Monday, March 24, 2014

Reviewing Books As A Blogger

There have been many posts by other bloggers about the idea that you're "obligated" to write reviews as a book blogger and how there's this notion that if you don't write reviews (or as many in relation), you're not really a book blogger or you're not as good. And being someone who shares the same opinion as many others - that you don't NEED to write reviews to be considered a book blogger at all and furthermore, that that is an absolutely ridiculous thing to say - I think the message has gotten across quite nicely so I want to spend time talking about something else.

What's it like to review books as a blogger?

I started blogging with the sole intention of reviewing books that I had read. I honestly didn't think anything else would really happen on my blog (granted I had no clue what else there was available to me in the blogosphere!) so the number one thing I spent time doing on my blog was writing reviews.

I don't think you could really call them reviews though. I certainly didn't think of them as reviews. They were more a series of random thoughts I had on each book, usually two or three paragraphs with the majority of words being "OMG" and "absolutely" and "definitely" and "totally" and "CUTE".

But then, as I slowly realized that bloggers are actually serious business in the world of book promotion and marketing, I felt like I needed to suit up and get more professional with my reviews. And so when I made the move here, that was the first thing I worked on. I looked at a whole bunch of reviewing styles from a whole bunch of bloggers and brought together some of my favourite methods:

+ writing the synopsis for the book yourself. I thought the summaries bloggers came up with usually were much more concise and clear than the ones off of Goodreads so I thought it would be a good idea for me to do so

+ bolding phrases throughout the review as a way to draw attention to important concepts. I know a lot of people really don't like reading long reviews so I wanted to have options for people. If they wanted to read the whole thing, they could or if they just wanted to skim and get the gist of what I thought, that was available too.

+ a final thoughts section. This was created for the same reason as above but I also thought that this was a good way for ME to sum up my thoughts. I ramble a lot so if I had a section at the end where I just briefly summed up my thoughts, it would be clearer for me and the reader.

+ a recommendation. These are just fun little things that I like to see on other reviews and while even though I can't often conjure up books that are similar enough in style and concept, I like writing a few sentences or so for readers so they can get an idea of what the book is about or if they liked it, maybe what other books they can look for that are along the same lines.

+ an actual star rating. This was something I didn't have on Random Reads, I had word ratings instead but sometimes I felt like it was unclear what each of them meant in relation to stars so just to make it easier, I put them together and I think it works well? 

+ a section linking to other reviews of the same book. I only recently implemented this and I don't do it every time, mostly because it's hard to find a lot of good reviews for some of the less known books or less popular ones, but I think this is really helpful for ME as a reader. I like being able to hear other sides of the story and reading other reviews with maybe differing opinions gives me better perspective on whether or not I'll enjoy the book.

And you know, I'm really happy with the structure of my reviews. I kind of think about what I'd like to see in more reviews and include that in mine but I also feel like sometimes, I don't have room to just play around. That's something I miss from when I was blogging at Random Reads because I didn't have so many guidelines for myself and I was really able to review books in whichever way I wanted. And the way I'm doing it now is just not working for me. I feel like I'm always struggling to find things to say and writing paragraph and paragraph about a book while having to think about transitions and linkage of ideas is draining the fun out of it. Because I do like reviewing books - I like sharing my thoughts and seeing what other people have to say - but for whatever reason, the way I'm currently constructing them is not clicking with me.

I just feel like whenever I sit down and review a book, I have this expectation of myself that I'll be able to write as amazing reviews as other bloggers, like ones that belong on Kirkus or the New York Times. But honestly? I'm just a blogger - and I don't mean that in any demeaning way but just intending to say that I'm not a professional. And I don't seek to be. Because in all honesty? Coherence has never been my strong suit. And half the time, I don't even understand what any of the reviewers over at the New York Times are babbling on about. So for me as a blogger, I think that sharing my thoughts is the most important. I really don't expect people to come to me for a proper review that will help them make an informed decision about whether or not to read a book. I just want people to gain some insight and above all, enjoy reading my reviews! Because it feels like there's this almost unanimous agreement in the blogosphere (to me, at least) that reviews are least fun to read and totally boring and readers dislike reading them the most. And as someone who actually did and still does enjoy writing reviews, it's kind of disheartening to me because there's nothing I like more than chatting about books.

So I just wanted to say that I will be breaking up my reviews a bit and organizing them in a way that makes it easier for me to come up with cool and interesting and fun things to say, particular to each book. Because sometimes, I do feel like reviewing is unfun because there's this pressure to be super professional in them and also because I feel like people skip them more often. Which makes sense because that's what I do too BUT I want to make sure that for the reviews people do click on, they find themselves enjoying the reviews as much as anything else.

And...I know this was kind of a rambly post without any sort of focus. Mostly I just wanted to tell you guys about my new way of reviewing but then it kind of expanded and grew into this ginormous wall of text. The title is kind of misleading too. oOOPS.

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