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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to do a book review

Some poets self-publish. Some find a compatible book publisher as I did (thank You, God!) Either way, most of us need good reviews to get our work out there where readers can find our poems, relate, buy, and tell their poetry-loving friends.

We’ve talked before about the importance of “Poets Helping Poets Helping Poetry,” which we can do as we review, especially if we review unto others as we’d like them to review our work too. So, this time let’s focus on what goes into a review.

First, an attentive reading. Actually, a thorough review requires more than one reading, but you can cut the time without cutting attention if you scribble notes to yourself as you read.

Note your reactions and how you interact with each poem. If none of the poems move you in a positive way or you just don’t connect, give the book to someone else, and spend your time reading and reviewing only those books you truly like.

Revisit poems that trigger strong reactions. What personal opinions, insights, experiences, or interesting anecdotes can you bring to the review as a thoughtful response to the poems?

Consider your readers. Who might enjoy this particular book? Is it for a scholarly group awaiting your assessment of the poems, or perhaps a poetry class ready to compare two or three books on the same topic? Or are you writing for general readers trying to decide which book to buy online?

Study journals, e-zines, and websites who publish book reviews. If one of them sent you a free reviewer’s copy of the book, you’ll have to submit the review to that outlet. If, however, you bought the book or a poet-peer sent you a well-written book, you can pick a publication that suits your style of writing and the book too.

Follow the guidelines. Regardless which journal or website you choose for your book review, your work will be welcomed again if you carefully follow their guidelines. For example, some journals will want you to include basic information such as the name of the publishing company, the physical address, and web address (URL) along with the poet’s name, the ISBN number for the book, the total page count, and cover price. Editors and readers will also want to know whether the book comes in hardback, e-book, or paper.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler. For an e-book of reader-friendly definitions of poetry terms, order the Kindle e-book Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun. If you write Bible-based or religious poetry and devotionals, try the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, the e-book version of the poetry home study course I wrote and used for years with other poets and poetry students. Yes, I’d welcome good reviews of those and my print book, Living in the Nature Poem, traditionally published by Hiraeth press but available, too, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks and happy reading.


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