5 Tips for Writing Book Reviews as a Freelance Writer

By Elisabeth Kauffman

If you have a love for reading and enjoy expressing your opinions about the books you read, writing book reviews can be a great way to build your portfolio as a freelance writer. Here are 5 tips if you’re considering giving book reviews a try.

Try small local publications first.

You’re going to need a place to publish your reviews. Your local newspaper may be willing to print your review for you. If they don’t have a book review section, start one! Not every place you turn to will be ready to pay you for book reviews, but even without pay you’ll be adding by-lines to your portfolio, and will build professional relationships in the process. When you’ve exhausted those avenues then try Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace for places to publish your reviews.

Timeliness is important.

Make sure you stay current with the literary trends. Review books that have just been published or that are being released soon. In order for your review to have the greatest possible impact, make sure to publish it within 2 weeks to 2 months of a book’s release. If you wait too long, you’ll risk not having enough reader interest to make your review relevant. You can often write to the publisher to request an advance copy of a book if you let them know you are planning to review it.

Be thorough.

Read the entire book, don’t just skim it. This should go without saying, but some people like to cut corners. Don’t be that person. If you feel the need to skim, ask yourself why? There could be a reason you’re not enjoying the process.

Play to your strengths.

Romance, mystery, dark fantasy—pick a genre you enjoy and become an expert. There’s no reason you should limit yourself, but if you read all of Orson Scott Card’s Ender books as a child and love them dearly, there’s a chance you may enjoy sci-fi. Why not spend time reading and writing about the things you love? That said, be prepared not to love every book you review.

Honesty is the best policy.

If you loved the book, say so. If you didn’t love it, again, say so. Every writer wants a positive review, but if you read a book and you have a negative reaction, be forthright about it.  Your readers will appreciate your honest opinion in the long run. If you write a negative review back up your opinion with solid examples in the text. You’ll build credibility this way.

Review writing can be an enjoyable experience, or an overwhelming one. Set your boundaries and expectations clearly. Remember, your time is valuable. When people begin regularly soliciting your reviews, it may be time to consider raising your rates!

Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance writer and editor in Connecticut. She blogs about writing and Young Adult fiction at Fairbetty’s World. When her nose is not in a book she likes hiking with her awesome dog, Tag.    

Photo Credit: pear83

Using the Force as a Freelance Writer & Editor

A guest post by Mahesh Raj Mohan

The Star Wars saga is my most favorite film series.  There are many scenes throughout the films (including the prequels) that resonate with me, but one of the most powerful moments occurs in the first film.  It’s near the end, when Luke Skywalker turns off his targeting computer during the Death Star trench run.

Logically, it’s a terrible move.  He’s operating a heavily armed starfighter while attacking the heart of the evil Galactic Empire.  And he’s decided to swap out a very expensive and precision-tuned targeting system for his nascent “Jedi” powers?!

And yet, Luke succeeds where the veteran Red Leader (who used the targeting system) failed.

I wish life could be like Star Wars  (lightsabersX-Wings! Jedi!)

But it isn’t (mortgages! home repairs!  annual physicals!)

As a freelance writer and editor, I use intuition and reason in equal measure.  You definitely need both.  But there are times when pure intuition (“the Force”) has been absolutely invaluable to me and my business.  I can think of four occasions this year where intuition either saved me or blared warning bells that I ignored (to my chagrin).

For you, my dear guest readers, I’ll distill three areas of the interview/prospecting process where intuition helps me during client engagements.  I call it (as of just now) the ACE Process:


I like to present a friendly, motivated, and professional attitude to clients and prospective clients.  I know within a few minutes of a phone call or in-depth e-mail exchange whether or not a prospective client and I are a good fit.  Some folks like to play mind games, or they just can’t be bothered with basic courtesies.  I’ve realized that I do not work well with such people.


Freelancers often walk a line between practicalities like keeping their homes/apartments heated and intangibles like maintaining their sanity.  There are times when it is necessary to take a lower-paying gig, but if the client requires the moon and stars to make a project soar, then I usually charge a fee commensurate with the amount of time it will take.  I take on projects by-the-hour, but I prefer to price by project, so there are no surprises.  Aside from a calculator, this requires a near-Jedi state of mind so I understand a client’s concept through-and-through.


Intuition is critical when I’m evaluating a project and timelines.  I ask myself if I really am the best writer for a client’s project.  If I can’t answer “yes” with any confidence, I usually decline or give a referral to writer/editors who have the necessary skills and background.

So if reason and logic fail you while you are navigating the Death Star trench of job boards, Google Adwords, e-mails, and referrals, think about switching off your targeting system, take a few deep breaths, and do what feels right.

And, remember … the Force will be with you.  Always.


Mahesh Raj Mohan is a freelance writer/editor based near Portland, Oregon.  His reviews have been published by Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper The Oregonian and Hugo-nominated website Strange Horizons.  His screenplay, “Indian Errand Day” is a 2011 Kay Snow Award Winner.

Photo  Credit: flaivoloka

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