Sunday Salon (on Monday): How to Write a Book Review

Once again, I’ve taken a few days off from work with the intention of spending time reading and writing. Once again, I haven’t managed to do much of either (which is why I’m “Sunday Salon”-ing on Monday)…but I have had the chance to spend some face time with online friends and do a few things with the family, so it’s by no means been a waste. But I don’t go back to work till Wednesday and I don’t really have much planned for today or tomorrow, so there are still a couple of days to carry through with that R-and-R plan!

I had the chance to meet up with a few local bloggers for dinner on Saturday night, which is one of the things I want to write about in the next day or two, and of course we discussed all sorts of bloggy, social-media things. I was the only book blogger present, but even though books aren’t their focus, some of the others at the table get pitched book reviews occasionally too. One of the women recently received a review copy that was accompanied by some promotional/press information, as they sometimes are; this one included an insert on how to write a book review for your blog. And not just any book review, mind you, but an “Attention Grabbing” one. She was generous enough to pass that document along to me, and I thought I’d share some highlights. I’m not going to identify the book for reasons that should become apparent (and because I declined the pitch I received for it myself), but I do thank Kim Tracy Prince for the blog fodder!

These tips for writing an “attention-grabbing book review” were sponsored and provided by the book in question and its author.

  • Identify the Subject, Scope, and Type of Book–this includes stating the title, author, genre, and general focus of the book.
  • Summarize the Content–an overview (including “favorite quotes and paraphrases”) for nonfiction, a spoiler-free review of the storyline for fiction
  • Include Graphics–cover images and/or author photos, as long as they’re not copyrighted
  • Enrich Your Review with Links–to related content and/or author information
  • Provide Your Reactions to the Book (that’s what makes it a “book review,” isn’t it?)
  • Be Honest–“This is especially important for blogs because your readers trust what you have to say.” Don’t say you loved a book if you didn’t, and don’t forget that an online review lives forever in archives.

I’ll be honest; these aren’t bad review guidelines, generally speaking. However, the fact that they’re coming from the author whose book would be the subject of the review is more than a little off-putting to me. I also have to wonder whether someone who is trying to direct the review process so closely might just see that last point backfire spectacularly, and wish they hadn’t insisted on quite so much honesty. That review might indeed grab attention, but perhaps not for the most desirable reasons…

What do you think? Is this decent advice from a questionable source? Is it useful or offensive? How would you react to receiving a how-to guide like this in one of your review copies?

The Sunday

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