Sooner or later, either passion, generosity, or selfishness will push you to review someone's book.
Passion: You either love or hate the book so much that you must tell the world.
Generosity: You know the book's message will help others. Or, you want to help the author sell books and understand that reviews help sell books.
Selfishness: Your review of another's book helps your own books when you sign your reviews "author of [your book title]." Most book buyers purchase more than one title on any given subject. So when they're looking for a book on leadership, customer service, or whatever and see other titles mentioned in the book review section, that triggers them to take a look at your own. You can also draw attention to your speaking, training, or consulting business in that review. Finally, as a much appreciated content curator, you can post your book review of other books on your own social media and subscription sites.
With the following "Dos" in mind, you should be able to write a substantive review in 5-10 minutes. Offered from my earlier years of writing book reviews for the Houston Chronicle (business books and self-help), these guidelines work well for most categories of nonfiction and fiction.
Review Dos --
(It's not necessary to include all the following items -- but these are typical of most professional reviews.)
- Overview in a sentence or two the book's key concept (but don't simply repeat the jacket or editorial copy).
Dan Janal of PR Leads did this powerfully with this review comment: Example: "If you're a fan of Robert Cialdini's Influence or Dan Kennedy's copywriting books, you MUST read What More Can I Say? It has up-to-date research on how to influence people. Some of the work will challenge established beliefs like adding more benefits and bonuses actually decreases people's perceptions of your offer." Notice also how this reviewer tossed in a great "teaser."
For another review on Nourished by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph, I wrote this "negative," which is actually a back-handed positive: "The authors are at their best and funniest in the chapter on nourishing your marriage relationship; they offer totally opposite viewpoints on adding romance -- both valid and substantial." (The weakness: The two authors disagreed in what they said. The back-handed compliment? Both made substantial points.)
The goal in pointing out a weakness with a colleague's book is somewhat the same as the job applicant's when asked the clichéd question: "What is your biggest weakness?" Answer: "I'm a perfectionist."
- Point out anything about the book's organization or design (photos, diagrams, data, assessments, surveys, downloadables to accompany the book) that's particularly helpful or unique.
The upshot: Do your colleagues and yourself a favor. Read widely to broaden your thinking, and write a thoughtful review to continue the conversation.
Next week, "the Don'ts." Stay tuned....