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.