How to Write a Book Review on Amazon

Updated on December 4, 2017
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, nonfiction book editor, 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!

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Heidi Thorne

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 2 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

      Nicole Canfield 2 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 3 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 4 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 4 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 4 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 4 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 5 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 5 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 5 months ago from USA

      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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 5 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 5 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 5 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 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 image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 5 months ago from Chicago Area

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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 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 5 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 5 months ago from London

      Hi Heidi,

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

      thanks for sharing.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://toughnickel.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)