How To Write An ARC Review

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Or A Darn Good Book Review

I am so excited to be opening applications for my Advanced Reader Team this month!

In celebration, I wanted to offer some advice to readers who want to write ARC reviews -OR- write better book reviews. Whether you want to spiff up your Goodreads profiles, support your favorite indie authors (like me!), or just for the enjoyment of it, these tips will help you get going.

Consider Your Hook. This is something to capture the attention of anyone scanning through reviews that tells them they should pause and read yours. You have several options here. Maybe you have a great joke or pun about the book’s theme or characters to open with. Perhaps you have an arresting observation about what made you pick up the book. Or you remember the moment you KNEW you couldn’t put it down and had to read it all at one gulp.

Describe The Plot. Yes, this seems obvious, but I don’t mean just a dry rehashing of the jacket copy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read reviews that told me only what I had already gotten off of the back of the book. For Advanced Readers, getting people interested in the plot of the book will help your author friend sell more copies! But describing the plot is a balancing act. I like letting the book description stand on its own. Instead, I skip the normal summary and highlight 1-2 elements that were especially striking to me and why I found them enjoyable. Some things to consider here: Avoid spoilers! Do not rob readers of the same pleasures you have experienced. This is considered very bad form. And ponder whether you want to add in trigger warnings for violent, traumatic, or otherwise graphic content that might be upsetting to sensitive or underage readers. These considerations can help others make informed reading decisions.

Explain Your Opinion & Be Clear About It. Opinions are what we’re here for! This is YOUR review after all and we want to know what you think. So don’t be coy or beat around the bush. However, if you have praise or criticism to dole out, provide context and explanation so that your readers understand what you mean. If you say you didn’t understand the action, give the context of where the action was confusing and whether it was confusing because the characters weren’t behaving realistically or because there was a lack of description. On the other hand, if you loved a particular character, say it was because of their kindness or sarcasm or quick decision making. Being specific in both situations lets the author know what worked and what didn’t and helps other readers measure the soundness of your judgment.

Don’t Be THAT Person. Having a bad day? Maybe don’t post your review right now. We’ve all had poster’s regret on super-negative or sassy things we’ve said online. Reviews aren’t the place to be super-negative, go on a rant, or attack the author. #meaningfulnotmean

Focus On The Book, Not The Author. At the end of the day, you can’t know what the author was trying to achieve, who they might have been trying to mimic, or anything else they might have been “doing.” So just focus on what’s on the page and what you did or did not enjoy. (One exception to this is to contrast an author’s work against itself if there’s a large difference in style, tone, or genre within their catalogue.)

Think About Other Readers. Now’s the time to make recommendations! Who do you imagine would like this book? Are they similar to you or different from you? What genres do they read and what topics do you think they are interested in? Now is the time to embrace and declare DNFs- did not finish. Be kind about it. Just because a book didn’t fit you doesn’t mean that it might not be a fantastic fit for someone else.

Have Fun Using Your Voice! Reviewing can be a lot fun. As an avid reader, it’s about sharing your love of books, and as an advanced reader, it’s a great opportunity to support your favorite authors. No one is grading you- they just appreciate you showing up! So don’t overthink how you say things. If you want to be conversational, chat it up. If you want to use big words, whip out that dictionary, baby. If there are certain elements you want to always focus on, some readers love following niche reviewers so dive into how that magic system works all you want. #youdoyou.

Proof Before You Post. Read twice before you hit send to avoid regrets. I like to type up reviews in my notes app so I can look it over without the pressure of accidentally hitting “post” before I’m ready.

Have any tips of your own for writing fantastic ARC reviews or book reviews? I’d love to hear them! Shoot me a note at susan@susanfarris.me.

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