Breaking in With Book Reviews

© Beth Morrow- All Rights Reserved


Needs: nonfiction articles and interview on famous people, places and events.

Length: typical article length is 400-700 words for article, 1200 words for cover story

Payment: depends on length and assignment

How to submit: send one paragraph query with clips and SASE or email to editor@...

Sound familiar? To anyone who’s made the leap into freelancing and nonfiction, querying your first few publications is a nerve-wracking experience—one made all the more stressful when you don’t have the requested clips of your published work to send along with your brilliant story proposal.

How to break this vicious cycle? If you’re independently wealthy, you could give up your dream of being a published author, buy the magazine’s editorial department and hire yourself as editor, but for the rest of us, there’s an easier (and cheaper) option: book reviews.

Before you declare book reviewing as ‘not real writing’ or start comparing book reviews to those terrible book reports we all recall from high school, hear me out: not only are book reviews a great way to make a little money and get a little writing-for-deadline practice under your belt, they’re an easy way to build up those necessary clip files you’ll need to move on to bigger and better assignments.

Interested? Writing book reviews is much easier than you think. First, obviously, you’ll need something to review. This is part of the process where you get the most choice. My advice? Choose wisely. If you agree to review auto mechanic books, you’d better have the background and interest capable of writing an educated, pertinent review. Find a topic or subject you like and work with that in mind. Don’t limit yourself to only nonfiction. There are plenty of publications that feature fiction reviews that cater to their reading population.

Next, you’ll want to go on the search for possible publications for your reviews. The best advice here is to start with what you know. Do you belong to a gardening group? Why not review the new book on herbal folklore? Maybe your church has a monthly newsletter where you can feature a recent inspirational title or novel. Some smaller newspapers welcome book reviews on a variety of subjects. Perhaps a local chamber of commerce would be interested in featuring reviews of a business title. And there are hundreds of websites where fiction titles are reviewed as soon as they hit the presses. Let your topic interest guide your search for the perfect markets of your reviews.

Payment varies greatly for book reviews, from nothing at all but a byline (collect that clip!) to, once you’ve established and proven your mettle, a small payment, name recognition and even contact with publishers who want to send you their latest releases (for free…) to review. Your growing readership, professional courtesy and list of credits are considerations to share with your editor at the point in your career when you’re seeking a raise (or to establish payment). Some authors chide new writers for writing for free/cheap, but there are times when getting your foot in the door is more important than the paycheck. That decision rests solely with you alone, but don’t use it as an excuse to devalue your work, either. If you feel you’re entitled to more, bring it up professionally with your editor.

Gathering clips through writing book reviews is only one of the many ways to make an entrance into the freelancing world. Use the resources and connections you have to make that bridge a little easier to cross. With a little hard work and perseverance, you’ll have the clips you need to query editors with confidence.


About the author: Beth Morrow isn’t afraid to admit she’s loved writing book reviews since junior high. A freelancer with all kinds of credits to her name, she’s awaiting the release of her first short story, Mandi’s Lucky Day, from The Wild Rose Press. In the meantime, you can check out her writing blog at:



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