How To Write A Kick-Ass Book Review (Or Any Kind Of Review)? Part 1

by Jul 30, 2020

On writing and rhetoric 

I’ve been writing a series for Barbarian Rhetoric on how to write more and write better. The reason is that writing, and writing well, is an essential skill for any semi-civilized savage who wants to persuade or influence others. 

The post below on how to write a kick-ass book review extends what I wrote in those other posts. If you’re interested, the other stuff is here:

  1. How to build your writing fitness muscles in 10 minutes per day.
  2. Easy-to-use writing strategies and how to write coherent introductions, paragraphs and conclusions.
  3. How you can learn to write 1500 words effortlessly and optimise for search.

This is part 1 of a two-part series. It won’t solve all of your problems or answer all of your questions but it might help you if you want to know more about:

  • How to write a book review for a blog or website.
  • How to write a book review for high-school or college.
  • How to write an academic book review.

And, of course, anything that applies to writing book reviews you can adapt to writing other kinds of reviews like course reviews or product reviews.  

If you read books, including all those eBooks and eCourses you keep buying on Gumroad, writing reviews is a great way to generate rich searchable content for your blog or website. 

You don’t have to be familiar with some prick’s top 10 must-read books, either. Just go with your own idea of what you think everyone should read. 

Go with what YOU know. Who knows? You might even help someone just like you. 

How do you write a book review, a course review, or any kind of product review?

But how do you review a book? And how do you review courses and other products? 

Let’s be honest, you’ve probably already thought about this. You might have had a go already. It’s easy to start with good intentions, but then… 

THE BLANK SCREEN OF DEATH

Brain freeze is a real thing, my friend. I know what it’s like when you think you kinda know what you want to write but when you try to write it you just clam up. 

It’s hard to get the words out sometimes, especially when you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. That’s just how it goes. 

The brain freeze and the blank screen of death make things worse, of course. 

And we’ll get to the HOW of writing reviews soon including a book review format and book review template in the second post in this series, but first, we need to deal with the WHY.

Why should you write book reviews or product reviews?

As I’ve already said, one key reason for writing reviews is to generate rich, searchable content for your own blog, website or other platforms.

But another reason for reviewing a book, for example (like this one I wrote which you can buy on Gumroad and then review for me), is so you can think more deeply about what you’ve been reading.

The process of writing causes thinking to happen in ways that are different to when you’re talking to others or just mulling things over inside your head.

That’s right…

Writing is a kind of thinking.

Sometimes you need to write to think. 

Let’s dig into that a bit more and how you can use it for your own nefarious purposes

Your reviews can teach or influence others

Let’s say, for example, you like to hang out with a certain crowd on Twitter and you eventually buy someone’s self-improvement, how-to-make-money, or let’s-get-jacked health and fitness eBook or course.

Without anyone telling you to, you’ll likely already be formulating answers to these kinds of questions:

  • Was it any good?
  • Did you get any kind of benefit from it?
  • Or was it utterly worthless crap?

And here’s another question:

  • Regardless of whether the content was fantastic or trash, do you think that at least one other person could benefit from hearing about your experience?

Chances are that they could. That means that writing a review benefits both you and others like you.

You benefit because you get to share what you’ve learned. This is true even if what you learned was negative or a lesson in what not to do (e.g. like not wasting your time and money).

And your audience benefits because they get to learn what you learned without wasting their time and money. 

Or at least they get the benefit of your experience and they can make up their own minds. 

It’s critical thinking, Bruh…!

Writing a quality review of an eBook, physical book, course or other product allows you to offer a critical perspective on something that others are potentially interested in.

Remember, it’s your review so you get to evaluate whatever it was on the basis of your personal tastes.

Now, that’s always more or less true if it’s your blog or website. But be aware there might be some editorial constraints or rules if it’s someone else’s platform. 

Whatever the case, the trick is to say what you want to say within the system of rules that you have to abide by.

If you’ve ever done any writing in an academic context you’ll know what I mean. But even if you haven’t and never intend to, you still have to write in a way that appeals to the kind of audience you want to target. 

Just remember, if you’re engaging in a public conversation you may encounter trolls. Just block ’em and move on. 

Unless of course your future graduation or employment depends on it. In which case, you have a slightly different kind of game to play. 

How to write a book review for school requires you to be a bit more nuanced and we won’t get into that here, but you’ll find most of the same rules and guidelines still apply. 

More reasons for writing book reviews

When you write a review, you get to share your thoughts with others and, in doing so, you open up the conversation about whatever it is to other new or different perspectives.

In doing so there is an opportunity for you to promote your own ideas. These may or may not be the same as the ideas of the person or people who are behind whatever you’re reviewing.

But here’s the thing:

  • It doesn’t matter…!

You can review something you love and promote your own ideas and agenda.

AND/OR you can review something you despise and promote your own ideas and agenda.

This is a hugely powerful hack which is yours to exploit assuming, of course, that you have a message to broadcast or an agenda to advance. 

What else?

We’ll get to the actual components of a good review in the second post but let’s deal three other things first and then bring this one to a close:

  • Are there different kinds of book reviews?
  • Is there scope for writing reviews beyond just my blog?
  • How long should my review be?

Are there different kinds of book reviews?

There absolutely are different kinds of book reviews. These can include:

  • Opinion pieces
  • Summaries
  • Scholarly or academic essays
  • Any combination of the above

It’s up to you, but it’s going to depend on your intended audience and your purpose in writing the review. Let’s have a quick look at each of these in turn. 

Is there scope for writing reviews beyond just my blog?

Again, the answer is yes, absolutely. As we’ve discussed, writing a review is a good way to generate rich content for your own platforms, channels and purposes, but you can also write reviews for any of the following:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Academic periodicals
  • Other people’s blogs and websites, perhaps as a guest contributor
  • Platforms like Medium.com

Also, if you’re studying, sometimes you’ll need to write reviews as part of your schoolwork or academic programme. 

And in addition, there are dedicated online book review sites. The biggest of these include Amazon and Goodreads. These sites are a great way to contribute to the public conversation about a book, product or course. 

If you experiment with just one or two of these channels above you may discover whole communities of people – people just like you.

And in some cases, you may even end up talking to the author. This, in my opinion, is an underrated lifehack.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Twitter and other platforms have made it possible for YOU to talk to some of the greatest minds alive. 

That’s an opportunity that is too good to pass up. 

How long should my review be?

Well, how long is a piece of string? There are no rules, here but there are some guidelines. 

The length of your review is going to depend on your intended audience but a short review might be as short as 280 characters on Twitter. 

One strategy is to start with a tweet, build it up to a thread, and then develop it into a longer article depending on what engagement you get. 

The real gold though is found in writing longer reviews optimised for search which you can post online, perhaps on your own blog or some other platform. 

A longer review is going to have a lot more rich content and – if well-written – is more likely to encourage people to stick around on your website or blog which increases it’s attractiveness to Google. 

And that’s all going to help you build legitimacy as a writer and content creator. 

How to make money writing book reviews

Finally, a good product or book review is, potentially, a way to make a little bit of money.

You can help sell the books and products that you love by becoming an affiliate and promoting them on behalf of the writers and owners.

It’s a great way to experiment with earning some money through Twitter or other social media channels. 

Many of the contributors to Barbarian Rhetoric have books and products that you could review and sell as an affiliate. 

If this kind of thing interests you then reach out to someone today who has a book or product that you’ve already bought and ask them if you can become an affiliate. 

Still reading?

Good for you. I’m not gonna summarise everything we just covered. Instead, keep an eye out for more. Here’s what’s in part 2:

  • the four essential components of any product or book review
  • How to structure your review
  • Prompts and questions to consider when writing your own reviews books, courses and other products. 
  • An easy-to-use book review template

If you found something useful here you should buy my eBook before I turn it into a course and the price goes up:

You might also like the piece I wrote on how to become savagely creative. Also, reach out to me on Twitter if you’ve got something to say – I’m @smith_graeme or check out a few of my projects here.

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