How to find book review jobs: a step-by-step guide

Updated 23 September 2022

Many young people develop skills in literary criticism and analysis throughout their education, and they want to find ways to use these skills in the workplace. One way to use these skills is to become a book reviewer, either for unfinished works that need reviewing and editing or for finished media. Since working from home creatively and professionally continues to gain support, there are more book reviewer jobs and opportunities available than ever. In this article, we outline what a book reviewer does, explain how to find book reviewer jobs and give tips for success in a career as a book reviewer.

What do book reviewer jobs entail?

A professional book reviewer appraises books and other pieces of media for contracted clients. Many publishing companies and magazines curate a body of reviewers in-house or remotely who evaluate works, but these professionals usually start out on a freelance basis. Prestigious reviewers can often make the difference between a book's success or failure, especially for political literature and books with wide public 'bestseller' appeal. Generally, reviewers have broad portfolios but book reviewers can also be professionals or specialists in their field.

How to find book review jobs step-by-step

Book review jobs can be highly competitive. Start your search the right way with a clear strategy in mind. Here we have outlined essential steps for your development in this field:

1. Earn relevant qualifications

The key to kick-starting a career as a writer is to gain qualifications in writing-related subjects wherever possible, ideally a humanities degree. Bachelor's degrees in English literature, linguistics, history and classics all provide a solid education in literary theory, research and critical thinking. Literature degrees in particular provide in-depth analysis of literary techniques and ways of highlighting these in a critique. A degree can set you apart from other professionals who apply for these jobs without degree qualifications. This can lead to a much higher success rate in job applications.

Related: A beginner's guide to earning your undergraduate degree

2. Acquire related workplace experience

Many review sites value experience in other jobs that involve written communication and critical thinking, such as publishing, academia, law or journalism. Internships at publishing houses for students during the summer and other volunteer work experience opportunities are common. Often, publishing houses recruit directly from their internship schemes, so you could land a book review job or related roles such as editor before even finishing your degree. Related experience is not always required, so if you do not manage to secure one of these opportunities, it won't reduce your prospects.

Related: What is an internship?

3. Decide your niche

Even if your plan involves maintaining an open mind to a wide range of literature, being able to market yourself as a specialist in a certain genre can lend you authority. Maintaining a balance between your specialism and general literature is the best way of keeping jobs relevant to your interests. Consider also undertaking book review jobs outside of your niche throughout your career to help broaden your experiences, in case you want to try other genres later in your career. Many freelance book reviewers advertise under a particular genre, but receive enquiries from all sorts of clients regardless.

4. Read and research your preferred genres thoroughly

Having a strong foundation of knowledge of the conventions and history of your genre can help you give authoritative reviews. It is also difficult to give useful reviews of genres which are unfamiliar to you. Frequently reading works from your preferred genre is essential. Make sure you have at least a passing knowledge of broad literary theory and literary techniques so that you can identify at once when your clients use them.

Related: Analytical skills: definitions and examples

5. Practice reviewing books independently

A useful way to exercise your evaluative skills and prepare for commissioned work is to review books independently. Get used to reading critically at speed and being able to give targeted feedback on books rather than simply reading for enjoyment. Consider posting these reviews on a blog or social media page to get used to others seeing your comments online and writing reviews that are suitable for publication. Doing this can help you eliminate bad habits and also gives you writing samples to send to potential employers and platforms.

Related: How to brand yourself in 10 steps

6. Set up accounts on freelancing platforms

Freelancing platforms connect freelance reviewers and other professionals with clients, usually taking their hosting fee as commission. Freelance gigs usually work in two directions—either clients order a work package you have advertised or you send proposals to clients who have advertised a brief. The majority of book reviewers depend on a steady stream of freelance work for income, to the point that reviewers at companies often have active freelance businesses at the same time. Freelancing is the best source of experience for book reviewers, and it may be an indispensable income stream throughout your career.

Related: Freelance work: everything you need to know about freelancing

7. Apply to book reviewing jobs at publishers

With your qualifications, experience and some sources of income and experience in place, you can begin applying to book review jobs. Apply to established review sites, publishers and magazines first, since a strong portfolio often secures an interview. Even if you experience rejection, many employers offer limited feedback on why you did not succeed in your application. Use rejections to change your approach and stay committed to applying for roles regularly without being disheartened. Be patient, since your freelance work and submissions may provide opportunities at any time.

Related: How to get a job in publishing (definition and steps)

What does a book reviewer do?

Book reviewers evaluate books based on their quality, attention to detail and integration within their genre and literary history. Authors of finished works generally want reviewers to describe their experiences as readers as feedback to improve on later. Reviewers of incomplete works, also called 'beta readers', pay close attention to continuity and phrasing choices and suggest edits to the writers. Publishers or authors may also recruit reviewers with specialist knowledge to check their non-fiction and semi-factual works for scientific or historical errors.

Tips for book reviewers

The book reviewing business is often uncertain, so maintaining a healthy mindset and good habits is essential to keeping your career stable. Here we have collected some advice for book reviewers starting their careers:

  • Accept whatever work comes. Being too picky with your work can be problematic for freelance work. Often, taking whatever work you can get is necessary and gives you a variety of reviewing experiences upon which to draw.

  • Prioritise exposure early. Building a readership as soon as you can, whether that is online or in magazines, is essential to developing your voice and authority as a reviewer. Engage with communities, forums and trending new works to try and gather an audience for your work early in your career.

  • Advertise as far as you can afford. Many freelancing businesses and professionals suffer a reduced stream of incoming work because their offers are not visible. Don't underestimate paid advertising and social media exposure for gaining new customers and be sure to contact previous clients about new work.

  • Temper your expectations. Your first paid opportunities may yield a low rate since reviewing is such a saturated market. Undertaking these low-paid gigs is nonetheless essential to building a portfolio, so make sure you have realistic expectations for your earnings.

  • Enquire directly by email to editors. Being direct and confident with communications can impress employers and provide opportunities that would be otherwise unavailable. Consider sending emails to magazines that aren't advertising opportunities enquiring about potential work.

  • Maintain a portfolio and website diligently. Creating a clear Internet footprint for yourself through a freelancer profile website with your portfolio clearly displayed can be very beneficial to applications. It also opens up potential income streams through affiliate marketing.

  • Start a book reviewing blog. Starting a blog or social media profile where you regularly post about your activities can lead to a noticeable following and freelance opportunities. Be sure to mention where you are based to take advantage of local opportunities and media.

  • Read reviews by other professionals. By writing about literature that has a genre, you are yourself writing as part of a genre of reviews. Read the work of established reviewers and pay attention to techniques and arguments that you can use intelligently in your own work.

Related articles

How to write a synopsis for your next literary work

Explore more articles

  • How to become an administrative assistant (With skills)
  • 12 back of house and front of house jobs in a kitchen
  • How to become a financial analyst (Plus job and salary info)
  • Complete guide for how to become a freelance proofreader
  • Are business degrees worth it? (With types and jobs)
  • How to become a chief technical officer (step by step guide)
  • Why is it so hard to get a job? (With tips for finding one)
  • Clinical nurse specialist vs nurse practitioner explained
  • How to become a social media assistant (steps and benefits)
  • 15 jobs as a freelancer (With duties and salaries)
  • Inspiring Career Change Jobs with No Experience Required
  • Types of law work experience to advance your career