By Elisabeth Kauffman
If you have a love for reading and enjoy expressing your opinions about the books you read, writing book reviews can be a great way to build your portfolio as a freelance writer. Here are 5 tips if you’re considering giving book reviews a try.
Try small local publications first.
You’re going to need a place to publish your reviews. Your local newspaper may be willing to print your review for you. If they don’t have a book review section, start one! Not every place you turn to will be ready to pay you for book reviews, but even without pay you’ll be adding by-lines to your portfolio, and will build professional relationships in the process. When you’ve exhausted those avenues then try Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace for places to publish your reviews.
Timeliness is important.
Make sure you stay current with the literary trends. Review books that have just been published or that are being released soon. In order for your review to have the greatest possible impact, make sure to publish it within 2 weeks to 2 months of a book’s release. If you wait too long, you’ll risk not having enough reader interest to make your review relevant. You can often write to the publisher to request an advance copy of a book if you let them know you are planning to review it.
Read the entire book, don’t just skim it. This should go without saying, but some people like to cut corners. Don’t be that person. If you feel the need to skim, ask yourself why? There could be a reason you’re not enjoying the process.
Play to your strengths.
Romance, mystery, dark fantasy—pick a genre you enjoy and become an expert. There’s no reason you should limit yourself, but if you read all of Orson Scott Card’s Ender books as a child and love them dearly, there’s a chance you may enjoy sci-fi. Why not spend time reading and writing about the things you love? That said, be prepared not to love every book you review.
Honesty is the best policy.
If you loved the book, say so. If you didn’t love it, again, say so. Every writer wants a positive review, but if you read a book and you have a negative reaction, be forthright about it. Your readers will appreciate your honest opinion in the long run. If you write a negative review back up your opinion with solid examples in the text. You’ll build credibility this way.
Review writing can be an enjoyable experience, or an overwhelming one. Set your boundaries and expectations clearly. Remember, your time is valuable. When people begin regularly soliciting your reviews, it may be time to consider raising your rates!
Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance writer and editor in Connecticut. She blogs about writing and Young Adult fiction at Fairbetty’s World. When her nose is not in a book she likes hiking with her awesome dog, Tag.
Photo Credit: pear83