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.