How to: review books
Hey guys! I’m shaking up the content a bit today and thought I’d write some tips on how to write a review! Although keep in mind I’m not perfect, so I’d love to hear your thoughts/techniques.
Writing the review:
- If you’re just starting out reviewing books, it’s a good idea to begin by writing reviews on your favourite books, just because it’s easier to format ideas and opinions with books you know well. This will help you get into the swing of how you should write a review.
- Figure out what the ratings mean to you. If you use Goodreads then you’ll use the 1-5 star system (like me), but if you just have your own blog, you can technically use whatever system you like. Just make sure you know what makes a book a 4/5 or a 7/10, because this’ll make your reviews more consistent.
1/5: Do not recommend, struggled to finish/did not finish
2/5: Finished it but it wasn’t very enjoyable. Many issues. Some people might like this
3/5: It was okay, I didn’t like a lot of the plot but I could deal with it. Probably won’t read the sequel/another book by this author
4/5: Very good! Would recommend, although there were a few issues. Not quite a favourite
5/5: Absolutely brilliant, I recommend to anyone and everyone, pleasepleaseplease read!
- Straight after reading a book, I usually open my notes on my phone and quickly note down the good and bad parts of the book. You don’t have to give it a rating straight away if you’re unsure, and you can always change your mind (if you’ve already stated it on Goodreads after logging that you’ve finished).
- Make sure you have some sort of format/structure with your reviews. It doesn’t matter too much when you start out; because you might want to try out a few different styles, but make sure it becomes consistent at some point.
If you use Goodreads to post your reviews, for example, you don’t need to put the synopsis of the book there because it will already be on the page. However if you’re using wordpress, tumblr, blogspot or a similar site, you might want to write/copy a synopsis in.
- Always include the name of the book and the authors name, and obviously your rating. I usually include a link to the Goodreads page for the book so anyone can read more about it if they want to.
- Sort out whether you want to do spoiler-free reviews or not. I personally do spoiler-free reviews, but you can do whatever you want. Some people even do a spoiler-free section, then another section containing spoilers. Whatever you do, make sure you put it at the top so people know whether or not they should continue reading.
- A mark of a good review and good writing in general, is how it flows. If you end up using lots of connectives like “the author also”, “another thing”, “as well as this”, then you need to rethink your structure. Connectives are always needed, but it’s a good idea to pair off opinions and points so it flows.
So if you have a good point about, say, the writing style, you could pair it off with a bad point about it as well, if this fits. For example:
“The vocabulary used within the novel is beautiful and poetic- it really created a wonderful atmosphere. However, at points the writing became a bit choppy, and the use of structure affected the flow of the storyline.”
I would just like to say that it doesn’t really matter how many followers or likes you get. As long as you’re happy, keep going! If you’d like to gather a following from a professional standpoint (or an egotistical one, I’m not here to judge) I have a few pointers, but keep in mind I’m still working on it myself.
- Posting reviews on Goodreads is a good way to get noticed as it will appear on the page for the book. Your friends on Goodreads will also see your review on their news feed, unless you change the settings. Most people in the book blogging community have a Goodreads account and are fairly open to accepting friend requests, so adding them can be a good idea. (Add me if you want! (plugplugplug))
- Engage authors and publishers online- tweet at them or tag them if you’ve done a review. You have a good chance at getting noticed that way.
- If you’re able, go to conventions! I recently went to my first book convention (YALC) and signed up to loads of things using my blog name to get my name out there. Talk to publishers- don’t be afraid to ask questions!
(If you didn’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reader’s Copy and it’s a pre-published version of a book so the publishers can gather ratings and quotes for blurbs, etc.)
- DO NOT WORRY ABOUT NOT HAVING ARCS! It’s true that ARCs are really cool and mainly go to the bigger blogs because publishers notice them more often, but honestly you do NOT need to review ARCs to be a successful blog.
- If you want to start reviewing ARCs, the easiest way to get them is at conventions like YALC or Book Con where they often give them away for free because they want you to review it. Although they might not always be very popular books.
Other than this, sometimes sites like Goodreads hold giveaways for books. There is the chance that an author or publishing house will give away some ARCs to be reviewed.
- A slightly more difficult route is to apply for ARCs on websites, but they might not send you anything if you don’t have a ‘big enough’ following in their eyes. But keep applying; you never know what will happen.
- Once you have an ARC, you can read and review it! Obviously don’t post a spoiler-full review, that’s just a stupid thing to do and destroys publisher-reader trust. Don’t do it.
- I’ve only ever received 1 ARC (my review is here). BUT! I know a few things:
- Make sure you state why/how you got the book! Say something like “Scholastic sent me this book in exchange for an honest review”. Even if you received a book/ARC through Goodreads, state that you won it in a giveaway.
- Also state when it’s coming out! Publishing houses also use ARCs as a way to advertise, so make sure you let people reading know that it’s coming out in a week, a month, 6 months, whatever it may be.
- Don’t worry about giving a negative review. I admit, I was slightly nervous about disliking the ARC I got, but the publishing house wants to know if anything was bad. This is how they and the author will improve, and they will find out what they need to advertise and what they don’t. They’re a company and want to make money.
And that’s all! I hope you found this useful, please let me know if you liked the change in content and if you would like to see more of this kind of thing. (Obviously I’ll keep posting reviews!)