Insights, News, Tips

How I Write Book Reviews…and how there is no wrong way!

I’ve had people say to me “I need to get better at writing book reviews” or “I wish I knew how to write a book review” OR “I can’t review a book. I never know what to say.” All of these statements have left me with one general feeling: There is no wrong way to review a book.

Book reviews mean everything to authors. You don’t have to go in being a critic, or leaving some deep and intense review. It can be as simple as “I loved this book! It was phenomenal! 5-stars!” to “This book just wasn’t for me. You might like it though. 1-star.” Or, a book review can be comprehensive, going into how a reader feels about plot, characters, and prose. Either one, authors love. It helps readers too. How often have you picked up a book (or really any product) based on its reviews?

So I’ve decided to write this post based on the basics of what I do with a review. Sometimes I break this pattern, ranging from a 1 line review to a multi-page saga. Hopefully it will help someone figure out how to review that awesome book they’ve been wanting to scream about, or at least give someone the guts to write that one like “Eh, didn’t it like it” type of review.

E.S. Barrison’s Book Review Method

My method of book reviews follows a simple 4-idea pattern. That might sound daunting, but it comes naturally, as if expressing an opinion or talking about the topic.

First – I address in a line or two what the book is about, in some cases, what drew me to the book.
Second – I address what I like about the book.
Third – I address what I don’t like about the book. I try to make this equal or less in length to the second topic.
Fourth – I provide a summary, basically saying why or why not someone might want to pick this up.

These might seem extremely simple, but that’s all that go into a good book review. Let me provide an example below for a book we all know, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

1) Address what the book is about and what drew you to it.

Have you ever just wanted to eat, become wrapped in a cocoon and transform into something beautiful? The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle introduces us to a caterpillar who just wants that, by eating through an entire picnic. Surely that single idea is an inspiration to any of us, and certainly is a dream I aspire to accomplish.

2) Address what you like about it.

Carle’s artwork is beautiful, and this classic story leaves you enchanted each time you read through it, whether on your own or with someone else. It teaches a lesson that sometimes too much eating will leave you chubby and unable to move, but in the end you will become (spoilers!) a beautiful butterfly.

3) Address what you don’t like about it.

Of course, there is a flaw in Carle’s representation of the caterpillar as they cannot actually eat an entire picnic, nor do they look as adorable.

4) Summarize Your Review

That being said, the cartoonish nature of the story does not pull away from the adorable tale. Any child, or adult really, will love, enchanted by Carle’s poetic nature as well as his artwork. I intend to read this story to my kids in the distant future. 5 out of 5 stars!

As you can see, the review is simple enough but with enough detail that captures everything you do or don’t like about the book. This one was far more simplistic, and while I have many more examples of book reviews I have written it maintains the same structure.

But what if I don’t want to write a long book review? I just want to enjoy books!

That’s fine too! But please, especially for independent authors, consider rating the story or leaving a simple review that says “Amazing!” or alternatively, “I didn’t like this :(” While these reviews might not carry the same weight, it still tells the author that their stories are being read.

Okay, fine. But where can I review books?

The basic answer is: anywhere and everywhere. Post that you love a book on your blog, social media, or scream it in the middle of the street!

Or, I guess, alternatively, you can post on select websites like Goodreads, Bookbub, Amazon…just to name a few!

Reviews are what give authors exposure. Notably, only 20% of book purchasers review the book. Let’s make that number higher…for all the authors out there.

Have any questions? Want to recommend a book for ME to review? Email me at esbarrison@gmail.com.

E.S. Barrison

Insights, News

How to Help Your Favorite Indie Authors

Indie authors do not have the luxury of big publishing houses or a vast amount of resources to market their books. In most cases, being an indie author is one person trying to market and idea they’re passionate about. Each indie author chose the independent route for a reason (a topic I’ll address in another post), so if you love their story…there are ways for you to help!


So how can you help?

  1. Buy their book – This should be pretty self explanatory. Sales mean your indie author knows they have fans.
  2. Review their book – This is almost as important, if not MORE important, than purchasing the book. Reviews help the book get attention. Amazon will start showing the book in relevant searches after 10 reviews, and after 50 the book will be added to different independent book lists. Think about it from the consumer perspective – if you see more reviews on a product, you know more about it.
  3. Tell your friends! – If you like the book, tell your like minded friends. Recommendations go a long way!
  4. Recommend the book to your local library – Books do not get on shelves unless you request it get added! If you tell your local library about it, then it gets the book into hands of others.
  5. Make Fan Content – Art! Aesthetic boards! Playlists! Whatever you can think of – they help the author get attention (and most authors love seeing it too).

Now go out there, read your favorite books, and shout about them to everyone who comes your way.

Happy reading!

E.S. Barrison

Insights, News

My Thirteen-Year Long Path to Publishing

I would not recommend that anyone goes through my insane publication process. It’s stressful, time consuming, but I hope it will pay off.

It starts when I was thirteen.

Enter Ms. Black’s English Class: I’m an aspiring writer already, with some little story pocketed away. Do I remember what it was? Not really. But it was the first thing that really sparked my interest in writing.

One day in October, Ms. Black told the class that our job was to write a suspenseful horror story inspired by authors like Edgar Allen Poe, in the spirit of Halloween of course. So, I wracked my little thirteen-year old brain. Horror wasn’t necessarily a genre I wrote, but suspense was something I enjoyed.

The idea started simple: an old priest, knowing his death would be soon, sat in his church writing a letter in red ink. He heard a hysterical woman in the graveyard, so he abandoned his writing and hurried out to hear the commotion. The woman was screaming because a bell beside the grave, known as a safety coffin, was ringing, and there was not a breeze in the air. The priest tried to calm her, but to no avail.

This is where I was caught off guard though. The woman transformed in my story from a terrified young lady…to the fierce and stunning Goddess of Death, or Grim Reaper.

This is my notorious Woman in Black. She was the first character I developed for The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice, and frankly, she hasn’t changed much over the years.

Granted, the story has undergone multiple makeovers. Names of characters have changed. Personalities altered. But with a few central themes: conflict in an ancient council, a kind-hearted protagonist, and strong women of different personalities.

So let’s go back to the beginning. From the age thirteen to eighteen, I worked on this story. Initially it was called simply “Apprentice”, then “Discipulus”, which was the name it kept for a long time. It took place in the modern world, the main characters were highschoolers, and honestly I was probably way in over my head. But I still wrote an entire five book series (Discipulus, Medius, Venator, Proditor, and Dominus). It was an accomplishment! I was proud of myself!

I think I wrote over five drafts of Discipulus alone.

Then college came. I abandoned them for three years after my story was accused of being childish.

I’m glad I did.

I grew beyond what I initially wrote. After three years of learning more about myself, I knew where I had gone wrong.

So I scrapped everything.

Okay, okay, scrapped is the wrong word. I have the original files backed up, but after trying to keep the premise the same, I knew it just wouldn’t work.

I wish I could tell you how I came to the revelation. Yet, no matter how I wrack my brain, I can’t. I think it comes down to how the story never really left me. It was always there, waiting to be taken again.

Over the course of a few more years, I worked on rewriting my novel. I kept the name Discipulus for the time being, but knew the change would ultimately come.

I finished the revised draft one sometime in early 2018. Then by mid-year, I came up with the name…The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice.

I was so proud, and I thought the idea was fleshed out entirely by the time I looked for beta readers in late 2018. A few circumstances led me to believe that was not the case: an overly ambitious beta reading plan, a low response rate, and the few readers that did finish pointing out the flaws.

In early 2019, I reassessed, and rewrote over half the novel.

It was worth it.

Beta readers loved the story. Over 70% of those interested finished, and they raved and loved the book! So, at the end of 2019 I knew that this year, 2020, I would finally publish this story. I sent it to an editor, Charlie Knight, who helped make the story stronger, hired my cover artist, and got to work.

I’m two and a half months now from the book’s release. I can go on about why I chose to indie publish, but I think that’s a story for another day.

Needless to say, the point of this rambling is to say this: don’t give up. It’s a lot of work, no one is every going to say it’s easy, but if you stick with it and are willing to adjust due to criticism, you will soar.

Will this 13 year journey of mine pay off? I don’t know. But I am proud of what I have put together.

And isn’t that all that matters?

Until next time,

E.S. Barrison