10 Surefire Tips to Getting Your Book Review Read

    book review - kindle

    Do you know how to write a top book review?

    In this post, you’ll learn to become a book review ninja.

    How do you get someone to find real value in your book review; Let alone read the book?

    With only 10% of books being read past the first chapter, it’s a tall order indeed.

    The simple answer: you must become a book review ninja. Only a true master of the written word can successfully capture the all-powerful opponent: your audience.

    Four years of writing reviews and summaries has taught me all kinds of ninja-like tricks. I almost exclusively cover non-fiction books that can somehow improve one’s life but what I’ve learned can be adapted to most genres. At times, my the strategies of a book review ninja are counterintuitive at best, so pay attention.

    The goals for me when writing reviews are three-fold:

    1. Get them to read the review.
    2. Give them something that can directly use to improve their life–Get them to take action!
    3. Get them to order the book and read it cover to cover.

    Getting all this done in a 1,000 word review isn’t always easy. When I first started, #3 was most important to me. With how little the average person reads in today’s ever-distracted world, I took it as my duty to get people to dive back into books. I soon learned that this proved nearly impossible in a short post, especially if you also want to accomplish 1 and 2 above, so the real goal is to get readers off on the right foot.

    At the risk of people only reading my summaries and not the books, I decided that them getting an immediate benefit was most important. You may have your own goals and the below secrets will help for most any non-fiction review.

    Giving the reader an immediate benefit has to be most important.

    10 Secrets to Becoming a Book Review Ninja

    1. Grab them with a killer headline.

    I know this goes for any post but I can’t tell you how often I see the title of a book review be the actual book title. In fact I used to do this as well.

    Your review post is no different than any other post when it comes to engaging the reader. Make them want to dive into your review. A crafty headline is your ticket. Zen Habits, WriteToDone and Goodlife Zen are where I learned the great importance of this.

    Some example headlines I’ve written include:
    How to live to 100: Lessons from the Blue Zones
    A Guide to Finding Zen in Social Media Marketing
    Eat Simply and Reclaim Your Energy: Skinny Bastard
    Quadruple Your Productivity and Enjoy a Little Life: 8 Steps to Getting Things Done
    Power Negotiating Crash Course: A Few Tricks that Can Save You A Fortune In Minutes

    2. Mention the benefit to them up front.

    Ideally do this in the headline if not in the first few sentences.

    Keep it short and impactful. At the risk of being too direct, why not just go right out and tell the reader why it’d be good to read this review and book?

    Perhaps add a bold heading to the top that says: Why you should read it:…. Be sure it is directed towards them as opposed to why you read the book.

    When in doubt keep the focus on their benefit, not yours.

    3. What’s your purpose? Before doing anything, you should critically ask yourself why you’re doing it. Whether it’s reading, writing, eating, speaking, you name it. Being sure of the purpose of your review gives you a much better chance of connecting with your reader. You saw my goals above. What are yours? Is this to inform, to teach, to entertain or to inspire action? Be crystal clear on your purpose before you write your first word. Your readers will appreciate it.

    4. Make it personal.

    Especially when it comes to personal development books, people want to know how this is going to improve their life. And the best way is through anecdotes. I only review the books that have had a profound impact on me so this step comes easy. You should be writing from passion in the first place. Let the world know how this book impacted you and how it might impact them as a reader. Tell a story!

    5. Add in a little social proof.

    Get creative on how you can find a way to tie in your relationship with the author. Amazingly, ReadingForYourSuccess has allowed me to form incredible relationships with very well known authors.

    I in turn mention this in my reviews, which helps with my social proof and authority in that area. People are then more inclined to listen. Ideally you’ve met or gotten to know the author or perhaps you recently heard them speak or even mention that you were given the book by someone well known and trusted. When I wrote a review on one of Tony Robbins’ books, I tied it in by mentioning having just gone to his Unleash the Power Within four-day event and that I used a Robbins Coach for my business. Any connection helps.

    6. Make it easy to learn.

    People do not want to read paragraph after paragraph of text. We wanted it yesterday, which means that since we’re not getting it until today, it must be concise and easy to fly through. Bullet points, bold sections, called-out quotes. A good rule of thumb is “if they read the bold, they have enough to break the mold”. Simply put a few things in bold that, if the reader decides to only read that section, they will be better off for doing so.

    7. Decide on 5-10 main points to get across.

    These will be your numbered lists and bold sections. This is the body of your review. There should only be a few paragraphs in addition to this section. The goal here is genuine transfer of knowledge and inspiration to take action.

    8. Tell them how long it takes to read.

    This is a general online writing strategy I learned from Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour Work Week. Add the average reading time to the top. If it’s less than 6 or 7 minutes, you’ll have a great shot at them getting to it right then. If there’s no time mentioned, we tend to assume these things will take much more of our time than they actually will. Simple math is to divide your total number of words by 250 words per minute, which is the high average reading speed. Put it at the top in bold. This can sometimes do as much influencing as a powerful heading.

    9. Make the page dance with color: Add some life to your review.

    Our minds love images and being the visual beings we are, we’re much more likely to remember a picture than a bunch of text. Spend some time finding the right couple images. One tendency with book reviews is to just include a picture of the book. This is definitely more engaging than text but it’s only half way there. I used to start every review with the book image. It was quick. It was easy. But it was not effective. Save the book image for further down the post once you’ve hooked your reader. Start with some pop.

    10. End with Action!

    Non-fiction books and especially personal development books are not written to be read. They are written to induce action. Massive action in most cases.

    At the end of my review/summary the reader should have enough information and inspiration to go out and directly modify some part of their life for the better. Encourage action in your last paragraph and especially last sentence. Often asking a question to the reader is a nice way to transfer a feeling of obligation or responsibility to them.

    Here are two examples of recent reviews I’ve written using the above framework:

    I have been developing these master tools over years of writing and they’ve made quite the difference. Just changing my headlines and adding average reading time has increased my readership by at least three-fold. This stuff is powerful and it’s easy. Hopefully it helps take the burden off of writing longer, arduous reviews, and gets you excited to be concise and have some fun.

    Once you’ve created something you’re proud of, be sure to send it to the author. They love seeing their work in the spotlight and this can be the start of a genuine personal relationship with them and a little social proof (see #5 above…).

    Keep these in mind and you’ll become a book review ninja. You’ll begin producing reviews that will get people reading, and more importantly, get them acting. Put it to work and inspire your readers.

    About the author

      Scott Dinsmore

      Read more action-provoking posts by Scott Dinsmore, a writer, and entrepreneur. You can read more by Scott at Live Your Legend/a>

    • This was super helpful. 🙂 Thank you so much . I was sad to see the links to the example posts at the end did not work. 🙁

    • Marci says:

      Scott, Great blog and post! I knew I would refer back to it some day. I have one question – Do you ask permission before reviewing a book? I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or break copywrite rules.

    • Thanks Aileen. I hope this gives you a few more things to look for both when evaluating books to read and reviews on those books. And if you are ever looking for some personal development books to dive into, please let me know. I am happy to suggest. Just tell me what life situation you’re facing. Odds are that I’ve come across a book that could shed a little useful light.

      Thanks so much for reading,

    • Aileen says:

      Scott, you’ve opened my mind to how I will look at and read future book reviews. I often look at reviews before committing to a book – and based on the reviews is usually how I decide if I’m going to purchase & read it.
      This post is insightful on many levels!

    • Manal says:

      Thank you Scott for such wonderful advice.

      As others indicated, your steps can apply to writing other posts and not only book reviews.

      Your post is a reference that can be used over and over.

      • I am so glad Manal. I hope it helps you produce even more powerful future posts. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

        Enjoy the adventure,

    • Murlu says:

      These are really great tips – especially since I do occasionally review books.

      I really like how you go into how important it is to tell the value they’ll actually be getting from the book, not just your own opinion.

      In the end, we all want to know why the book matters to ourselves. Tell the information great enough and you’ll get them so excited they devour the book.

      • Agreed Murlu. It’s easy to forget to jump in the reader’s shoes. That quick change in thinking can open up a whole new and more powerful way of expressing your message to the reader. Talk in terms of their benefit and you might really help someone out. That’s the best part about it.

        Happy Reading,

    • Doug Armey says:


      Insightful article. Gives me some more arrows in my writing quiver. Good summary points on what makes a great article too BTW.


      • Ah ha. The metaphorical quiver. Can never have enough arrows in that one!

        Thanks so much Doug.


    • HowToPlaza says:

      Hello Scott.

      Some really nice thoughts. Surprisingly you haven’t mentioned knowing the writer better, reading his or her other books before settling down to writing a book review and understanding the historical, social context, so that people can really relate to it.

      In order to be a great book reviewer first of all you need to be a great/voracious reader too, only then you’ll be able to instill the needed energy into your review writing.

      ~~ Sarah ~~

      • I could not agree more Sarah. That would have been valuable to include in the post. I almost took it for granted as I do quite a bit of reading as is. And getting to know the author does not have to just happen through their other books, but also watching videos, listening to interviews or reading their blog are all great ways to get a little closer to them. The best is to reach out and create a real connection. Anytime an author gives their contact info and asks that readers get in touch, I make it a point to reach out with a phone call, email or even some snail mail. It’s amazing how often they will respond quickly and with a ton of excitement and appreciation that I enjoyed their book.

        Thanks for adding this Sarah,

    • Scott,
      Awesome post! I’ve always approached book reviews as a, “Hey, this is what I think” but after reading your post I totally get that that approach, not so good. Thank you for such an informative and useful post.

      • My pleasure Karen. As long as you’re thinking primarily about what will most positively impact your reader, then you are in good shape. And that goes for everything, not just book reviews. It goes for any blog post, phone call, presentation or in person interaction. It’s a good rule of thumb.

        So glad it helped.


    • Scott, you have so much useful information here I barely know where to start applying it! Like Katie said, a lot of your tips could transfer into writing any type of blog post, but I do have a hankering to try my hand at writing a book review for my blog. Now, I just have to find the right book . . .

      • Thanks Jean. Have fun with it. The easiest way to pick a book is to think of the ones that have had the most powerful impact on your life. Usually there are a few books that really stand out. I read maybe 5-10x as many books as I actually review because I want to be sure I am only sharing what I think is really going to make a difference for the most people. Can’t wait to see what you review. Please share it when you do.

        Happy Reading (and writing),

    • Scott, I learned something today. I shall have to add to my blog improvements list “no more book reviews with the book name as the title, or book cover as the only graphic”.

      It takes a lot of training to become a ninja. Thanks for the tips. I’ll be referring back to this.

      • It takes a lot of training, but the training is the best part! I cannot believe how long I went with the book title as my post title. I guess that’s just the easiest path but it’s amazing the difference it can make. Just like Leo and Mary say non stop in their Bootcamps. There are some titles that are awesome how they are. For instance: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Or: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. Those are pretty powerful as is.

        It’s no surprise that Inbound Marketing has a cathy title as they are the first ones to teach me the importance of a title not only for reader’s interest but also for SEO and SEM. Their book Inbound Marketing is unbelievably powerful. Here’s a link to the review if you’re interested: http://www.readingforyoursuccess.com/get-found-using-google-social-media-and-blogs-inbound-marketing. Such powerful material here.

        Thanks so much,

    • Katie says:

      Hi Scott,

      Great article. It struck me as I read it that this advice can apply to any post really. We can always aspire to capture their attention, inspire the reader, and get them to act. All great points for any kind of writing. Awesome picture! Makes me want to kick butt with my next post!

      • Thanks so much Katie. And you’re right. We can certainly use a lot of these points in writing every day posts. My number one goal when writing a post is the inspire the reader. Do that, and it’s a job well done. The way I see it, the more often you think like a ninja, the more you set yourself up for success!

        Happy Reading,

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