Confessions of a Part-time Reviewer

Just another weblog

How to Become a Reviewer April 19, 2010

     If you’re looking for a job that will offer substantial financial security, book reviewing isn’t going to be your best bet—at least not at first.  But if you love to read and discuss books, writing book reviews can offer a great platform for honing writing and critical analysis skills.

     Entering into the book reviewing arena proves a fairly simple task.  Pick a book. Read it. Then write about what you thought.  Of course, it’s not quite such a simple 1-2-3 process.  Book reviewing requires a writer to be a competent reader, aware of how to pick out the significant characteristics of a text.  Reviewers must also have a fundamental understanding of writing and know how to communicate effectively in written form.  With these skills under your belt, you may pursue the path of the book reviewer. 

     In order to get your foot in the door, you must take the initiative.  Pick a book off of your shelf, or go find a piece you’ve been interested in reading and just write.  Practicing writing reviews is key.  The more you write, the more comfortable you’ll be explaining and critiquing a work.  Once you’ve developed a nice set of sample reviews, find an online website like or or a local publication that accepts unsolicited pieces.  Associating yourself on a volunteer basis with one of these options can lead you to the next stage of book reviewing: receiving free books to review.

     One of the perks of being a book reviewer is the potential to receive free books.  As a book reviewer, your publication, publishing houses, and authors may send you texts in hope of receiving positive press for a book.  Most of the times reviewers get to keep the copies of books they receive.  At this point you’re still probably not getting paid for your reviews, but the free merchandise and bylines offer powerful incentive to keep writing.

     Once you have gathered enough clips from unpaid publications, you can look into moving onto more prominent organization.  Larger newspapers like the New York Times (although, I would check your local newspaper first to see if they offer payment for freelance reviews) or popular magazines like Entertainment Weekly do have regular book review columns.  Depending on the circulation and prestige of the paper will determine how much you get paid—the Los Angeles Times has been known to offer upwards of $300 per review from reputable, veteran reviewers.  You will probably never get wealthy off of writing book reviews—at least not monetarily—but many reviewers have succeeded in turning their work into a successful second career.

     When working your way up through the various stages of book review writing, it is important to keep your intended employer and audience in mind.  Different organizations require that their writings develop pieces which fit into a particular style, tone, length, an overall distinct discourse community.  So what you find on is naturally going to read differently than a piece in Time magazine.  Also, the type of book you review is inevitable going to appeal to a specific type of readership.  You must match your writing and consideration accordingly.  By being proactive and driven to jump in, with practice and dedication, it is easy to find a place within the ever-growing reviewing community.


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