Last week’s post was on blogging for writers and I promised a post this week on blogging for readers. They deserve two separate posts in order to do them both justice. I post a few reviews, in amongst author interviews and I discuss different aspects of writing. Book bloggers do a wonderful job of reviewing and sharing books. I have bought several books based on the recommendations of bloggers whose opinions I trust. Some bloggers share books in one genre, be it crime, historical romance, literary fiction, young adult or science fiction, others read and review a vast range of books in one blog. In a previous post I shared a list of bloggers who I follow and whose posts are varied and informative.
So, what do you write and how?
I don’t want to be formulaic because the joy of different blogs lies in their individuality and their unique voice and layout. But the key points are important:
Ask the author or publisher for a high resolution image of the book, and make sure that it is clear and not too large or small for the post. Thumbnails can get lost in amongst your words but a billboard sized image can overtake the review.
Include the ISBN number, publication date and publisher information to make it easy for people to locate the book. The genre of the book can also be a helpful indication for the reader. If a reader really enjoys, or doesn’t enjoy, a particular genre, it can help them to make a quick decision about whether to read your review or buy the book.
This is a crucial part of the review and, if you don’t want to include a whole synopsis, at least give a snapshot of the book to frame it for the reader. You probably wouldn’t see a film or a play unless you had a rough idea of the plot or the style, especially if you haven’t previously heard anything about it. Most people go on recommendations before they watch or read anything new, and your introduction can make or break their decision to read a book. Either take the full review or give an outline, and preferably before you give your candid opinion.
This is the meat of the post. It is your take on the book, your view of the style, the language and the story. Be honest, but it is best to avoid scathing comments. Some bloggers are asked by agents or publishers to review books, and others pick up books to review themselves. If you have been asked to review a book that you don’t connect with, be honest about what didn’t work and try to find the positives. If you really enjoyed the book your enthusiasm will be clear, and hopefully it will encourage others to pick up the book. Try to look at different aspects: the characters, their interaction with each other and the situations in which they are placed, the pace and style, the plot with it’s twists and turns, or the descriptive prose. Have fun and let your journalist’s hat run free.
Has the book been reviewed by the national press or magazines? Are there reviews by other well-known authors? These are worth sharing as they give the reader a better idea of the substance of the book. Quote from other reviews or from the press release. Most books have these quotes on Amazon, which will make them easier to find.
Does the author have credits or other publications? It is always interesting, although not essential, to gain some background knowledge on the person behind the cover. Do they enjoy travel? Do they have a PhD in an unusual subject? Have they previously been involved in an interesting job? Part of the reason why people enjoy author interviews is because we are all essentially curious (nosey) and it is intriguing to find out about the author or their reasons for writing the book. If readers enjoy the book, they will want to know where to find other material by the writer. Some readers find novels through reading short stories that they enjoy and then searching for books by the same author, and sometimes it works the other way around.
This is helpful but not essential. In an age of what I would call ‘the social media explosion,’ many authors have blogs and websites and are on twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or any of the other social media sites. Readers like to connect with authors. Some authors are fiercely private, and little can be found out about them or their lives and writing, but most will at least have a website. Many author websites will have widgets which take you to their other sites.
Can you recommend any good book blogs? Do you review books? How has it helped you to find what you are looking for or, perhaps, surprise you with something new?
Interesting comments about information about the writer as that is something I rarely do when reviewing a book. I think I tend to think of reviews as being a completely level playing field and I want to let the work/the book stand up for itself, except of course where with some books you just can’t separate the writer from the work, as it may have been part of their life for example. I am thinking of my recent reviews of The Honey Thief and The Examined Life.
Some writers are just known for their name and their books will be read regardless, but others who need a bit more help to get their name out there, I have tended to push the strength of their work harder than their bio for example. It’s an interesting thought, maybe I am doing them a dis-service, it’s certainly not my intention – but just as a great blurb or testimonial doesn’t necessarily make a great book, a bio can be a double-edged sword.
I review books I am really attracted to and honestly believe I am going to enjoy and that others will also enjoy, but I present them in a way that people hopefully also be able to tell if it’s not their cup of tea, as I recognise some of my choices won’t be what everyone will like.
Thought-provoking post. Thanks for the twitter follow that lead me here!
I’m really glad the post was helpful. I think readers are interested in finding out about the writers you review.
Great post and full of good pointers, I was thinking of doing some book reviews in my blog, so this helps, thanks!
Look forward to reading them.
Packed with good advice. I love it when a review gives lots of author information – I suppose being a writer I find that important, as if knowing as much about the author as possible will somehow help me!
I think it’s just curiosity and it gives you an idea of what makes them tick and how they work. I’m glad the post was helpful.