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How do I Become a Book Critic?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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A book critic is a professional who reads and provides an analysis of books for a publication such as a newspaper, blog, or magazine. In order to become a book critic, a person must have excellent analysis skills and a great love of reading. Choosing to become a book critic can start a book lover on a rewarding career path, but it may take several years of practice and work before becoming profitable as a full time career.

First of all, a book critic must love books. Since most of the job entails reading books, it is important that this is an enjoyable, rather than burdensome task. Many critics start out as English or literature majors during college; some also are writers who enjoy reading books to enrich their own work. To become a book critic, it is important to understand and have some experience with the existing canon of literature, so try to read as much and as widely as possible.

Another useful skill gained through careful study and practice is book analysis. For a book critic, it is not enough to simply read a book and like it or dislike it. Book critics must be able to analyze the characters, plot, imagery, and strengths and weaknesses of the writing. It is important to remember that most literary criticism is different than a review or report in that it doesn't just recount the plot, it critically analyzes the writing and the story.

In order to become a book critic professionally, an aspiring professional must get published. Some critics get their start reviewing for college newspapers or online blogs, which allow them to build a portfolio. Others work as freelance writers for small, independent or local newspapers. Early work may not be steady and may not pay well, if at all, but it is essential to building a portfolio of published reviews. Often, in lieu of payment early on in a career, a critic will receive free books to analyze.

After having several articles published, a critic can begin raising freelance fees or start to approach larger publications. Several wide-circulation newspapers and many magazines publish book criticism on a weekly basis, and some may prefer to have in-house writers rather than rely on freelance work. Getting hired as an in-house critic can provide steady income and an ever-increasing portfolio. From this point, some people who have worked hard to become a book critic will choose to stay in the field, while others may go on to work with publishing agencies as development personnel or literary agents.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By chivebasil — On Apr 29, 2012

Where can I find freelance book reviewing opportunities? I have reviews written but I have no idea where to submit them. Some of them are about bestsellers but others are about more obscure or esoteric titles that I know rarely get reviewed.

By Ivan83 — On Apr 28, 2012

I got my start as a book critic by writing my own book blog. I would write a little review or any thoughts that I had about every book that I read.

I never thought it would turn into a job, I mostly started the blog to share my love of books and to help me remember what I read. I read a lot and sometimes I can't remember much about a book just a month or two after I have read it. The mind can only hold so many plots and character names.

By whiteplane — On Apr 27, 2012
I currently have a job working for Kirkus. I review books for a service they offer called Kirkus Indie. I mostly review self published and very small press stuff.

I love to read and write about books and I have dreamed for years about becoming a book critic. The only problem is that most of the books I have to read are really, really bad. Some books can't get published because they are too forward thinking but most can't get published because they are really bad. Like I say, I love the job but I tend to hate the books.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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