“Are you passionate about books? Do you have a talent for easily capturing the essence of a book after reading it? Do you often feel the desire to share your thoughts about a book with readers? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then book reviewing can be one of the most satisfying, rewarding activities you’ll ever undertake.” – From The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing (Preface) As an Amazon.com Top Reviewer, I often get emails from readers asking me how I became a reviewer, as well as requests for tips on getting started. I even had an independent publisher ask me to write an instructional book on how to write a great review. Alas, my passion is actually writing reviews—not writing about reviews, or coaching others on how to create them (or enter the vocation/business of reviewing). Thankfully, I can now point aspiring writers to an excellent book called The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards.
When Ms Calvani approached me about her book, I was intrigued and excited. Finally, I thought, someone has taken the time to explain the necessary mechanics of a quality review!
From grammar skills to critical reading, ethical considerations to honest (but tactful) reviewing, the authors reveal the secrets of what separates amateurs from the pros. A few of the informative, helpful areas include:
• Reviewing a book for what it is, not what the reviewer wishes it was
• Signs of an amateur
• Five keys to being a good reviewer
• The harmful practices of both sugarcoated and caustic reviews
• A reviewer’s responsibility to the reader, author and publisher
• The difference between book reviews, reports and press releases
• How to handle backlash resulting from a negative review
• Pre-publication versus post-publication reviews
• Dozens of print and online venues for getting started as a reviewer
The only (minor) qualm I have with in this book is the section on ascertaining readership. The authors write, “For instance, a mystery by Agatha Christie would be slanted towards the reader in their thirties or older. This can be judged by the age of the main character or detective, for example. If the character or detective solving the crime is under thirty-five, this is a book that would appeal to the younger set.”
Their subsequent logic didn’t ring true with my own reading experience. For example, by the time I graduated High School, I had read just about every book by Agatha Christie (not to mention those by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Higgins Clark, Robin Cook, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz—as well as many of the classics). Now, as a 38-year-old lover of books, juvenile and Young Adult fiction are two of my favorite genres. Personally, I feel that identifying readership is, indeed, important—but not necessarily based on the age of characters.
The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing also deconstructs actual reviews, explaining why certain elements are needed and work well or, in the case of poorly written reviews, why certain elements must be eliminated altogether for a professional, objective presentation.
For reviewers who want to hone their skills and discover additional reviewing opportunities, this book is an engaging, useful read. (I wish this book had been available when I started. Instead, I had to master the art of reviewing on my own!)
For those who are considering book reviewing as a hobby or career, reading (and owning) The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is an absolute must—especially for those who want to be taken seriously and garner a reputation as a quality reviewer.
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