Reviews take a lot of work. It is an immense undertaking to not only read through an entire book, but to also collect ones thoughts on it and develop that into a complete and worthwhile review. And that’s not even getting into what is needed for a publisher or an author to look at said review and think that the person who wrote it is a good person to send ARCs to.

In my experience, writing reviews is exhausting.

Fortunately, there are some formulas you can follow to not only make them a little bit easier, but also to entice your readers to want to read your reviews and to make publishers see you as someone worth sending their advanced copies of books to.

What your review should not be:

If you are the kind of reviewer who leaves a few short sentences, basically equating out to a single paragraph, there’s nothing wrong with that exactly. However, if you’re looking to be considered by publishers for receiving ARCs, you’re definitely going to want to change up your review style in the future. Quick and short doesn’t quite fill what they’re looking for and you will likely often be overlooked in favor of those who write a bit more.

That said, you also don’t want your review to be too long. Very few people want to read a 1000 word review. As with nearly everything life, the key is moderation.

Finally, do not treat a review as a way to insult a book or an author. Point out problematic pieces, of course, but do try to stay away from generalizations like “this book is awful” and instead go for “I didn’t like…”

What to include in your review:
  • Title of the book, italicized preferably.
  • The name of the author.
  • 3-5 sentences at the beginning describing the book (think of this as your restatement of the synopsis).
    • Don’t go too far with this. You really don’t need a lot here and your entire review should not be a summary of the entire book.
  • Initial reactions:
    • Thoughts on the characters.
    • Thoughts on the plot.
    • Thoughts on pacing.
    • What you liked.
    • What you didn’t like.
    • What you loved.
    • What you hated (good place for “this was problematic” parts).
    • If it has illustrations, what you thought of those.
    • Thoughts regarding the audience the book was intended for.
      • Does this book feel appropriate for the age group it was written?
      • Do you think it will be enjoyable for those whom it’s intended for?
    • Whether you would recommend.
    • To whom you might recommend.
    • Your star rating.
    • Whether you’ll read the sequel (if there is one).
  • Conclusion
    • Summarize your thoughts.
    • This can be a good place to include those last four bullet points included in the reactions section.
I personally subscribe to the three-four paragraph format.

Now, you don’t have to include everything from that list in your review. However, a good rule of thumb is to think of your review within three paragraphs and never write less.

  • 1st Paragraph: Introduction

This is where you introduce the book. You’re going to include the title, the author’s name, and a general overview for what the book is about (no spoilers!). This is a good place to leave a quick sentence that implies your overall opinion so you can later lead into why you did or did not like the book (e.g. this book shocked me, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I did, etc).

Most people really hate spoilers, and for good reason. So you want to keep spoilers out of your introduction. If you do foresee that you will be including spoilers in your review, your introduction is a good place to warn your readers about upcoming spoilers. For the most part, though, you want to think of this as your way of practicing writing short synopses.

  • 2nd / 3rd Paragraphs:

This is where you’re going to react. Anything and everything you thought about the book you read should go here. You can split likes and dislikes into two different paragraphs. You can talk about plot and characters and then discuss the pacing. This is where you’ll mention if a book was problematic. Sometimes, for me, this section ends up being more than two paragraphs long and that’s okay. Sometimes it can be just a paragraph. That’s okay, too.

One thing I always do, though, if a book has illustrations, is to include a separate paragraph to quickly discuss what I thought of those. This is important for graphic novels, middlegrade, and  children’s books especially, but occasionally you’ll see some YA with illustrations as well.

  • Final Paragraph

This is your conclusion! You want to wrap up everything you’ve said in your review here. This is the best place to say something like, “ultimately I enjoyed/did not enjoy this book.” Quickly summarize the biggest points you made in your review. Leave your star ratings. Let us know whether you’d recommend the book or not and who you’d recommend to if you did (teenagers? adults? people who like fantasy?). If the book is in a series, do you think you’ll continue it? Leave off with a concluding sentence, and you’re done!

Last thoughts:

Above all else, when you are writing a review, the most important thing is to be honest. Share your thoughts and feelings as candidly as you can. Let yourself shine through in the review. It can always be kind of fun for readers to get to know bloggers through the their reviews.

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2 thoughts on “Guide to ARCs; How to Write a Good Review

  1. This post is helpful, thank you. I sometimes struggle with leaving reviews for ARCs if they’re in the 3-star range. Especially for indie authors who don’t have the same marketing resources as traditionally published authors. I want to be honest, and if I’ve gotten an ARC it’s because a review is expected in exchange, but I also don’t want to harm the books financial performance. Thoughts on how to delicately toe this line?


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