How to Write a Book Review on Amazon
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!
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne