How to Become a Book Critic


Reading and analyzing books, followed by prepping and publishing an objective criticism are the main functions of a book critic. However, this field is much more than that. With their thoughtful and carefully articulated analysis, book critics help readers determine which books, and authors, make for enjoyable, interesting or just plain worthwhile reads.


This might be a great career choice for you, if you have a keen interest in reading and writing, you can base your judgments on objective and rational elements, and have a desire to spark discussion and spread awareness of all things literary.


If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to become a book critic, read on below! We’ve prepared an overview of what it takes to set the foundation for a career in this field. We’ve also included job postings, as well as a list of relevant scholarships.



Education You Might Need

Although a specific educational background may or may not be a formal requirement to enter this field, having a proper foundation in a field related to writing or literature will likely be of great benefit for working as a book critic.


The main reason that such an education is important, is that it will give you an informed base for your opinions, as well as professional credibility. In addition, top-tier employers may require you to have such credentials, as a condition of employment.





How to Get Started in This Profession

Even with a proper educational background, it can be difficult to get started as a book critic, as it’s an extremely competitive field. However, it’s still very much possible to get into the field and reach an audience, especially with the rise of digital media.


To get started while you’re a student, you can try writing for campus and community newspapers, doing art reviews for local cable television stations or writing content for websites or blogs. 


You should also consider starting your own website or blog, and populating it with as many quality book critiques and reviews as you can. Eventually, you will develop a reputation among authors, fellow reviewers, publishers and other stakeholders. 


Alternatively, you could start out as general reporter or staff writer for an online or offline publication and eventually move into a reviewer or critic’s position when one comes open.


Success Tip: As with many positions in the literary and business worlds, having a mentor can be of great benefit for learning how to enter this field, and succeed once you’re there.



General Job Description

Book critics read, analyze and review books in order to provide opinions regarding the quality of work for consumers and other interested parties. They may communicate their opinions via radio, television, newspapers, magazines, websites or books.



Typical Job Duties

Book critics are generally responsible for performing the following duties:


• Sourcing books to be reviewed

• Researching the background, personalities, techniques of the authors

• Maintaining a network of industry contacts

• Liaising with authors and agents to receive advanced copies of books

• Making informed opinions on various books and communicating those opinions in a well-articulated, objective and honest manner

• Providing a summary of the characters, setting, theme and other elements of the book

• Submitting work to editor or manager for review and approval prior to publishing



Work Environment 

Setting: As a book critic, you might find yourself based out of an office, whether home-based or in-house with a publisher. You may also have to travel to attend exhibits, as well as meet writers, publishers, editors, media professionals and other stakeholders.


Hours: Typically, composing your reviews and critiques would be but a small portion of your time. Most of it would be spent researching and reading books, engaging with readers and industry personnel on social media, reading other reviews, responding to reader commentary, liaising with your editor, and performing other duties.





Are You a Good Fit for this Career?

Being a good personal fit for a career, and vice-versa, is just as important as having the proper skill set for it. It will help ensure that you’re motivated, competent and able to handle the many challenges it will throw at you. Having the following skills, interests and personal traits will be crucial for your success as a book critic:


• You have strong research and organizational skills

• You’re able to maintain objectivity when reviewing and criticizing a book

• You have a keen interest in reading, and in writing

• You enjoy finding innovative ways to express your views

• You have the ability to communicate clearly, concisely, objectively and in a strong personal voice

• You enjoy stimulating public interest and discussion

• You're willing to spend time and effort honing your craft outside of ‘working hours’

• You're willing to work your way into a very competitive field

• You want to inform people as to what new books they can discover



Average Earnings in This Profession

As with any other career field, the level of pay you could earn as a book critic can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• The size, type and budget of your future employer

• The structure of your employment, such as if you are working on a freelance or permanent basis

• The region in which you will be working

• The specific responsibilities that will be involved in your job

• Your professional reputation and level of experience


Book Critic Salary - Canada: According to the 2016 Wage and Salary Survey of the Government of Alberta (latest figures available as of the time of writing - June 19, 2019), the average salary level of Albertans working in the Critic occupational group is $72,527 per year. Unfortunately, similar statistics were not available for other provinces or territories, or the whole of Canada.


Book Critic Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Writers & Authors occupational group is $61,820 per year.


Please Note: These figures are only intended to provide a baseline idea of what you could earn, based on industry averages collected by government salary surveys. They should not be taken as direct representations of what you will earn in this field, should you choose to become a book critic.



Who Employs Book Critics?

As a book critic, you could potentially work for the following types of organizations:


• Newspapers

• Lifestyle and entertainment magazines (online and/or offline)

• Literature related blogs, websites and online magazines

• Radio, television and web-based broadcasters


Some book critics work as full time in-house employees for publications, although many are employed as freelancers. Some are even self-employed as magazine, website or blog owners.


Please note: Some critics can also apply their specialized skills and knowledge for other complimentary professional purposes, such as for helping authors get published, teaching literature and writing classes in colleges or universities, or for owning or managing a bookstore.



Book Critic/Reviewer Jobs

Check our job board below to find Book Critic/Reviewer postings in your area:




Career Advancement Possibilities in This Profession

If you’re able to become a well-respected and established book critic/reviewer, there will be options for you to grow your career. For example, you could move to a larger publication, or move into the management side of a publication and become an editor or publisher.


You could also create a blog, website or online publication, or grow your existing one to new levels.



Similar Career Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, in that they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.


Art Critic

• Biographer

• Blogger

• Film Critic 

• Novelist

• Playwright

• Publisher

• Restaurant Critic

• Theatre Critic



Scholarships for Becoming a Book Critic

The 'Relevant University Majors' section below shows fields of study that pertain to becoming a book critic. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our English Scholarships and Journalism Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a book critic:


OCC info - Occupations in Alberta:Critic.” (March 9, 2016). Government of Alberta - Alberta Learning and Information Service. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2018.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Writers and Authors.” (April 13, 2018). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2018.

Page Turner:How to Be a Critic.” Dwight Garner. (August 22, 2012). The New Yorker. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2018.

Career:Highly Effective Tips on How to Become a Professional Book Reviewer.” (n.d.). Publishing Resources. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2018.

Blog:Becoming a Book Reviewer (Critic).” Alok Mishra. (n.d.). Ashvamegh International Magazine. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2018.



Relevant University Majors

Pursuing a major in one of the below fields is an excellent starting point for working in this field. Click on them to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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Book Critic