Issue 9: Raindrops The latest issue of firstwriter.magazine has also
just been released, featuring quality fiction and poetry
submitted from around the world, plus your first chance to see
not just the winning poems from our Fourth International
Poetry Competition, but also all ten Special Commendations. To
view the magazine click
here. To enter your work in our Fifth International
All those whose
work has been included in issue 9 have now been notified, so if
you submitted work for issue 9 and have not received
notification of inclusion then, regrettably, on this occasion
your submission was not successful. Please do feel free to try
again, however, through www.firstwriter.com/Magazine.
We have now begun accepting submissions for Issue 11.
Every author wants to have his/her book reviewed.
Itís a good way to get exposure for their books and exposure computes into
sales. With the rise in the number of new authors each year, thereís a greater
need for book reviewers.
If you are a freelance writer, consider adding
book reviews to your writing repertoire. Thereís money to be made and a measure
of notoriety in writing book reviews. There are also numerous opportunities for
the book reviewer. For example:
Submit reviews to general magazines that publish
reviews or magazines dedicated to a specific interest: horses, gardening,
memoirs, parenting, romance or travel, for example. If the magazine doesnít
already publish reviews, suggest a book review column. This is particularly
feasible with a newer magazine. Hereís a partial list of magazines with book
review columns: Grandparents Magazine, Mothering Magazine,
Todayís Christian Woman, Fine Gardening, Christian Home and School,
African Voices, Indiana Review, and Iconclast (contact
Alternatively, offer to write and submit reviews
for authors for a fee. Iím currently paying a couple of writers to write reviews
and submit them to appropriate magazines, newsletters and websites. Of course,
if the magazine pays for submissions, the reviewer makes even more on the deal.
Some website managers and magazine / newsletter editors post or publish reviews,
but they donít do the reviews in house. This is a great opportunity for someone
who likes to read, has an opinion, is good with detail, is a skilled writer, and
knows how to hustle work.
Here are the basics of writing a book review:
Choose books carefully. You might be
better at reviewing the type of books that you are accustomed to and enjoy
reading: mysteries and true crimes, young adult novels or nonfiction books in a
particular subject, for example.
Make notes while reading the book. I
frequently review books related to writing and publishing for SPAWNews (the
newsletter for SPAWN – Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network).
While reading the book, I note passages that I particularly like, areas where
the material is especially strong (or weak), chapters where I find unique or
important bits of information and so forth. I note the way the book is
organised, whether it is well-written or not, what makes it appealing or useful,
why this book is different and who will benefit from the material in this book.
Reflect on the book. When I finish a book,
I spend a few moments or hours thinking about it. How did it affect me? What
were my impressions? What is the point and the purpose of the book – to
teach / educate, guide, inform, inspire or entertain? Did the author fulfil his
promise to readers?
What is the purpose of a book review?
A book review is meant to help other people decide whether or not they want to
or should read this book. A book review is a summary of the book. It describes
the book and provides potential readers with both the positive and any negative
aspects of the book.
Most of us have written book reports. A book
review differs from a book report in that, not only does it tell about the book,
it also critiques it. I often complain, in my book reviews, when a good
reference book for writers doesnít have an index, for example.
What is your job as a book reviewer?
Point out the appropriate audience for the book. Who would benefit most from
this book or enjoy this book most. I wonít recommend a cutesy book of
cat-inspired writing to a beginning writer who is seeking information. Likewise,
I wonít suggest that an experienced author should read a basic book written for
Reviewers for my book, The Right
Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book typically say that this book is
for anyone who is interested in writing a book. Itís not for freelance writers
who have no desire to produce a book. Itís not necessarily for seasoned authors.
But it is for the hopeful or the struggling author and this is how most
reviewers describe it.
Consider the audience while writing the book
review. I review books that I can use and learn from and I review books that are
pretty elementary. For solid reference books, I am part of the audience. I can
write from my own perspective. For beginning books or inspirational books, I
really must consider another audience while I am formulating the review. Here
are some ideas:
Write something fresh about the book. Iíve had
people write reviews for my books simply by copying the back cover matter.
Thatís a rather lazy approach. Be creative. Have fun. Come up with material that
is unique and interesting, yet appropriate.
Be creative in choosing a style for your review.
For fiction, you will probably want to evaluate characters and the plot. For
nonfiction, analyse how complete the book is, whether it is useful and
well-presented. If you review books in a category that you are familiar with,
youíll be more qualified to define the bookís strengths and weaknesses –
what works and what doesnít.
What if you hate the book?
Not every reviewer (or reader) is going to like every book. And the more
familiar you are with the genre that you are reviewing, the more critical you
will become. You know what you like. You know what touches you, makes you think,
makes you laugh or cry. Sometimes youíre going to read a book that you really
donít like. What do you do with that? Either refuse to review the book or go
ahead and review it revealing what you think would make it better. Many books
are POD today and, if you firmly believe that your comments are important, maybe
the author would consider making changes with the next printing.
Perhaps the book just isnít your cup of tea or
maybe it truly does have some problems. If you choose to review a bad book or
one that you hate, you can do it in one of two basic ways. Either bash the book
or use the sandwich method. That is, mention a positive aspect of the book, then
reveal your negative point of view and then end by stating something good about
the book. If the magazine youíre writing for really likes critical reviews, go
ahead and bash the book, if you want and if you think it deserves it and if you
donít mind the possible consequences.
I produced a book a few years ago in which one
paragraph was repeated. Hours before the book was to go to the printer, I made a
change. I asked my typesetter to move a paragraph. He did, but neither of us
noticed, during our last ďtooĒ quick look, that he neglected to remove the
paragraph from the original spot. One reviewer really bashed that book. She saw
the repeated paragraph and that was all she focused on throughout her entire
review. It was like she had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed or that she
had a vendetta against someone – me? Or what I or my writing represents?
She practically told readers that they should not
read this book because of the numerous repeats throughout the book. If you see
something you donít like or that is blatantly wrong with a book you are
reviewing, mention it if you must – especially if you feel that readers
would be affected in some way by the message, information or presentation. But,
if you see value in the book, talk about that, as well.
What else should you include in your book
Write a book review in essay form. It should have a beginning, middle and end.
It should be written clearly and concisely. Youíll describe the book and reveal
who the book is for. Sometimes the author doesnít make this obvious and youíll
have to make that call.
Include the authorís qualifications for writing
this book. Is he the author of 25 other mysteries? Is she an attorney? Are they
practicing psychologists? In the case of my own books, reviewers always refer to
my extensive background in writing and publishing.
A book review generally encompasses 150 to 300
words. Some magazine editors or webmasters might request one that is longer.
Before you finalise the review, always make sure
that you list (either at the beginning or the end of the review), the full
title, subtitle, authorís name, publishing company, ISBN, page number, price and
Writing book reviews isnít for everyone. I
believe you must have a love of books – at least the type of books you are
reviewing. You really should have a fairly optimistic, positive, but realistic
outlook. Itís important that you can project from an appropriate audienceís
point of view. Having good writing skills is a major plus.
Children's picture book writing competition Entries are invited from new and published
writers for a picture book text suitable for younger readers. Illustrations will
not be considered and should not be submitted. The entry fee is $5 and the first
prize is $300 (Australian dollars). The winning entry will be announced on
November 22 at enterprisingwords.com and in the December issue of Buzz Words.
Manuscripts must be professionally presented and be received by September 18,
2006, with entry fee and SASE for results.
For more information, contact Di Bates, PO Box
2116, Woonona East NSW 2517 Australia.
Creative nonfiction is sought for a new venture,
selling "How-To" books that "burst with personality". Topics can include
hobbies, skills, and should be presented in a creative fashion that makes the
experience fun for your reader by shaping it with your own unique personality.
Your "How-To Scrapbook" should feel very different from another author's
submission regarding scrapbooking.
Manuscripts should be between 50,000 and 70,000
words, and royalties will be above-average for accepted authors.
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