In an academic context, a review counts as a publication in and of itself. Remember that as book reviews are generally not peer reviewed, they will not count as peer reviewed publications in the academic context. However, does the same apply to a book review in a non academic context?

Book reviews count as publications, as any written work created to communicate an idea to the public is a publication. If you’re asked to name publication types, book reviews should qualify, as it communicates an idea to the reader.  

Let’s take a closer look at what classifies a publication and how book reviews do and don’t fit this description. 

What Counts as a Publication?

Magazines, books, newspapers, articles, scholarly journals, and book reviews count as a publication. A publication is any piece of written media created to communicate an idea to the public. The criteria for publications differ depending on the document you’re writing. 

A scientific journal exploring etymology is worlds apart from an advice column in a lifestyle magazine, even though they’re both classified as publications.

Some general criteria for a publication can include:

  • Word count: Meeting a specific word count is an essential formatting requirement for any written media. This optimizes the amount of information necessary to be helpful while also keeping the reader engaged. 
  • Insight: Presenting unique findings, information or opinions are hallmarks of a good publication, regardless of the publication. 
  • Marketability: Identifying a market or audience for a particular genre or subject matter you’re presenting is crucial. 
  • Tone: A publication needs to be tonally appropriate for its context. For example, nobody would buy a tabloid to read an article about recent paleontological discoveries.
  • Formatting: Written work is created according to the guidelines of that specific genre or format. For example, a book review has a different structure from a scholarly journal. 

Some departments are more rigid with these guidelines than others. 

Still, it’s advisable to stick to the typical format of a publication as far as possible to make it distinguishable to the readers. Written media publications are often referred to as periodicals, which include magazines, newspapers, and every other publication that comes out periodically.

So, a book review may feature in a periodical as one of the many publications within a more prominent publication. The New York Times often reviews a range of books worldwide, for example. 

Even books have snippets of reviews, as you’ll have seen if you browse bookstores. These are the snippets that call the book “riveting” and “a modern masterpiece.” 

The Book Review Format

Book reviews have a very specific structure, usually made up of four main parts:

  • An evaluation or summary of the book you’re reviewing, with no more than two paragraphs.
  • A discussion on the book’s strengths and if it achieved what it intended. 
  • A discussion on the book’s weaknesses or low points and what the author should work on in their future books.
  • A paragraph to round up the main points and your assessment of the work overall.

A book review isn’t supposed to be a long piece of writing. Every aspect needs to be about one paragraph and function as straightforward and concise discussions, criticisms, praise, and feedback. 

The review can be anywhere from 600 to 2,000 words, but you should not exceed 1,000 words if you can. Try to find the balance between writing a complete review and a succinct one, but don’t get carried away.

Learn everything you need about book reviews and how to write them from Wendy Laura Belcher. This includes information on choosing a book to review to the functions of each draft you need to write.

You can find some great examples of book reviews on LitHub’s website. Included here are Ryan Ruby’s review of Peter Weiss’ The Point and Merve Emre on Simone de Beauvoir’s The Inseparables.

The reviewer doesn’t simply discuss whether or not they liked the book in their review. While this is part of it, a book review aims to mostly analyze whether the book achieves what the author wanted it to achieve and whether it did so effectively. 

What Is a Book Review?

A book review is a publication that takes apart, analyzes, and assesses the effectiveness of a book. This can be relatively short, or it could be an essay, but they’re most commonly between 600 to 1,000 words. 

Though there’s a summary and often quotes from the book itself, this doesn’t mean that the review retells the story. It can include the author’s credentials, names of their other works, and the backstory and purpose of the book.

A book review is written according to particular guidelines and is a means to inform an audience and provide a unique insight and opinion. Reviewers also write these reviews to give potential audiences a “taste” of the book and why the audience should spend time reading the book. 

Can Anyone Write a Book Review?

Anyone can write a book review, from children to avid readers to award-winning authors with their own published books. You don’t need any qualifications or permission. Your review might not necessarily get published in major publications, but you can write it nonetheless.

Getting your book review published in a major publication isn’t possible for everyone, but it’s not a privilege reserved for prestigious writers either. Anyone who truly thinks their book review is worth reading can submit their review to publications they’d like to publish with and are open to working with them. 

An entire sector of the internet is dedicated to publishing and reviewing written work online through digital magazines. 

Larger and more well-known organizations usually have critics already employed to write reviews. For example, The New York Times has a dedicated team of critics. So, it isn’t a free-for-all, but it isn’t impossible either.

If you work consistently to become a book critic by trade, begin making connections in the right places, and prove that you are skilled at your craft, you’ll be closer to reviewing with the big boys. 

Final Thoughts

The literary world is competitive, and everyone has an opinion that they think matters. However, if you write that opinion well enough, you could very well make it by reviewing books. 

Categories: Non Fiction

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.