What Makes a Good Book Review?
At Hidden Gems, book reviews are what we’re all about – and although we aren’t writing them ourselves, we’ve seen enough from our readers, and heard from enough authors, to have a pretty good idea about what makes a good book review.
If you’re one of our ARC reviewers, or even if you’re reviewing on your own or for someone else, here are a few ideas on what authors are looking for, how to be fair, etiquette, and just overall tips for writing a helpful review.
No One-Line Book Reviews
As much as an author loves to hear that you “Loved this book!”, that’s not really a review. While your opinion is important to helping support the author, it’s a lot more helpful when it is more detailed in regards to the particular book being reviewed.
A one-line review might also look fake to other readers, or even Amazon. Especially when the other reviews in the reader’s profile are also a bunch of one or two-liners. It may lead to questions about whether that reader is actually reading any of the books at all, especially if each of those reviews are similar – and let’s face it, how different can they really be if they’re only a line or two?
Each story you read is unique, so each book review should be unique as well. That’s much easier to do if you’re going into some detail about each particular book.
What should you write about?
Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning, but it’s certainly not a complete list.
- Did you connect with the characters, or did they seem flat or one-dimensional?
- Did the story work? Did the plot get resolved? Did everything make sense or were you left confused?
- Did the story grab you? Hook you in from page one and keep you locked in until the end?
- Each genre may have its own specific set of questions. For example…
- Mystery: Did it keep you guessing?
- Romance or Erotica: Did it bring the heat?
- Thriller: Did it keep you on the edge of your seat?
- Also remember to keep your language clean! Note that anyone might be reading your review, so please try to keep your language clean even if the book isn’t. If for no other reason than Amazon will often block reviews that even have a single expletive.
No one is asking for you to write a book report or a really long review – you can still keep it short, but even if you only write a few sentences, the important thing is to actually tell people what you thought about this particular book – whether you liked it or not.
If Leaving a Negative Book Review, Be Constructive
Yes, it’s okay to leave negative reviews for a book you didn’t like, just remember not to be nasty about it, and the same rule as above applies. “I hated this book” isn’t a review that helps anyone and if that’s all you can say about a book, then sometimes it might not be better to leave any review at all. Remember, there is a difference between a bad review, and a “bad” review.
Authors are people too, and they spent a lot of time working on this story. If it didn’t connect with you, that’s fine – even the best pieces of literature in the world have some people that didn’t like them – but try to make your review constructive. What didn’t you like about it? What fell flat or confused you about the story? If your bad feelings about the book come from some sort of personal issue you had with the subject matter, feel free to mention that so that anyone else reading your review can take that into account. Maybe that issue would put them off as well – or maybe they’ll recognize that what bothered you wouldn’t have bothered them and thus might give the book a try anyway.
Remember, the purpose of leaving a review is typically for other readers of the book to help them evaluate whether or not they would like the book themselves – so the more you can say about your own experience when reading, the more helpful it will be for them and their decision.
And a constructively written negative review can help the writer, as well. If a bunch of reviews come in saying the same thing – that the plot was confusing, for example, then an introspective writer will see that as a point to consider improving in their next book. You’re not only helping people decide whether to read the book, but helping the author improve their craft.
Book Reviews Should Be Spoiler Free
Whether your review is positive or negative, no one likes the book to be ruined for them. Keep important plot details to a minimum and don’t give anything away. A review shouldn’t be a book report going into everything that happened, but rather more about your feelings in general about different aspects or characters. If you think something MIGHT be important to the plot but aren’t sure, either don’t include it or at the very least, mark the review as having spoilers.
Consistency and Fairness Within Book Reviews
Nothing is more confusing to both the author and other potential readers than a review that goes on and on about how great a book is, but then gives it only 2 or 3 stars. If a book is great, then don’t be afraid to give it high marks in your rating. Or if you feel like a book deserves a lower grade, then make sure to discuss why. If you’re worried about hurting the author’s feelings or don’t like to write anything negative, then it’s sometimes better not to leave a review at all. That’s perfectly fine – and at Hidden Gems, we even have a spot for that on our forms (Reason for not reviewing). Leaving a review is always voluntary.
Which is also an important point to remember if you didn’t even finish reading the book. If you couldn’t connect enough with a book to even complete it, then you probably shouldn’t even review it since you didn’t give it a fair enough chance. This is especially true if you only gave it a few pages or a couple chapters.
Mention That You Got a FREE Copy
The FTC requires that you disclose that you got a book (or any product) for free if you are reviewing it, so it’s important to note that in your review.
The idea behind this is one of transparency, so that reviewers know that you were given a free copy and they can decide for themselves whether they think this might have any influence over your review. This is another reason to make sure each of your reviews is unique and detailed enough that readers can tell that you’ve actually read the book.
Just be careful in how you word it so you don’t break any of Amazon’s rules. For instance, while Amazon does allow reviews to be written on books you got for free, those reviews shouldn’t be given in exchange or in return for the book. That’s why we provide the reason for not reviewing field on your form.
NOT ALLOWED: “I was sent a free book in exchange for writing this honest review.”
ALLOWED: “I was sent a free book and am voluntarily leaving this honest review.”
It’s a subtle but important difference, so while you should add that disclosure in your own words, just be careful in how you phrase it.
I was given the book Her Perfect Lie for free and am now leaving my voluntary and honest review of the book. Though the story line was very interesting and I got a mental picture of the characters it was difficult to read at the beginning but did become more intriguing as I read. By the end of the book I was very pleased with how things worked out for Priya, Uma and Lata.
I love reading when it’s something that I really enjoy reading. I don’t get the time to read as much as I would like, but I’m going to read as much as I can! I can’t wait to receive my first book!! Thanks so much!
I absolutely love reading and don’t do it nearly as much as I want to anymore. I’m so glad I found this site and am very excited to receive and read my first book!
Looking forward to getting started!
Thank you for this article! It is full of great tips,some of which are new to me.
I love reading, its very relaxing and gets my imagination going. I can’t wait to read my first book.
I enjoy reading. This is my first time joining a site like this. I dont read fast. Hope to find some interesting reads. Thank you for accepting me.
I spend a great deal of time reading and am excited to have a new source of books. I can’t wait to get my first book. I am starting slow to make sure I can keep up! Getting new mysteries and romances will be so much fun! Thanks for the offer.
I just signed up today. Reading has always been a passion of mine. My books & authors are old friends of mine, that I’ve lugged around from life to life. Always constant, always there.
Thank you for this opportunity to meet new “friends”.
This helps with giving an idea of what to say in the reviews. I love reading a well constructed book so I’m looking forward to possibly finding new favorite authors, and getting to do so for free is a bonus.
I love to read and being able to share my thoughts on books is a great opportunity thank you for letting me read for free.
I enjoy reading. A lot. I am quite excited for this new opportunity to read more books while providing reviews as well. Thank you for allowing me to read for free!
All I do is read. It’s my passion. I thank you for the opportunity to be able to read free books.
Love to read especially a good book. Ready to read some exciting free books!
I am extremely excited to be given an opportunity to receive books for free. I binge read quite frequently and can’t wait to dig into some great reads and writing constructive, meaningful reviews!
I am looking forward to testing out this site. I love to read and I can’t wait to start!
It’s been a while since I found a site that give you the option to read books for free I’m super excited for this hope it as it says
I really excited to be getting back into reading. This should give me a wide arrange of book to start my reading juices flowing again
EPUB Link expired. Now that I know you’re legit, I’ll be more interested.
New to this, but as an aspiring WRITER, I promise to GIVE MEANINGFUL reviews. I like to read (currently reading War and Peace), and like a good story. Deliver, and you will get a good review from me, and it won’t be a one liner. I cut my teeth on Bradbury, but enjoy classical romance, and biographies as well.
Reading is my passion and stumbling upon Hidden Gems ARC program has been a very rewarding surprise thus far. I love the variety of genres offered and look forward to opening my daily offers for books I have been blessed to review. Thank you to the authors and this organization for allowing me to participate!
I’m glad I read these tips on writing a review. I’m halfway through my first book and would have in all likelihood spilt the major plot twists in the review, haha.
Who doesn’t like free things? Why can’t there be more free books online? I joined through my e-mail. I figured it would give me a chance to read without all the trouble of turning pages of a book.
I was just scrolling through facebook and this caught my eye i am so glad my instincts told me to look into this i have amazon kindle unlimited that i pay for and i love that this is free only for a simple review i am a mother of five so i stay at home and i love reading it is my heart takes me places where i can never even dream of so thank you hidden gems you are truly wonderful.
Reading to me is like watching a movie inside your mind. I had rather read a good book anyday than to watch a movie because books are so much better. A well written book can take you places, let you live different lives and escape your every day reality. I am looking forward to reading these free books and giving my unbiased review of each one.
I just joined, I have been looking for new books to read and what better way to find new books and new authors than to do book reviews. I can’t wait to read my first book. Thank you for this site.
I absolutely love to read. It’s an addiction for me! I am very lucky to find this site where I can read free books and review them, if I choose. I have looked all over for free books to read but most places I have found have had a catch to them. This site found me and I am loving it. I’ve signed up for a few books to read and simply can’t wait to get started!
I joined today. I am looking for new authors, new adventures. I love to read and I still have my favorite authors. I am looking forward to meeting new ones.
I joined today an I am looking forward to reading new authors. Here’s to new reads, cheers.
I came ac ross this today & thought what a great way to start reading again not to mention its free thanks gem
I just joined yesterday. I got my first ARC this morning. I am happy to join this program. Reading is my relaxation. Cannot wait to give my reviews.
I love to read and am excited to start this. I look forward to reading and giving my honest review to any books that I am lucky enough to read.
I just sign up and I don’t read much but this caught my eye and would love to try this and read some excited books y’all may have
Just signed up for a couple books and cannot wait to get started. Reading was once a passion of mine and eager to pick it back up. Excited to starr reviewing free and new books on the market. Have my mind tingle with each new page.
Just came across this site yesterday and was in dire need of new books to read. I have read all of my books about 10x each. I cant wait to get my first book sent amd start reading amd reviewing.
I love to read. I’m glad I found this site, and I am eagerly waiting for my first book to review.
Reading is my passion, but due to having to work to eat I’m going to have to limit myself to 2 books a week! I am also going to work hard at giving reviews that will benefit both the readers and authors!
I came across this site by accident, I love to read, and once I’m started reading ,I’m fully engulfed in it. I can’t wait to get my first book! Let the reading begin! I’ve decided I’m going to read a book a week, so let’s get started!
I love to read. I’m glad I found this site, and I am eagerly waiting for my first book to review.
Looking forward to receiving my first book. I am an avid reader and think this will be a good thing and a lot of fun!