4 Tips on Excerpting Book Reviews


By Erin Entrada Kelly, Book Publicist – Smith Publicity

Book reviews are a fantastic publicity tool to showcase your work. You can use them on your website, share them through social media, put them on your book cover. Praise has far more validity when someone else is tooting the horn for you.

That said, there is craft behind the blurb. We often have clients ask: How do I efficiently showcase a fantastic 200-word review without blathering on for 200 words? The answer, of course, is the excerpt.

Effective excerpting requires mindful strategy. It’s not always as easy as it seems. Here are four tips.

1. Cite the source

All reviews should be sufficiently cited, which only makes sense—after all, anyone can print BOOK BEST EVER on their cover and never attribute it to anyone. If you have a choice between not using a blurb and printing BEST BOOK EVER without attribution, go with the former. Don’t compromise the integrity of your work.

2. Choose wisely

The more reputable the source, the better. Obviously, not all writers have the resources or wherewithal to get blurbs from New York Times bestselling authors. But when you’re going through your reviews and determining whose blurb to use, make sure you’re strategic. Your mom may not be the best person to quote on your book cover, even if she’s the most quotable.

3. Don’t add words

With reviews, as in journalism, you can’t put words in people’s mouths that weren’t there before. If you need to add an additional word to provide better context, you must put that word in parentheses. For example: Let’s say Publishers Weekly used the following words to describe your book: “A truly remarkable feat that takes us on a wondrous journey through time.” You can excerpt this as: “A truly remarkable feat … (and) wondrous journey …”

4. Speaking of ellipses …

It’s industry standard that you must use them if words are omitted from a quote. (The same is true in journalism).

You MUST maintain the integrity of the review. Don’t try to be clever by pulling out only positive words from a review and then wrapping ellipses around them, unless you’ve still maintained the intent of the reviewer’s words. For example, if Jane Doe says: “It’s remarkable that a book this terrible was ever published.” You cannot use ellipses to repurpose her intent.

An example of unethical use of ellipses:

“It’s remarkable that a book this terrible was ever published.” – Publishers Weekly

“Remarkable!” – Publisher’s Weekly

An example of smart use of ellipses:

“It’s remarkable that a book this terrible was ever published, but despite its shortcomings, the author has a clear vision that is realized through an interesting narrative.” – Publishers Weekly

“… a clear vision that is realized through an interesting narrative.” – Publishers Weekly

6 Responses

  1. I read each of your monthly newsletters. This article of excerpting reviews is well timed as I am in the midst of excerpting some reader's reviews and wanted to include just part of the language. Well done.
  2. Thanks for covering this subject. Your examples say it well.
  3. The information in this newsletter is timely and very helpful. I love to write, but like many writers, but I don't love the business end of the process. My book is self-published. I have some good reviews, but not enough to get my book seen by the "right people." Today's newsletter just may help me accomplish that. Thank you!