A good acim review is not a book report. It should not include a complete plot summary or a chapter-by-chapter description of the book’s contents. It may, however, describe enough of the plot to make people want to read further, such as stopping the summary at a cliffhanger moment, or it might list the main topics without going into detail. Under no circumstances should a review give away a novel’s ending, or list the concluding arguments of a non-fiction work. In short, a review should never provide so much information that the reader feels no need to read the book because he completely knows what it contains; a review should be like a movie trailer-a teaser to get people to read the book, while giving enough commentary to let the reader decide whether the subject is really for him.

Accuracy: Book reviews must be accurate, so if looking for a book critic, checking the accuracy of the person’s past reviews is the best way to determine whether the person truly reads the books he reviews. By accuracy, I mean using the correct names of the characters and spelling them properly, accurately summarizing the plot, and also the importance of proper grammar and punctuation so the reviewer appears intelligent and competent, and therefore, qualified to write the review.

Good Writing: A reviewer is a writer him- or herself. The person should have a strong command of the English language and be able to communicate well. Writing choppy sentences and having poor grammar will only make the reviewer look bad, and that will result in people not understanding the book’s value or valuing the critic’s opinion. A good reviewer will also have knowledge of what constitutes good writing and be able to judge the difference between good and bad.

He or she should be widely read and be familiar especially with the subject area to be reviewed, or be willing to admit when a subject is out of his range of expertise; if the latter, he can still judge the material based upon how well he was able to follow the argument. If a reviewer is highly knowledgeable about the Middle Ages, she may be the best person to review a book on the building of Gothic cathedrals, but she may not be the best person to review a book debating evolution-that said, she can admit she is no expert on the subject, but still point out whether the book informed her and she was able to follow it. It never hurts for the reviewer to add whom he thinks would be the perfect audience or age group for the book, for example, “I think anyone interested in quantum physics would enjoy this book” or “This book is probably best suited for a young adult audience, but I think many adults will be pleasantly surprised as well by how entertaining.

Literary Agent: A Literary Agent is necessary if you are determined to be published by a sizable publishing house. Most publishing houses will not take submissions from anyone but a Literary Agent. A publishing house with a name and reputation can secure publicity and distribution more easily than a lone independent author. They have the clout to launch a book successfully. Some publishers, like Red Wheel Weiser, welcome direct submissions from authors. A literary agent’s main responsibilities include: shop your manuscript around, secure a contract, confirm that the contract is beneficial for you and your book, and even solicit foreign rights.

Some agents may help their authors find sponsors for the whole promotional campaign. However, when the material in the book is time sensitive there is a deadline for getting the book to press. Finding the right agent to take on your book takes time. And there is always a queue for your book to be published; the queue can take 18 months to 2 years for a finished book. Can you wait that long? Often publishing houses will obfuscate how much they will invest in marketing your book. With a free-lance publicist’s help your book may move more quickly off bookstore shelves.

Publicist: How did you find the book you are currently reading? Was it recommended to you by someone you trust? Chances are a publicist brought this book to your attention either directly or indirectly. A book review may have caught your eye, or a radio interview tickled your ear, or you saw an author on TV. These are a few of the ways a publicist creates attention for your book. A publicist’s work can begin with your manuscript to help you create a more polished and marketable format. This is part of book shepherding. Or a publicist can begin promoting you and your book 3-6 months before the book is released. At that time, effective publicists secure endorsements, build your platform, submit articles, or solicit pre-publication reviews.

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