Over the past four years, I have turned my passion for reading books into a full-time blog. And over the course of those four years, I have come to learn a few valuable lessons that I felt I should share with others who may be considering leaving a review for their favorite author, or perhaps starting their own book review blog.
To begin with, you need to know right off the bat that you most likely will not be making money by reviewing books. In fact, most places actually frown upon monetary compensation in exchange for a book review — no matter how great your writing is. Your compensation comes in the form of free books. Whether you belong to a website where advance copies of books are provided to you in exchange for a review, or you are lucky enough to know an author or someone who works with a publisher, the books you receive will be considered payment enough. And while that might be a turn-off to some people, when I look back over even the past six months and see how much money I have saved by getting these books — well, that’s payment enough for me.
The downside to getting all of those books to review? When you’ve been doing book reviews as long as I have, you begin to realize that there are very few absolutely original ideas out there. What you find instead are several variations on the same basic plot; and that can cause the books to start to seem repetitive, especially if you read the same genre. My advice is to constantly change things up with the different genres that you like, and consider branching out into new genres as well. It keeps things fresh and from getting too repetitive. Also, it is best to complete your review as soon after you finish the novel as possible. That way you have a fresh memory of the story. Trust me, it’s extremely difficult to talk about a story that you read three months ago.
I have learned that authors will respect your opinion, good or bad, as long as you give valid reasons. It is one thing to give a book a one star rating and write “did not finish” or “not for me.” That shows you were displeased with the book, yes, but it does nothing to help an author improve their work. It is more helpful to the authors (and more appreciated) if you can at least explain a little bit about why you couldn’t finish a particular story, or what about the story didn’t appeal to you.
Other bloggers, however, and/or author “groupies,” may not always be so forgiving. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have had comments left on my reviews, from other bloggers or “super fans” of a certain author, telling me that my review was wrong because for whatever reason I didn’t enjoy it. In those cases, you have to be like an author in a way, and develop a thick skin. Your reviews are your honest thoughts and opinions, and you need to own them. Don’t let someone else sway how you feel.
As with anything else in this world that you do, there are both good and bad sides to reviewing. However, one thing that I can say with certainty is that there are very few feelings in the world like the feeling you get when an author contacts you to say that they have seen your review and it has made their day. Or that reviewers like you are the reason they keep writing. There is nothing better than checking your email one day to see an out-of-the-blue email from an author whose work you have read in the past asking if you would be interested in reading their latest story.
That is when you know that what you are doing is worthwhile — that all of your hard work is appreciated even though it often does not feel like it.