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I remember when I was a newbie reviewer and had no clue how to start my review, or how to respectfully state that I hated it. And now I want to help you, my little minions. Here are a few tips for struggling writers. I wish I can go back in time to tell myself this–my past reviews were crazy embarrassing[1].

[1] Please do not look for them on Goodreads.

1. Criticize the book, not the author. This is a pretty common tip reviewers will give you. You can hate on a book all you want, but please keep in mind that the author spent months, possibly years writing these books, so take note of anything you say that might offend the author personally.

For example, you can say, “The writing wasn’t my cup of tea,” but don’t say, “The author seemed like he/she was trying too hard to sound cool.” See the difference? With statement one, you just said that the writing wasn’t your thing, but in statement two, you were bashing what the author felt was brilliant.

2. Find a review style that works for you. Maybe the reason why you’re feeling iffy about reviews is because you have trouble writing a ‘professional’-sounding review. That’s okay! You can play it up a bit and try something else. Maybe you’re more comfortable writing a GIF review, or a likes vs. dislikes review, or a list review.

Once you find a style that’s good for you, you’ll find that your reviews will come out more naturally.

3. Touch up on all important points. (But be wary of spoilers!) Readers (or at least me) are always looking for thorough reviews, so that they’ll know which aspects to be excited for, and which to be wary of. Make sure to at least have a sentence or two about the (1) plot, (2) characters, (3) writing, and optionally, (4) pacing, (5) relationships, and anything else you feel is worth mentioning. But if you can’t explain without spoiling, remember to mark your spoilers!

4. Explain yourself. Don’t just say, “The characters were good.” Tell us WHY the characters were fabulous–were they sassy and fun? Were they respectful and loving? Give us details! We want to know all the crazy (and not-so-crazy) thoughts you had about the book.

5. Double check your facts. It would totally be embarrassing if you, say, misspelled a character’s name, or forgot if they belonged to which group of people and added it to your review. To avoid looking like you didn’t actually read the book, DOUBLE CHECK. Open up the Goodreads page on a new tab, check all the spellings, details, quotes, etc. Trust me, you’ll look intelligent if you get all your facts right.

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Did you find these tips helpful or not? Any tips of your own? //Part two to come!

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About Aimee

Aimee loves being a little bookworm (okay–she doesn’t like being little). She also loves chocolates and sweets but is freaked out by the thought of possibly getting diabetes.

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50 thoughts on “Let Me Help You Write an Effective Review / Tips for Struggling Reviewers (Part One)

  1. Thanks! I just started my on blog and love making it! Since I’ve only had my blog for a few days I few questions so I can know exactly how the feel of things should go!
    1. How long does it take to get comments and readers?
    2. Do people come back to your blog?
    3. How do I know if my reviews are good?
    4. How can I get people to see and know about my blog?
    Thanks SO much. I love your blog and am really inspired! (Mine is not as pretty!;)

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    1. Thanks, Grace! I’m sure you’ll figure it all out soon. :) It’s a mood-thing for me. Sometimes I like long reviews, sometimes I feel like doing one full of GIFs instead. :)

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  2. Great post Aimee! I think separating the book from the author in terms of criticism is DEFINITELY important, as well as finding the balance between giving an idea of the plot and avoiding spoilers.

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  3. This is a great post, and very helpful advice! I do the Goodreads thing ALL the time, because I never trust myself with spelling and such. And number one is like, the Golden Rule of reviewing, for real. I try so, so hard never to criticize the author. I wouldn’t want them criticizing me! I’m going to be honest, I am BAD at #4, and you have reminded me that it is something I need to work on! Fabulous post, I think this will help a LOT of reviewers :)

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    1. Thanks, Shannon! I am the most forgetful person ever, so Goodreads is my best friend. And sticky notes, definitely. And yes, we wouldn’t want our criticism to return to us tenfold! :O

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  4. Seriously BRILLIANT post. I think number 1 is especially important. As a writer, I wouldn’t want someone criticising me; I want them criticising my work. We are two very different things, and it bothers me when I come across reviews where the reviewer is having a go at the author. I have to confess, though, that I have misspelled an author’s name once. (Hey, it was when I first started blogging!) But I realized quite quickly and changed it of course, even though I was mortified. Luckily I was a VERY new blogger at the time and hardly had an audience.

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    1. Thanks so much, Kara! Definitely. I wouldn’t want to feel like my readers attacked me, but I would love some tips to improve my work in the future.

      Oh, I’ve done that too! And it was super embarrassing since it was in an email to the author. :(

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  5. Loved this post Aimee! I definitely agree with every single point you had here :) I’m a little vague in my reviews for a little bit, but your third point really said it all! Thanks for this! It was a really great tip. And #1 was the most important of all! I think it’s not right to criticize the writer because they obviously put a lot of effort :)

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  6. I hate when people post spoilers in their reviews! That’s why I am so cautious when it comes to reading them, especially for books on my TBR. I just don’t want to be spoiled.

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  7. Wonderful post Aimee!I wish I went through posts like these before I started reviewing.Rather I learned everything the hard way:)
    My earlier reviews are actually embarrassing to think about!Can’t say I’ve become a great reviewer now,but still,I am far more better now than then:)
    Looking forward to part two!

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    1. Thank you, Mishma! <3 It was the same way for me, definitely. Lots of horrifyingly embarrassing reviews in the past… *shudders* I won't say I'm an expert either, but this time I can read my reviews without cringing. ;)

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  8. Pingback: Istyria Book Blog
  9. I so agree with you about the first tip, I’ve seen many reviews slamming the author on what kind of trash they have created and so on.. Very helpful advice you have given <3

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  10. Awesome advice Aimee, even when you’ve been blogging for a few years, these tips still come in handy and that much needed fresher course. What I love about visiting a whole range of different blogs, is how different everyone;s review styles are. I’ve never seen two the same, but some are similar. But they all reflect the blogger and I think it’s a style we’ve come to expect. Yours for example, I look forward to you loathing a book. Yeah, I’m strange like that. But your reviews are absolutely hilarious and the snark is world class. But even though you wouldn’t be likely to recommend those you loathed, they get us interested and are still a form of promotion because we love your reviews. The positive and negative.

    Awesome post Aimz and looking forward to the next installment <3

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelly Bear! <3 It's the same for me, too! Each blog I visit has a different style–some more humorous and laid-back, and others are awesomely sophisticated.

      Heh, thanks. ;) I'm glad my anger amuses you, haha! And you know what they say, any kind of publicity is still publicity. :)

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  11. I’ve been in a little bit of a review-writing slump lately. Not happy with the last few reviews I’ve written (I think they sound sloppy), but oh well. I’m just happy they’re actually written haha. One thing that helps is to mix up my formatting… sometimes I’ll do paragraphs of what I like and don’t like, sometimes I’ll use bold phrases, sometimes I’ll use bullet points, etc etc.

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    1. I hope you get out of that slump soon, Danielle! :( I get disappointed in myself if I don’t like the review I’ve written. And I mostly stick with bold phrases, but sometimes I like adding some bigger and smaller fonts for effect. ;)

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  12. I’m always a litle in awe of people who have formulas for writing reviews because for me, I just close my eyes, take a few breaths and let whatever come out, come out. Sometimes, I might say something overly snarky and have to soften it a little but most of the times, I’d like to think that the review comes out decently haha

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    1. I usually just write whatever too, but then I’ll reread through it and see if there are points that I forgot to mention. Psh at softening snarky reviews! If I hate a book, I’ll let the snark monster lose. ;)

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  13. I have done the name misspelling thing more than once. SO awkward. But, I mean, bloggers don’t have editors and spell-check doesn’t catch everything. Everyone makes mistakes so I try to double-check but also try not to beat myself up about it :)
    Jen at YA Romantics

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  14. I remember when I first switched to book blogging, my reviews always used to be so short.. I wish I had read this post when I first started </3 Thank you for the helpful advice, it shows how genuine you are actually. I so agree about your point with number 1! I've seen some reviews cursing the author which just baffles me..

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  15. Thank you for the tips! I’m starting a book blog and I needed a post like this to keep my reviews grounded. Sometimes I forget what aspects of a book to mention and which ones to skip.

    By the way, number one was eye opening because it’s something that I’m aware of, but forget how to word sometimes, so thank you for explaining it so clearly.

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