How to Write a Book Review on Amazon

Updated on January 15, 2019
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

I know that writing a book review seems like an obvious thing to do when you’ve finished reading. But the number of people who read books and actually post reviews can be very small. By posting a review on book selling sites, particularly Amazon, you’re doing authors a big favor. Plus, you’re helping other readers make decisions about whether to read certain books or not.

In addition to the total number of book reviews being small, the number of helpful book reviews can be even smaller. So what makes a book review helpful or not?

A Book Review is NOT a Book Report

I’ve received and seen a fair share of book reviews that could only be classed as book reports. These types of reviews are completely useless and could be annoying to other readers.

Many of the book report type reviews usually include a summary of the book. Do we really need that? Typically, a summary is included in the book description. And if the summary contains too many details, it should be labeled “Spoiler Alert!” This can impact sales of the book since some potential reader buyers might feel like they’ve already read the book just by reading your review.

I’m thinking that these reviewers are stuck in a grade school or high school mindset, believing that their reviews will be judged based on whether they include details to prove they actually read the book. And, like school age kids, they may also think their review will be judged based on the number of words, with more words being better (which it is not, of course).

Please do not include book reports or summaries in your reviews!

How Long Should a Book Review Be?

Remember that buyers are looking for quick ways to assess whether to buy a book or not. Reviews that go on for hundreds and hundreds—even thousands!—of words are overwhelming. Usually a few sentences or paragraphs highlighting your key assessments and opinions of the book are enough.

What Should Be Included in a Book Review?

Reviews that simply say “good book,” or some other vague evaluation, are not helpful, even if they express positive regard for the work.

So what should you write in a book review? Even if you like a book, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what to cover. Here are several questions that could jumpstart your review and keep it on track. Note that you don’t have to answer all of them! Just pick one or a few that are relevant.

  • Why did you like it (or not)?
  • Was it too long (or short)? What length would you have preferred? What was missing and/or what should have been cut out?
  • Was it easy to understand? What made it easy or difficult?
  • Was it what you expected? If not, what were you expecting?
  • What did you think of the author’s writing style? Was it appropriate for this type of book?
  • Was there anything that you found inappropriate that could turn off readers like yourself?
  • How did this book change your life or perspective in some way?
  • How does this book compare to others like it that you’ve read?
  • Do you feel you got a good value for your investment of both dollars and time?

Are You Breaking Amazon's Community Guidelines for Book Reviews?

I am definitely NOT a fan of giving people free advance copies of books in the hope that they will write a review. I've never seen it work well and I think it's gaming the system. Plus, I want genuine reviews for my books! But it's an all too common practice, especially in the self publishing realm. And this practice could violate Amazon's Community Guidelines for reviews.

As of this writing, Amazon does not allow reviews for the following when creating "content," which would include book reviews:

  • Products or services offered by your family, close friends, business associates, or employers.
  • Anything you've received in exchange for compensation, including "free or discounted products." Yeah, I would presume that means books, too. Even requesting or offering compensation of any type in exchange for reviews is not allowed.

They disallow this to preserve the integrity of the community. Being the retail giant they are, Amazon no doubt wants real buyers reviewing real verified purchases. So think twice before you accept any authors' or publishers' invitations for free copies of their books! And if you're an author or publisher, think twice about offering these freebies in the hopes of getting reviews.

Reviewing the Reviewers

I love it that Amazon has a system for buyers to easily vote on whether a review has been helpful or not... essentially a review of the reviewer! This is a good indicator if you’re writing useful reviews. Take a peek at that every once in a while to see how you’re doing as a book reviewer.

To see how many "helpful" votes you've received, go to your Your Account > Ordering and shopping preferences > Profile. You'll see how many reviews you've done and how many helpful votes you've received.

Plus, in the About section of your profile, you'll see your reviewer ranking. Bet you didn't know you had one!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • Have you noticed a trend of fewer book reviews on Amazon? Maybe it's my imagination, but good books that I thought would inspire multiple reviews only have a handful if any at all.

    I haven't really noticed fewer book reviews. However, like you, I am always stunned at the low number of reviews for many books that are excellent and deserve to have reviews.

    I don't know if you've seen this, too, but in a course I took about selling on Amazon and elsewhere online, I've heard that only a very small percentage of buyers actually review books or products, sometimes as low as only 1 to 2 percent of buyers. I'm not sure if these low numbers are due to the review process being inconvenient or people are too busy.

    I've made a commitment to review every book I read to support my fellow authors. Even if readers only did it for half the books they read, that would be great.

  • If you make a request from a blog site for book reviews on Amazon, is it a violation of Amazon's rules?

    Sure, you can ask people to review your book. All of us authors ask for reviews. But tell them that the book is available for purchase on Amazon.

    I guess my question is, why are you reaching out to these bloggers? Do you know they read your book? Do you know if they regularly do reviews on Amazon? Have you considered offering a guest post on their blog to reach out to their followers? An Amazon review is pretty anonymous, so it does little to tap into the blogger's audience.

© 2017 Heidi Thorne

Comments

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  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hello, Groussac! True, some reviewers are pro writers who can write about anything. :) Real customers are the most valuable reviewers. And what can make their reviews even better is if they can explain why they gave the star rating or comments they did. The thin "great book" type reviews are just useless for buyers.

    If you haven't already, you might want to check out my recent article on editorial reviews for books. These are reviews written by editors and critics, and are on a completely separate part of the book product page (which is where they belong). So authors should really tell these pros not to post on customer reviews (they shouldn't anyway!).

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment and have a great day!

  • Groussac profile image

    Groussac 

    3 months ago

    For those thinking about posting book reviews to Amazon, do so. I find that professional reviews are more about how well the reviewer can write a review than about the book itself. An impression from someone who's actually read the book carries more weight with me than a polished essay by a hired hand. And don't worry about a review style or other such nonsense. Readers like me depend on readers like you for an honest reaction to a book. Your opinions weigh heavily in my decision to buy or to pass on a book. I'm sure there are thousands like me. Enjoy your read, but if you can, take a few minutes to let us know what you found. Have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    20 months ago from Chicago Area

    Nicole, so true! Good readers are good writers. Glad your daughter is following in mom's reading footsteps. I, too, leave reviews for both the good and the bad. Both are helpful for the authors. Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a blessed weekend!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Kitty Fields 

    20 months ago from Summerland

    Agree with my friend Dolores, below, in that if you don't read you won't be a good writer. I did well in English classes growing up because I read A LOT. So does my daughter. I will take your suggestions into practice. I try to leave book reviews for the books I really enjoyed or the ones that really ticked me off LOL.

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 

    21 months ago from East Coast, United States

    This is such an interesting article. I think it would be good practice to review a book. You have a certain set of parameters to follow and should learn how to organize your thoughts along those lines. I see that several people say they don't have time to read. I think that if you write you must read. You read for research as well as pleasure, to wash your brain in good writing, to delve into the use of language, how other people structure their thoughts and ideas.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    22 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Natalie!

    I can relate! I have a lot of writing and reading to do as a author and editor myself. So doing book reviews is just another thing on my To Do list.

    Agreed, when you get a book in the academic realm (the prices are sometimes outrageous!), it's a courtesy.

    I would LOVE to have a bank of reviewers to draw on when I publish something new. Maybe one day. *sigh*

    Thanks so much for thoughtfully adding to the conversation! Happy New Year!

  • Natalie Frank profile image

    Natalie Frank 

    22 months ago from Chicago, IL

    I think a lot of times these days freelance writers are so focused on paying the bills they aren't likely to spend a bunch of time writing for free - this includes book reviews which is a problem. Often times unless someone is a friend, relative or writing pal they aren't willing to write a review unless a book so knocked their socks off they can't help themselves. I know in academia it is just accepted that you receive the book to review though the price of academic books is often quite high so that stands to reason. I am not advocating publishers or authors should be able to give free books to anyone willing to review but perhaps if there were some sort of vetting system where people could establish themselves as reviews and there could be a bank of some sort you could go to and ask for reviews - just thinking out loud here (or rather in writing). Thanks for another useful and interesting article.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    22 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Brian! Glad you found it helpful. I wish more authors took the time to write book reviews for fellow authors. To me it's a writing skill in itself. Thanks so much for stopping by and Happy New Year!

  • B. Leekley profile image

    Brian Leekley 

    22 months ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

    Thanks for the helpful tips, Heidi. I have Amazon book reviews in mind to write and will refer back to this article when I do.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Dianna! Glad you found it helpful. My husband is also a review reader for almost every little thing he purchases. It's how we do business now. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Holidays!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    23 months ago

    Very useful guidelines on how to write a book review. I do look at the reviews when purchasing product or a book online. They help to make a good decision.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Donna, agreed, some of the questions can be a basis for other product reviews, too. I wish more people put more thought into their reviews. Thanks for chiming in and have a great day!

  • purl3agony profile image

    Donna Herron 

    23 months ago from USA

    Great guidelines to use for reviewing any book, on Amazon or other places. I think some of the things you list for inclusion in a book review could (and should) be used for reviewing any item on Amazon. Thanks for sharing this great information!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Adrienne! Glad you found the tips helpful. I wish more people were like you and want to provide thoughtful reviews. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Holidays!

  • alexadry profile image

    Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

    23 months ago

    Because I buy many books on Amazon, this is a phenomenal article for me to read. I will keep all in my mind next time I provide a review, excellent pointers!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Linda, it does take a bit of effort to do the book reviews. But authors really appreciate them! Thanks for stopping by and have a great pre-holiday weekend!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I've never written a book review on Amazon, but if I ever do, I'll remember your advice. It sounds excellent.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Venkatachari, you, me, and our friend Billybuc are all in the "I don't have time to read because I'm writing" club. :) But when you do, it's good to hear that you keep your book reviews short and sweet.

    Thanks for chiming in and have a great day!

  • Venkatachari M profile image

    Venkatachari M 

    23 months ago from Hyderabad, India

    Very informative and useful article on the purpose and method of writing Book Reviews. You have done it more helpful by putting up the main points into those questions to be considered by everyone before writing a book review.

    I don't find enough time to read books. Even if I write any review it stops within one or two sentences.

    Thanks for the valuable information provided by you.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Mary, I agree that people who really love (or loathe!) a book or love the author for some reason are more likely to leave a review. It's the massive middle of people who maybe liked (not loved) the book that are not as active in the review process.

    I absolutely think that a reminder at the end of a book is a great idea! Luckily, on platforms like Kindle, an alert automatically pops up when the reader finishes the book to remind them to leave a review. Of course, with print, you'd need to make sure that's included near the end. Thanks for suggesting that!

    Always appreciate your kind comments and insight! Have a wonderful day!

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 

    23 months ago from Brazil

    Your list of questions makes good guidelines for potential book reviews. I think most people want to write a review especially if they enjoyed it or if it was an indie author.

    You're against offering freebies but what about a gentle reminder at the end of the book, would that be allowed? Some who just love reading and aren't up on the ins and outs of publishing and marketing may not realize the importance of a review.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Bill, I'm the same way! I keep up with my news feed reading so I'm not out of the loop. But that's about the best I can muster when I have a lot of writing going on. Hope you can get some reading time in over the holidays. Thanks for stopping by, as always! Have a wonderful day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Flourish! Sometimes I know I need questions to help me think when writing this kind of stuff. :) Thanks for chiming in and have a terrific day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    23 months ago from Chicago Area

    Glad you found it useful, Nikki! Have a beautiful day!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    23 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Good information! My problem right now is finding the time to read a book. LOL I'm sure it will work out, it always does, but my goodness, I just can't seem to get caught up, you know?

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    23 months ago from USA

    Your list of key questions is excellent and should prove helpful to anyone writing a book review.

  • nikkikhan10 profile image

    Nikki Khan 

    23 months ago from London

    Hi Heidi,

    thanks for information,very interesting to know how to write a good review.

    thanks for sharing.

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