Book Review Etiquette Tip #3: Offer readers a concise and original plot summary.
Why do so many book blogs post the complete Amazon description of a book before their review? The book summary belongs on its Amazon page, not on the review post. A book reviewer’s job is to entice or warn potential readers of the book’s readability and likability rather than regurgitate what’s already been posted elsewhere.
My blog’s evolution has now spanned nearly a year, and it’s only been the past two months that I’ve decided to focus more on books. Maybe it’s just the relentless English teacher inside of me, but pasting in a lengthy description of a book’s plot would never cut it for a school assignment, so why are such tactics acceptable in the book blogging world?
Old Books by Petr Kratochvil
At the very least, large chunks of borrowed material should be set-off from the left-margin by 10 spaces to indicate a block quote. Shorter quotes should be encased in quotation marks. Better yet, a good review will offer a brief plot summary (ideally a paragraph or less) before delving into evaluating the literary merits of a book.
However, when I do blog posts on cool book covers, I readily include the book’s Amazon description. Given the context, doing so makes sense. When a cover catches a reader’s eye, the logical next step is to read the book’s summary. The cover and book summary are the book’s calling card, not yours.
Let’s be clear, a summary merely retells what happens in a book. Judgment of quality will be put forth in the review. That’s why a review should be able to stand on its own apart from its summary.
Lesson Learned: When in doubt, leave it out. The more original content a review contains the better.
But then again, what do I know? I would like to think the painstaking time spent learning MLA, APA, and CMS guidelines should count for something.
If case you missed it, be sure to check out the previous posts in this series:
- Book Review Etiquette Tip #1: Don’t be a self-promoting smarty pants!
- Book Review Etiquette Tip #2: Dwell in specifics, not generalities.
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