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How to Review a Poorly Written Book

Updated on October 29, 2012
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


If you review books, you'll find a book that is just not that good. You then have to make a decision. Do you review the book and tell other potential readers what is wrong with it, or do you only review books that you can give high marks to? That has to be answered before you go any further in this article.

If you want to give you opinion on every book you read, then continue on and discover how you can review a poorly written book.

What Makes a Poorly Written Book?

The answer to this can vary from person to person. What defines a poorly written book? It's not as simple as you might think.

Look at the most popular books. There are many who don't link them. You might not like it because:

  • Not your genre.
  • You prefer more/less action.
  • Language is a factor
  • Too much/too little sex

To me these are not examples of a poorly written book. I just read a horror book. I hate horror with a passion. It was an extremely well-written book. Here is what I think makes a poorly written book:

  • Plot is slow or just doesn't go anywhere.
  • The storyline is confusing or puts you to sleep.
  • The characters are too unreal or unbelievable.
  • The story is extremely underdeveloped.
  • The editing is not just slightly bad, it is horrible and prevents you from reading the book.
  • There is too much in the book that should be taken out.


Start by Finding Something Positive

There is a very good chance there is something good in the story. Really. Look for it.

  • Is the storyline interesting?
  • Are the characters interesting, funny, or personal?
  • Is the dialogue written well?

Find something good to say. You don't have to give it rave reviews but something like this:

Ms. Does' use of historical facts was used in a way that was not overpowering. She had many opportunities to write explicit scenes but chose to present them in a tactful manner. The dialogue was funny.

Note Problems and Why

Just because I said to find something positive, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't note what is wrong with the story. In fact, you should note these. Here is an example:

There is much potential with this book. The storyline is great, but seems to be underdeveloped. Ms. Doe could have expanded this book into a complete series. This book was advertised as a mystery/suspense story but in fact it seemed to be more adult oriented with too many explicit scenes and an over use of harsh language. The characters were bland most of the time with very little depth.

When to Ignore Problems

There are times when issues should be ignored. I know that is hard to believe. But I have found out that proper etiquette dictates it.

  • Advanced Reader Copy - If you receive an advanced reader copy (ARC), or galley, do not review any formatting or editing issues. These are copies handed out before editing begins. These are for review only. Etiquette of book reviews means you don't mention these issues from these reviews.
  • PDFs/Word - If you receive a copy of a book in a PDF or Word format, more than likely you are getting a different kind of ARC. Again, do not mention these issues.

Do You Only Write Good Reviews?

See results

Telling the Author

If you are reading an ARC, you might want to consider telling the author of these issues unless they warned you ahead of time. They might not be aware of these problems. Even if the book is fully published, consider mentioning editing issues to the author personally. They will appreciate it.

Be Nice

Always be nice in your review. You don't have to be nasty. You don't have to be rude or personal. I have read so many reviews that were personal. It's shameful and embarrassing.

Keep it professional. Keep it as positive as you can without lying. You always want to be honest. If you cannot find one single thing positive about the book, think long and hard if you really want to write the review. I have only not written a review once because the book was so bad and there was nothing redeeming about it.

Also, remember that you are helping the author's future. If you are nasty for no good reason, you could be stopping a budding author who has the potential for a bestseller. Give positive praise when you can and be constructive in criticism.


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    • Ivona Poyntz profile image

      Ivona Poyntz 4 years ago from UK

      Really useful hub, thanks

    • profile image

      BK Walker 5 years ago

      I am so glad you are covering these points because it's soooo important. There is always something positive about a book :)

    • profile image

      rhomy 5 years ago

      this is great! I've come across a few bad books and I didn't want to be mean while reviewing it. I love the advices here!

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 5 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      Very good Hub, well written and factual. Voting up! WP