Wednesday, July 9, 2014

To review or not review, that is the question

Every book reviewer is deluged with this question.  You answer this question when deciding whether you want to read this or that book for a review.  You answer this question after you read the book, when deciding if you want to post the review you would write.

Picking a book to review is sort of like picking from a mountain of books.  Literally.  The book review request list for my own blog, The Leisure Zone, would amaze you.  It is literally pages long.

When I first started doing book reviews, I would agree to review anything; which was a mistake.  I ended up with books that I didn't care much for.  Just recently, this year in fact, I added a team to my review blog.  This was a help because it motivated me to get my 'books I had agreed to review' list in order, plus look over my book review requests.

So let's move into some tips for reviewers:

1 -Set up your blog - I use blogger and am quite happy with it.

2 - You'll also need a facebook page - you can also do a google plus page as well, but just remember - the more you set up, the more you have to keep up with.

I have my blog and my facebook page, and just this year set up a facebook group for my review team.

3 - Keep it simple - Don't over-complicate your book review setup.  Remember, you have a life that involves other things too.

4 - Decide how people should contact you - You need to determine how you want people to contact you in connection with your review blog.  Warning - if you have a contact form or publicize an email address, authors may overwhelm you with review requests.

5 - Become friends with and familiar with google drive -  Google drive is very handy to become familiar with.  The forms part alone will be handy for a blogger.  You can use the forms part to put together a book review request form for authors to use.  Then there is the part where any document or picture you upload can become a shareable link.

6 - Decide how and where you'll read your books - What format are you going to read in?  mobi?  epub?  pdf?  Kindle is mobi, Nook is epub, and pdf can be read on any computer because it uses software that is on all computers.  Writers will need to know what format to send you the book in, and you'll need to decide in advance what format you're going to ask for.

7 - Plan out your review form - Decide ahead of time how you're going to organize your reviews in your blog.  I wrestled with this for ages, until I came up with a review form that I love.  Find one for yourself that you love, and follow that format with all your reviews.  You'll also need to decide if you are going to award star ratings in your reviews or not.  For a good while I didn't, but then I decided to, as part of my new review format.  If you're going to use star ratings, you'll need star graphics.  Note - don't just grab some from somewhere at random.  Ask permission first before you use them.

8 - Bad and good reviews or what? - Here's where we get to the question that I see most people ask about writing reviews.  They want to know what they should do about a book they didn't like.  This is something every reviewer will need to decide for themselves.  Some book review blogs decline to review a book unless they can write a good review, i.e. they liked the book.  And some let the chips fall where they will, bad and good reviews both.

Writing a review on a book you liked, that's the easy part of reviewing.  Deciding what to do about a book you didn't like, that's the hard part of reviewing; because each and every book is some writer's baby, their creation that they've sent out into the world.

Another thing to consider about publishing a bad review on a book - it is without a doubt going to create hard feelings on the part of the author towards you, the reviewer.  You, as a book reviewer, have to decide if you want to get into that or not.

For most of my book reviewing time, bad or good review, I posted them all if I had been asked to review the book.  But just recently, I had a total change of opinion.  I had been going through my list of books to review, and read several that I just didn't like.  I wrestled with what to do - read? review? etc.  I finally decided that for me personally, I was going to take this approach -
If I just don't like the book, I give myself permission to just not read it, even if it is a book I had agreed to review.  Also, if I can't give the book 3 stars or better, I won't review it.  I do a lot of stuff, and my reading time needs to be fun and pleasurable, and not feel like work; and this new approach helps with that.

9 - Keep it fun - If you reviewing gets to feel like work, then you need to make some adjustments.

10 - Do not, never ever, charge for doing reviews - Yes, there are some review sites out there that charge $$$ money for doing book reviews.  This practice is frowned upon, plain and simple.  They give you a copy of the book in exchange for a review.

Summing it up:
So there are some simple tips for you about doing book reviews.  I'm sure after I post this, I'll think of more stuff I could have added, so check back in case I do.
Thanks for stopping by and reading.
-- jd --

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