Some guidelines for reviewing a book

Once you’ve asked someone to write a review for your book, you might be peppered with a few questions: How long should it be? What do you want me to say? When do you need it by?

Consider handing them a copy of the instructions below, particularly if they’re writing a customer review that appears on or Barnes & Noble’s websites or writing a recommendation or Goodreads:
• Length – Any review longer than 250 words is too long if appearing online. Most readers won’t wade through text that is any longer. If a reviewer does write that many words, have them break it up into at least a couple of paragraphs as a large block of text can be hard on the eyes.
• Structure – Write a paragraph like your eighth-grade language arts teacher taught you: topic sentence; three supporting points; an example for each supporting point; conclusion sentence. It’s that simple.
• Content – Focus on the book’s content. That means no profanity, no defamation of the author or other people, and no book ordering information. The first two are in bad taste while the last already is given on the page and so wastes the reader’s time. By the way, don’t give a plot spoiler either.
• Headline – Readers often select which reviews they’ll look at based on the headline. So make it catchy. Use a subject-verb-direct object format as in ‘Twin Identity’ takes reader on tear-jerking romp (‘Twin Identity’ is the subject, takes is the verb, and reader on tear-jerking romp is the direct object.). Avoid using articles (a, an, the) and conjunctions (and, but, or).
• Typos – Don’t write the review in the little box where it is posted on the website. Instead, use a word processing program and run the review through spell check. Then paste it into the box and upload.
• Rules – Be aware of the website’s rules for writing and posting reviews (certain fields must be entered, such as giving the book a rating); others have a minimum age for who can write a review.

A final note: Don’t tell bloggers or mainstream media how to write your review. They already know and more importantly, they have house guidelines – both for writing style and professional ethics – that limit what they can and cannot do.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.