Creative and Memoir Writing

Carol Brennan King June 16, 2022

Beginning with Book Reviews

We have been talking about building our writer’s platform or getting our name out there as a writer. The point is any editor or agent or even publisher that we might submit our work to wants to know they will make money by publishing your work.

If it’s a book we want to publish, they will take their cut. If it is an article of some sort, they must feel secure that your work will bring them more and happy readers, and help them sell products.

So, the first or right up there with the first, thing they will do when they hear from you, via a query, is google your name. They want to know who you are, and honestly, how many other people know your name and are potential customers.

That’s why we have been talking about article or book review writing in our summer class. Book review was new this week, so let’s talk about it here.

  • The first thing is to choose a book you have read, and ideally –  loved, and want to share.
  • Secondly, look for places that print book reviews:  magazines, newsletters, or web pages that have a book review section. Then narrow it down to the audience that would read the book you want to review. NOTE: this may take some time and energy, but you must do it if you want to be successful.
  • Start by browsing magazines at a bookstore or library or online.
  • Or just use your own blog or Facebook page. The key is to connect your name with that book title and the words reviewed by (your name). Or head your entry with the title of the book and reviewed by (your name). Then if someone googles book review and that book, your review should show up somewhere in that list of entries.
  • If you have a blog, be sure to include in your tags (I use WordPress for my blog) the name of the book and reviewed by.

My tag for a book review I might write could like this: The Writer’s Roadmap

A must-have for
new writers, or experienced ones.

by Leigh Shulman reviewed by Carol Brennan King.

This gives you a way to get your name out there and should get readers and writers to check this book out.

Now to writing the review:

  1. If you have chosen a place where you want to submit your review, check to see if they have a word count. Remember: people aren’t looking for a book now, just an article that will help them decide whether they want to buy the book.
  2. Like any good piece of writing, your review needs to hook the reader or get their attention. You might begin with a question or a statement about the author or the subject matter. But give it a little zip.
  3. You will want to tell your reader the publication date, so they know if the book is current and available. If it is more than five years or even 15 years old, check to see if it is still available and where and why, most importantly, they should get this book.
You might start with a template like this as you gather your info.

I recently recommended a twenty-year-old book to a student, but I checked to see first that it was either still in print and sold as a new book, or whether it was easy to get used.

4. At this point, if the book you are reviewing is fiction, give the reader a plot summary. Be very careful not to tell the whole story thumbnail fashion, and be very careful not to give the ending away. If you do that, there is no reason for anyone to buy or borrow the book. You just robbed them of the pleasure of the journey.

BUT, you can tell them something – not everything – that you liked and maybe something you didn’t. This is where you give the reader your recommendation: read it and love it. Or Read it with a dictionary. Or Know that for some readers, language might be an issue.    

You might say something like if you want a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, this is it. Or, if you like to travel and it’s not in the budget, you will love this book because you really do feel like you are there, in a village in India, or staying in a bed and breakfast on the coast of Maine, or in a little village in France where, though everything looks picture-perfect, it is not.

5. Finally, give the book a rating according to the practice of the place you are submitting it. Think Amazon’s rating scale. Or a 1-5 scale and explain, either way, what number 5 signifies and what a number 1 means.

So there we are.

I must go because I did get a response yesterday from a magazine I queried, and I have an article to write.

Happy Writing!

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