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Top Ten Things Not to Do When Writing a Book Review on Amazon or Anywhere Else

Here is the 34th installment of Ten Top Lists of What Not to Do by Marie Ann Bailey of 1WriteWay at and John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites at These lists are simu-published on our blogs each Monday. We hope you enjoy.

10.  When writing a book review, do not provide a five-page synopsis of the book before you even start your review.  If you do, at best, readers will just skip the synopsis and your efforts will be wasted.  At worst, readers will confuse the synopsis for your own work, tweet and blog about the review, causing it to go viral and guaranteeing a negative reaction by the author.

9.  When writing a book review, do not simply say, “I liked the book.  It was really good.”  Readers want to know what you liked about the book.  If that is all you say, at best, your reviews will simply be ignored.  At worst, readers will ignore you in droves when they see you use the same response for everything from Fifty Shades of Gray to Five Billion Years of Solitude and decide not to take your reviews seriously.

8.  When writing a book review, do not simply say, “I hated it.  It was a waste of time.”  If you really didn’t like a book, explain why so the reader can make an informed decision whether or not to read it.  If you don’t, at best, readers will just ignore your review, shrugging you off as someone who probably didn’t even read the book.  At worst, readers will take exception to your condescending attitude and begin to flag all your reviews as “Not helpful,” quickly causing your reputation as a book reviewer to go south.

7.  When writing a book review, do not include spoilers unless you make it clear at the beginning of your review that it contains spoilers.  If you do, at best, only a few readers will be disturbed by your spoiler review, and they may even kindly point out your error to you.  At worst, a flame war among reviewers of the book will erupt, with you likely getting a call from the author’s pro wrestler brother-in-law.

6.  When writing a book review, do not think it is funny to suggest the author of the book quit writing and take up dishwashing for employment.  If you do, at best, readers will take you for the troll you are and ignore you.  At worst, you might find yourself suddenly and uncomfortably associated with bullies and brutes, a group of people who tend to eat their own.

5.  When writing a book review, do not think the reader needs to know every single typo, grammatical error, or other such boo-boo in the book you’ve reviewed.  If you point all these out, at best, your annotations might simply distract the reader from fully understanding what the book is about.  At worst, you may be hearing from the author’s attorney because in your zeal to show your editorial prowess, you essentially duplicated the book in your review.

4.  When writing a book review, do not think that speed reading through a stack of books and then spending a weekend marathon writing reviews will necessarily stoke your reputation as a book reviewer.  If you do, at best, readers might be impressed, but still wonder at your sanity for producing 60 reviews in 48 hours.  At worst, near the end of your marathon reviewing, you conflate Goldfinch with the Peterson Field Guide to Birds and your reviews become the laughingstock of Amazon reviews.

3.  When writing a book review, do not think just reading the first and last chapter of a book is enough to enable you to write an intelligent book review.  If that’s all you do, at best, you’ll wind up just writing “I liked it” or “I hated it” because you really can’t say anything more. At worst, you get called out by another reviewer when you mention the hero survives World War II when in fact the book is about zombies and the hero turns into one in the penultimate chapter.

2.  When writing a book review, do not think you need to become an authority on the author of the book you are reviewing.  At best, the author will be a stay-at-home mom with two-year-old twins who will feel flattered you thought she actually lives a life of romance and danger.  At worst, the author could be a lawyer trying his hand at writing fiction and who will not take kindly to your suggestion to the effect: Since he writes from the point of view of a serial killer, he then must have experience as a serial killer.  In this case, the lawyer may decide to role-play his novel, with you as the victim.

1.  When writing a book review, do not think you will gain fans and followers by being snarky and rude in your reviews.  Okay, you probably will, but consider what kind of fans/followers they will be.  At best, they will just be people with nothing better to do than be anonymously rude and snarky on the web and eventually you’ll get tired of the negativity, change your gravatar and start writing constructive reviews.  At worst, the people following you could hack into your account and download every gravatar you’ve ever used, as well as, all your email addresses and blogs and previous book reviews, and you will never ever escape them, making your experience an interesting plot for a dystopian novel.

To see how book reviews should be written, visit Ionia Martin’s Readful Things Blog at

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

39 replies

  1. Great list, Marie! Number 7 is a big one for me. I’ve read many reviews where there was no spoiler alert. They spoiled it for the author because I didn’t buy the book. Good job!


    1. Yeah, I’ve read some pretty awful negative reviews. I guess when miserable people are miserable they like to make others feel miserable too. I usually flag those reviews as “not helpful.” It probably won’t deter them but it makes me feel better 😉


        1. Yeah, I once made the mistake of responding to a 1-star review of a friend’s book. People who leave snarky 1-star reviews are not likely to take criticism well 😉


            1. I remember one reviewer in particular who gave 1-star reviews and said the book was “a waste of your time.” I basically countered that her reviews were a waste of time. I hit a nerve with that one 😉


  2. Great advice here…. I don’t often write reviews, because I don’t trust myself enough, but this advice is helpful to those like me who worry about offending or doing harm when we have honestly good review intentions.


  3. Great list, darling. Usually these are funny — this was a great piece of advice, that, whiled tempered with you and John’s humour, shows wisdom — a rare commodity these days.


  4. I HATE it when a book review is nothing but a summary of the book, and no opinion is given. However, at least they are reviewing the book.

    I also think it’s totally unfair to not explain why you did or did not like the book. There are also people who review the book down because of the price the publisher set it at. How does that even make sense?!


    1. Hey, girl, how are you?! Yeah, I don’t like it when readers pan a book just because of the price, especially when it’s an ebook. I mean, really, did the $3.99 set the reviewer back that much?? You, my dear, are an excellent book reviewer. I recall you wrote an excellent post about a review you did some time ago that was well-received by the author because your review was so constructive.


      1. I second this – Katie wrote an amazing review of my book which I loved so much sometimes I read it to myself late at night, and smile 😉

        Great post Marie! I agree with Kevin though that I’d rather be warned if the typos are numerous. No need for an editing breakdown, but if we’re talking more than a couple, I find that suggests something about the overall quality of the writing, so I’d rather know before clicking ‘buy’.

        *runs off to double check my work for typos…*


        1. Thanks, Claire! You and Kevin are right about the typos. I have had the displeasure of reading books littered with typos. There’s no excuse for it and potential readers should be warned.


  5. This one’s actually very useful! I wish more reviewers had such a common-sense approach.

    I’ll confess that I do appreciate a heads-up on the typo front. I don’t need a list, but when a reviewer points out that a book has lots of typos, I have a pretty good idea what I’m dealing with…


  6. You made me smile and nervous at the same time. My book ‘Living Life Backwards’ is coming out on 26th March, and hopefully someone will review it on Amazon, and say something nice about it. I am very confident about the cover, which I had nothing to do with, but will let the reviewers give their own verdict on the contents


  7. When writing a review of a science book, 1.) make sure you actually read it, and 2.) save your creationist magical nonsense for another venue.

    Every science book review on Amazon has at least one 1-star review claiming the reviewer will pray for the writer’s soul on account of all the blasphemy found within the book’s pages.


  8. Fantastic list as always Marie and John – I liked this one especially as you have basically listed all my thoughts on book reviews! I have to say, to this date I have never read a book review with *SPOILER* at the top. I just don’t like spoilers. And if the reviewer fails to warn me, and I find myself reading the twist, climax and ending in their review…look out. Instant crank. I think everyone should read your list before trying to review a book 🙂


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