Tips for Writing an Effective Book Review

Tips for Writing an Effective Book Review

Book reviews are more than just an ego boost for authors. Your review – whether it’s a full-on critique or simply a rating – helps future readers determine whether or not to give that author’s work a chance. Also, on sites like, the number of reviews helps to determine if the site will put that book in front of shoppers looking at similar items; the more reviews, the more likely the book will be suggested to more shoppers (it’s all about the site’s algorithms). Here are some things to consider after you’ve read a book.

  1. Be honest! Even if the author is a friend, your credibility as a reviewer is at stake.
  2. Stars are important, but words add credibility. If you want to give the book you just finished 5 out of 5 stars, fantastic! Adding even one or two sentences about why you gave the book that rating will help readers know what to expect from the book. And yes, authors do like to know what worked and didn’t work for you.
  3. Post your review in multiple places. So you bought your book at a local independent bookstore. Good for you! You can still post a review at Amazon,, GoodReads, Shelfari, etc. Don’t forget your blog and social media outlets! Cutting and pasting your review to several places will really help the author.
  4. Don’t mention in your review that the author is your best friend, your neighbor, your ex, or your teacher. Some sites, like Amazon, will remove your review if it appears you have a personal relationship with the author. If you were given a free copy it is perfectly fine to say you received the book for free in exchange for an honest review.
  5. Be honest! Yeah, I said this already. A reader who buys a book with undeserved glowing reviews is more likely to become disgruntled and over compensate with more negative reviews than the book may deserve.

(c) 2016 Steven E. Wedel

6 responses to “Tips for Writing an Effective Book Review”

  1. “Don’t mention in your review that the author is your best friend, your neighbor, your ex, or your teacher. Some sites, like Amazon, will remove your review if it appears you have a personal relationship with the author.”

    So your advice is for readers to not only ignore the Terms of Service, but to blatantly seek to get around the TOS? Most people, including me, would consider this advice to be unethical. If Amazon finds out about the relationship, it can result in all that person’s reviews being removed, and if there are a lot of such reviews, it can result in the author’s book being taking down. I’ve actually heard of author’s entire catalogs being removed from Amazon for crap like this.

    As far as advice on the internet goes, the statement quoted above is some of the worst I’ve read!

    1. Hello, onereasonableperson, and thank you for your impassioned reply. Actually, what I’ve suggested does not violate or ignore Amazon’s Terms of Service. Here’s the section on reviews, taken from the June 21, 2016, update available at (


      Visitors may post reviews, comments, photos, videos, and other content; send e-cards and other communications; and submit suggestions, ideas, comments, questions, or other information, so long as the content is not illegal, obscene, threatening, defamatory, invasive of privacy, infringing of intellectual property rights (including publicity rights), or otherwise injurious to third parties or objectionable, and does not consist of or contain software viruses, political campaigning, commercial solicitation, chain letters, mass mailings, or any form of “spam” or unsolicited commercial electronic messages. You may not use a false e-mail address, impersonate any person or entity, or otherwise mislead as to the origin of a card or other content. Amazon reserves the right (but not the obligation) to remove or edit such content, but does not regularly review posted content.

      If you do post content or submit material, and unless we indicate otherwise, you grant Amazon a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, perform, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media. You grant Amazon and sublicensees the right to use the name that you submit in connection with such content, if they choose. You represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content that you post; that the content is accurate; that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity; and that you will indemnify Amazon for all claims resulting from content you supply. Amazon has the right but not the obligation to monitor and edit or remove any activity or content. Amazon takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content posted by you or any third party.”

      On a Frequently Asked Questions page maintained by Amazon (, there is this: “3. Can I ask my family to write a Customer Review for my book?
      We don’t allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book. Customer Reviews provide unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers and aren’t to be used as a promotional tool. Please refer to our Help Page for more details. Your family and friends are welcome to share their enthusiasm for your book through our Customer Discussions feature.”

      Following the Help Page link ( embedded in the above you’ll find that Amazon specifically lists what reviews they do not allow:

      A product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased shopper
      A shopper, unhappy with her purchase, posts multiple negative reviews for the same product
      A customer posts a review in exchange for $5
      A customer posts a review of a game, in exchange for bonus in-game credits
      A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales
      A shopper posts a review of the product, after being promised a refund in exchange
      A seller posts negative reviews on his competitor’s product
      An artist posts a positive review on a peer’s album in exchange for receiving a positive review from them

      So, what I said was “Don’t mention in your review that the author is your best friend, your neighbor, your ex, or your teacher.” The closest Amazon comes to addressing any of the above is their reference of “close friend.” How close is too close for a review? I think any reasonable person would agree that’s pretty subjective. If I sell a book to a person at a convention and that person decides we became close friends in the 10 minutes we chatted but also is a fair critic of literature, is he precluded from writing a review? It’s a gray area that is best avoided by, as I said, not mentioning any personal relationship. I didn’t say to deny the relationship, only to not point it out.

      Please note that two of my five tips begin with “Be honest!” Most reasonable people can review a friend’s work honestly despite the friendship. If your friend can’t handle you being honest, s/he isn’t much of a friend. I think most reasonable people would agree that when two of five tips begin with “Be honest!” the author of such is not advocating unethical behavior.

      If these tips are among the worst advice you’ve found on the Internet, I salute you for not being online very much at all.

      1. Ethical authors take the opposite tack, telling any family that they absolutely should disclose in the review any relationship between the reviewer and the author. Your advice is unethical and absolutely can cause an author and reviewer to get in trouble with Amazon.

      2. BTW, here’s a link to Amazon’s Customer Review Creation Guidelines:

        It specifically states:

        “In order to preserve the integrity of Customer Reviews, we do not permit artists, authors, developers, manufacturers, publishers, sellers or vendors to write Customer Reviews for their own products or services, to post negative reviews on competing products or services, or to vote on the helpfulness of reviews. For the same reason, family members or close friends of the person, group, or company selling on Amazon may not write Customer Reviews for those particular items.”

        So yes, close friends and family members are expressly prohibited from leaving reviews.

  2. Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here.Well, got a good knowledge.

  3. […] via Tips for Writing an Effective Book Review — Steven E. Wedel […]

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