Every publication has its standard format and general guidelines. Book reviews are no exception to the rule and have a particular word count that should be met and/or not exceeded. 

A book review is supposed to be around 1,000 words, but it can range from 400 to 2,000 words. This depends on the book being reviewed and the specifications of the organization that publishes the review. However, anything over 1,000 is generally considered excessive. 

Let’s take a look at the factors that determine the word count of a book review and how to balance writing a detailed and succinct review. 

Typical Book Review Length

The length of a book review is up to the reviewer and how they express their opinions, how much they have to say, and how much content they are reviewing. It all depends on the platform’s guidelines and what they are willing to accept. 

A book review should be at least 400 words to include all of the basics of a review, which include: 

  • A book summary
  • Some information about the author
  • Its high and low points

However, 400 words aren’t always enough to sufficiently flesh out all of the concepts explored in a book and the reviewer’s opinion on the text and writing. 

Additionally, a book review can serve multiple functions, such as ranking the best books in a genre or an in-depth essay about the themes an author explored. For example, Book Riots’ Emily Martin wrote a review on the best Dark Academia book according to Goodreads. 

Martin covered 10 books that culminated in a review of over 1,000 words. Though Martin doesn’t take an in-depth look at each book, the review makes a statement about which books are the best in a genre and aims to compel the audience to read them. 

The Best Length for a Book Review

A book critic has the tricky job of being descriptive yet concise, writing a complete and effective review but also writing something that interests and engages readers.

Because a book review has to include a summary of the book, what it’s about, and a discussion on whether or not it achieved what it set out to, a decent length for a book review is around 1,000 words. 

Wendy Laura Belcher covers essential book review considerations, including:

  • The topic or genre you want to cover.
  • Who you are publishing for, and who your target audience is.
  • The elements that constitute a well-written book, not only grammatically but also conceptually.

Once you’ve done the necessary research and decided the route you want to take, you can begin writing book reviews using these steps

These include what tone a critic should take and how to consider space limitations. Reedsy provides 17 great book reviews as a springboard for aspiring critics. As you’ll see, these take a variety of tones and approaches to book reviews. 

Writers are encouraged to add their unique flair and personality to any piece as a way to build onto a template or format, which is also evident in many of these reviews. 

Is Word Count Important?

Word count is important, but a word count of 1,000 words is just a guideline. It’s common to finish slightly below that. Critics should never forget that the word count doesn’t make the work, as a review can give an excellent evaluation of a book in 600 words and a terrible one in 1,000. 

Ultimately, the critic should play to their strengths and develop their style to a point where they can say precisely what they want in as few or as many words as they need. In the end, the content is what matters most. 

Though there is not necessarily an optimum length for a book review, there is a point where a review becomes too long. Even book review essays rarely exceed 1,000-1,500 words.

Book reviews can end at 2,000 words, but this is almost always too long, even for an essay. Considering the content you have to work with, which might be 250 to 500 pages of a book, it’s difficult to imagine how you could write 2,000 words of criticism and praise. 

This is especially important to keep in mind for writers who tend to get verbose or overly flowery with their writing. Keep it interesting, but to the point, and avoid repetition. 

Elements Of a Good Book Review

The key to writing a good review is not providing your own opinion about whether or not you enjoyed the book and why. The hallmark of a good review is evaluating what goals the book had and if it met them effectively. 

While mostly opinion-based, book reviews offer insight and critical assessment of the work, such as: 

  • Content
  • Style
  • Whether or not it was persuasive
  • How well it dealt with particular issues and themes

A critic becomes good when they can balance pulling factual information from a text and develop and express a deeper understanding of a piece of writing, as both are essential.

This partially explains why book reviews can vary so heavily regarding word count. 

Balancing opinion and fact is no easy feat, and each writer’s approach is unique. So, if you need a higher word count to make your point, don’t worry. Word count is just one aspect of a book review and, though important, is not as crucial as getting your point across. 

Other Formatting Considerations for a Book Review

There are basic formatting guidelines that every piece of writing should adhere to, such as consistent font use, correct tone, excellent spelling and grammar, and so on. More specific guidelines also vary depending on who publishes a critic.

If somebody writes a book review for their blog, there is little constraint beyond the basics noted above. 

However, if someone is writing for a significant publication, they will be instructed to use a specific font size and spelling convention in that case. For example, Independent Book Review requires submissions to be emailed in a PDF format written in double-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman.

While these considerations bear no effect on the word count of a review, they are still crucial to consider while writing your review. 

Following the formatting conventions set out by a publication means you pay attention to detail and follow instructions, which can be the difference between getting published and getting rejected. 

Conclusion

The biggest factors determining a book review’s length are how many books are reviewed, how long and complex the book is, and the review style. Ultimately, it also strongly depends on the critic’s style of writing, which explains why there is such a significant gap in typical book review lengths.

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.