Book reviews online are bombarding social media. More and more people have their own blogs dedicated to book reviews, host giveaways and prize packages, chat with authors for interviews, promote novels of all genres, and display the various book review programs in which they participate.
Social media sites such as Goodreads and Shelfari, and consumer sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, offer all readers the opportunity to post their thoughts and opinions on books. This explosion of book review mania leads to the sense of overexposure of the written word. After all, if anyone can create their own blog for the purpose of reviewing books, what differentiates the good reviews from the poor, the serious reader from the book hoarder, or the writer of critical analysis and persuasion from the one of bias?
Most book reviewing programs, such as Net Galley, WaterBrook Multnomah, Litfuse, and numerous others linked directly to publishing houses call for reviewers to fulfill multiple requirements before accepting them into the programs. These reviewers typically are good writers who feel the need to provide thoughtful commentary on books and authors. Nevertheless, no writer is perfect and readers who provide reviews just for the sake of doing so often need some extra guidance.
I review for multiple e-zines, publishing houses, and authors directly through personal relationships. Since I began reviewing in early 2014, I have completed fifteen reviews and have at least twenty-five more to go before the end of the year. It goes without saying that I learned the ins-and-outs of reviewing quickly, but even so I know there is more to learn because social media, through which the majority of reviewing takes place, constantly evolves.
For now, here the tips I recommend for those of you who want to review books for your favorite authors and publishers:
1) Take your reviewing seriously
Authors rely heavily on reviews for advance praise of their books. If you are going to review books, take your writing seriously. Write in full sentences, back up your thoughts with concrete evidence from the text, ensure your paragraphs are in logical order, and provide an analysis of the novel. While book reviews are the discretion of the reviewer, they should be more than an opinion piece. Readers all have their own thoughts and feelings—some readers will agree with your opinions, others will feel the exact opposite. Make sure your review is analytical, critical, and persuasive.
2) Use the sandwich method
Reviews are almost always rated on a five-star scale. While it rare that any book is rated one star—if a book is published, chances are something positive can be found within the text—most books are not rated five-stars because, let’s face it, how many novels are literally perfect from front to back cover? For those stellar books that you just have to rate five stars, have fun with the positivity! But, for the one-to-four star reviews, make sure to include both the positives of the novel and the parts that could use some work. Even negative reviews can be helpful to authors for marketing and promotion purposes, because the sheer number of reviews can be a selling point for the book. Several authors have told me they would rather I write a critical review than not write one at all.
Just remember, reviews contain some opinion, so it is crucial when writing the less-than-positive piece that you support your argument with analysis. To cushion those paragraphs of less-than-praiseworthy comments, sandwich the text between two paragraphs of positive commentary. Reviewers want to read the praises of the novel at the beginning of your response (excitement!), and ending your review with a positive comment and congratulations to the author will encourage readers to pick up the book even more—and perhaps even grab the author’s attention to your reviewing skills!
3) Tech your review
Social media is vital to reviewing success. It is not enough to just post your review on your blog—especially if your blog is relatively new and doesn’t have a lot of followers. It is not enough to just post your review on Amazon or Goodreads—it will get lost amongst all the others. You need to take charge of your social media accessibility. So create a page on your blog for your review and post it to all the consumer sites available…but also get on the social media sites and—here’s the kicker—talk to followers and make a name for yourself.
You know all those groups you belong to on Facebook? Copy or link your review to each and every one of them. You know all those authors you follow on Twitter? Link your review to every single one…and their publishers and literary agents. Promote your review multiple times—say, one time each day for a week. Change up your posts and tweets and don’t wear out your welcome in the groups. Just promote your review enough to make your name known amongst a circle of reviewers and publishers. The more you use social media to your advantage, the more opportunities you will have to review in the future.
Don’t forget to link your review to a purchase page, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It would be a shame for all that hard work you put into a review to be forgotten if a reader has to leave your page to do a random Google search for the book. Authors also appreciate reviewers sharing author biographies and links to personal websites and social media sites, such as the author’s Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, and Facebook pages, a Twitter handle, and any shared or personal blogs.
4) Include a disclosure
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires by law that reviewers include a disclosure for reviewing books that have been given to readers for free. This disclosure eliminates any chance of readers considering that a reviewer has written a positive review for anything less than pure honesty. FTC law wants this disclosure to ensure that all readers understand reviewers have been given the book for the purpose of a truthful review regardless of the publishers or authors giving the book away for free.