Can we just talk about how much fun writing a book blog can be over some cake and tea, please? <3
Confession: my book reviews were kinda a byproduct of this blog, because I had no idea how else to buff it out.
I couldn’t just talk about my own WIP all the time, because it was a mess of a first draft back then. So, I decided to review a few books since I was here anyway and already read a lot*.
While CookieBreak still isn’t a pure book review blog, I do love that side of it. I know a few people who want to start a book blog but have no idea how, so this post is for you**, friends and familiars!
*Well, not a lot, but enough to review–how some of you read ten or more books a month is beyond me!
**Never say I don’t give you anything nice! <3
The best way to connect with your readers is by showing them who you are, and an About Me page is an easy way to do that!
It doesn’t need to be much–when you first fell in love with books, your favourite genres, and why you’ve created your blog (to share aforementioned love, perhaps?) is plenty!
It’s a good idea to keep it short, anyway. There’s no need to give your followers a chronological list of your life. They’re there for the reviews and to gush about their favourite books–they don’t care which school you attended between 2009 and 2011.
I always had a contact form, but I didn’t think to add a brief bit about whether I’m accepting new books for review or not until later. I wasn’t exactly drowning in a sea of requests, but then reviews aren’t the only thing I do on this blog.
Despite my weekly book reviews, this isn’t a book review blog. Your blog, however, might be, and if that’s the case adding such a mention can’t hurt!
I didn’t think to add review guidelines until I’d already been blogging for over a year. As I said, this isn’t technically a book review blog, so it just didn’t occur to me. I eventually wrote a post about how I review books, and it doubled as my review guidelines for a while.
Review guidelines are an easy way for your followers to learn whether you might accept their book or not. If you don’t accept indie books, it should be in your guidelines. If you don’t accept erotic novels (a lot of reviewers don’t) or only want historic re-tellings, you should mention it.
Whether you’re going to include guidelines somewhere on your blog or not, I recommend you think about what you want from a book and how you decide whether it’s worthy of five stars or barely earns three.
It’s useful when you can’t quite decide how to rate a book, and might even reveal something about your preferences you weren’t aware of!
There are hundreds of posts out there telling you how to write the perfect review, but I’d say there’s only two things you need when reviewing any book:
Your unique personality, and honesty*.
Stale reviews are the last things you want, and the best way to avoid them is by being yourself. I’ve already talked about what being professional actually means, and it applies to your reviews, too:
Swear a lot? Laugh a lot? Smile so much people worry about your sanity? There’s nothing wrong with cussing and the occasional smiley in your blog posts. Sometimes you just love a book so. fucking. much!
The whole point of your book blog is to share your opinion on different books with people. Make sure it sounds like you.
If you loved a book that has mostly one and two star reviews, don’t be afraid to say so. If you didn’t enjoy the ARC you’ve been given because it was full of spelling errors or because the characters didn’t develop, you can say that, too.
I hate reviewing books I didn’t enjoy at all. The. WORST! Since I don’t have much good to say, I try to make my review constructive.
This is especially important when you’re reviewing an indie book–big, traditionally published authors with hundreds of thousands of reviews won’t think much of it when you say their world building needed work, but an indie author with only two reviews? They might just grow as a writer because of you.
I also recommend you post your own pictures with your reviews, rather than just the cover from Goodreads. It adds more unique personality, and makes it more shareable.
Also, I like to include a quote or three from the book, so my followers get a feel for the author’s writing rather than just my opinion of it. I might not have enjoyed the author’s voice, but perhaps it speaks to you!
*and I guess manners don’t hurt, either, so technically that’s three things
One of the first ever reviews for my debut novel had gifs and smileys, and I loved every word of it. Partly because it was a five-star review, but also because the gifs added personality and conveyed beautifully how the reviewer felt at certain parts of the story.
What’s more effective?
I got frustrated because Sue and Terry didn’t kiss.
KISS DAMN YOU
The internet is becoming a more and more visual place every day. Content with images tends to do better because people are attracted by pretty pictures, and reviews are a great place for pretty pictures!
As I said above, being honest is one of the only two things you need to write a good review. However, don’t be rude.
A book might not work for you, but it’s worked for other people and the author put a lot of work and love and time into it. Saying This book was the worst shit ever. The fuck was the author thinking?!? Don’t read this garbage. is unnecessary.
Not only that, but it’s unhelpful, too. Unfortunately, the characters were flat and unbelievable. By the end of the book, Sue was still arrogant and Pete was still naive af. is far more helpful than writing Couldn’t finish this, the writing was too awful.
Whether something is awful or not is subjective. Your readers won’t gain anything from a review like the example above. Be honest, but give your readers something they can work with, too.
While I don’t pick monthly faves*, I do pick annual favourites every December. I do it in two posts: my favourite reads that year, and my favourite indie reads that year.
Now, I don’t differentiate because I don’t think that indie books deserve to be in the same category**. I differentiate because I love a lot of books, and doing two posts allows me to give more of them a shout-out.
It’s also handy when you’re specifically looking for indie recommendations. I’ve done the research for you, friends. You’re welcome.
*seems pointless given I’m ecstatic when I manage to read four books in one month
**I mean, I’m one of you…
If the sole/main purpose of your blog is book reviews, I recommend sorting your reviews into categories. Yes, I know it’s not necessary and yes, I know I have a problem*, but categories do make it easier!
Imagine you get to a point where you have a hundred reviews. What if you read in more than one genre? Or your readers are only interested in New Adult fiction? What if you just love organising things?
You’re safe here. I don’t judge. Organise away.
*COLOUR-CODE ALL THE THINGS
This is a quick, easy, weekly tag you can join. I participate every second Wednesday, and it’s a nice way to connect with other book bloggers and share what you’re reading at the moment*.
It’s easy. Create a post that answers what you’re reading right now, what you’ve recently finished reading, and what you think you’ll read next, and let others know you’ve joined the game by posting on Sam’s blog.
*why, yes, I do have a category for this. how did you guess?
This is for your personal reference rather than for your blog. When you read more and more books and aim to review all of them, it’s easy to forget a thing or two.
Could you tell me right now what you loved and didn’t love about the book you read three months ago? You probably don’t plan on waiting this long to write your review, but things happen.
I usually write my review within a week of reading a book, but sometimes it has to wait for a few weeks and when it does, having a couple of notes is super useful.
Honestly, it’s the only reason I manage to write half-coherent reviews at all*. It’s a lifesaver, trust me. I have an app on my phone for all my notes, but if you prefer to write them by hand, go ahead!
Whatever is easiest for you when you’re in the middle of an excellent book will do fine.
However, don’t take your note-taking too far. I’ve read some reviews which I swear were working down a checklist. Female lead? Check! Emotionally insecure male side-kick? Check! Overall enjoyment? Erm….
Don’t get so caught up in analysing what works and what doesn’t that you forget to, you know, enjoy the book. What’s the point in reading otherwise? I know many reviewers take it extremely seriously, and that’s fine. But sometimes I wonder if some take it too far.
Just enjoy what you’re reading, and let us know what you loved and didn’t enjoy when you’re done. It needn’t be complicated, friends.
*ahem, most of the time, anyway… my only notes for Equal Rites said ‘LOVE Granny Weatherwax!’ Thanks for nothing, me -.-
And that’s it for another series! Here are the posts again in case you’ve missed something or would like to re-visit a topic:
The next series begins in two weeks and will be all about writer’s
block burnout 😉
Do you have a book blog? Feel free to share a link 😉 What’s a must on your site–and what’s something you thought you needed but discarded?
Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:
For all of my other musings, click me!
For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.
Gifs came from giphy