. Google and other search engines penalize pages for duplicate content and your review won’t show up.

Finally, be transparent. If you have a connection with the author or if you have received an advance copy of the book to review, tell your reader. If you don’t and readers later find out, you won’t be trusted as a reviewer. Google will also discount your reviews if it later finds out.

Ready to write your Goodreads and Amazon reviews now? Go for it, and have fun!

Alan Eggleston is a former bookseller and a freelance book editor who writes book and movie reviews on his Booksville Book Club website.