Class Notes: The Art of the Book Review

Picture of a bookThe first session of this class went well! Nisi Shawl was a terrific guest speaker.

In talking about reviews, we talked about good reviews and what they do. Here’s the notes from that.

  • Provide a sense of the reviewer, their styles and biases.
  • Explain what makes the reviewer say something is very good or very bad.
  • Provide a sense of the book’s context and comparable books.
  • Make you want to read the book but without creating unreasonable expectations.
  • Alert the reader to problematic things without providing preconceptions.
  • Be diplomatic but honest.
  • Provide an educated impression of the book that tells the reader whether or not they should invest time/money in the book.
  • Delve into what about the book created a particular impression.

Other topics we touched on: how you get started doing book reviews, what limits to have regarding spoilers, how to write a negative review well, promoting yourself and your reviews, networking, how to evaluate reviews, and the best way(s) to get better at reviewing. I thought it went really well and had plenty of interesting conversation and questions.

The next Art of the Book Review online class will happen Sunday, March 30, 9:30-11:30 AM PST. Nisi will be appearing as a speaker for the class in this session as well.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 100+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.
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  • http://www.lacydawnadventures.com Robert Eggleton

    “Complaining is like sitting in a rocking chair. You can get lots of motion, but you ain’t going nowhere….” (Rarity from the Hollow)

    Nevertheless, I make a complaint about reader reviews. I sent a kudo yesterday to a woman that burned a Kindle that had a mountain of likes and positive reviews. I’ve read lots of free or $.99 books ordered by my daughter-in-law. In summary, they all sucked. I’ve vowed to never read another book that doesn’t have a professional review, such as by the Missouri Review or Midwest Review.

    Do you think I’m making a mistake. I’m 62 — that may affect your advice. Thanks,