How to Get Started Writing Book Reviews

My first opportunity to write a book review came when the editor of Task & Purpose emailed me and asked if I wanted to review a fiction anthology titled, The Road Ahead: Stories of the Forever War. At the time, I had already written a few articles for them and should have kept going, working my way toward being on their shortlist of contributors to call. But alas, I didn’t know what I was doing at the time.

I have since reviewed a Netflix series and written another book review for Proceedings magazine. Now I’m working on another review for Proceedings; the book is titled, Save Your Ammo: Working Across Cultures For National Security.

Reviewing books is a great way to get started writing in a professional context (this does not mean you’ll get paid!). By professional, I mean writing to an editoral standard beyond what is acceptable for friends and family. Plus, it will expose you to the latest in print by authors you may not have read otherwise (you’ll likely get a free copy of the book from the publisher!). It’s also easier to write a book review than a piece on some other topic because book reviews are well defined and get published often. It’s easy to find previously published reviews and model your review off what’s been published. Reviewing books is a great way to learn.

Here are some tips for how to land a book review:

  1. Figure out for whom you want to write a book review. Sorry, but if you’re just starting out and not an expert in your field, The Atlantic probably won’t be interested in your review. Fortunately, there are plenty of other sites looking for content. Look into professional niche organizations that align with what you do. For me, the military has lots of places to write.
  2. Send the editor a sample of your best work. If it’s unpublished, that’s okay, but make sure it’s a piece that showcases your ability to produce a quality review.
  3. Pitch the editor on a specific book you want to review. I found Save Your Ammo digging around on Amazon’s new release/upcoming release list. Proceedings’ rule is they will review books within a year of release. Other outlets may vary.

It’s as simple as that. Good luck. It’s not as scary as it sounds! Put your best foot forward. Ask a friend to read over your work. Who knows, you might even get to review something.