I had another post planned for today but had to change my mind at the last moment. I didn’t have enough material for it and wanted to do it full justice as it’s something close to my heart so I will be posting it next Saturday. As for today’s post, I have decided to bring back my series on tips for book bloggers in a bigger and better way to help out the community I’m a part of. Please note that I will be talking about what has worked for me based on my experience, so if you don’t agree with me or have something to add, please let me know in the comments so everyone, including myself, can learn something new. With that little disclaimer aside, here are my personal tips to write a good book review post.
Tip #1: Provide information about the book
This is a very basic step in the reviewing process and I’ve seen a lot of top bloggers do this as well. Your audience isn’t going to be familiar with every book you read automatically, so talking a little bit about the book before discussing your thoughts is an absolute must, in my opinion. While I think a review on a blog should have a section about the book, I find it unnecessary to have the synopsis in a Goodreads or Amazon review as the site will already have it along with other book information. I personally like to include the genre, age range, publication date, content warnings, synopsis from Goodreads and links to the book (and the author) towards the end.
Tip #2: Make notes while reading or just after finishing the book
One thing I’ve found that helps me out is writing down some key initial thoughts after I finish the book. I usually hate breaking the flow of the story to take down notes, but if you can do it, all the better. I jot down brief points on how I felt about the characters, whether I found the plot interesting and how I liked the writing style so I can expand on those later on when I write my review. You can also keep a small set of questions handy that you can answer at the end of the book and then base your published review on those, which can help lend structure to your reviews as well. You can write it down in a notebook, a Word document, a notes app or even the private notes section on Goodreads. The key here is not to get bogged down by details but write down overall general impressions that will serve as reference points to build your review on.
Tip #3: Present your thoughts in an organised way
I really like it when a reviewer has their thoughts organised beforehand rather than rambling all over the place. I have an ‘expectations vs reality’ style of reviewing in which I talk about characters, plot, world-building and writing style in order. Of course, you can choose your own way to do this. One popular method is to list your likes and dislikes. Whatever you decide on, it’s a good practice to stick to that so your reviews look coherent and well thought-out. It can also become a way to distinguish yourself from other bloggers and reviewers, so choose a format that works well with your blogging/writing voice.
Tip #4: Edit and revise
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone mention this but this is something I make sure to do for all my reviews. I first write out my thoughts on the book and then I like to see if any of my friends have reviewed it or check out some reviews on Goodreads to see what others have thought. I like to provide a balanced perspective, so taking a look at others’ point of view will often let me pick up on a few things that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise and then examine what I felt about them. Sometimes I end up adding those to my review as well. If I’m not #OwnVoices for a certain type of representation, I try to hunt for #OwnVoices reviews so I can highlight if there are any issues/problems that my bias/experience didn’t allow me to see. I give myself a day between my first draft and my revision so I can put some distance and analyse it objectively to cut out unnecessary details and provide a more balanced perspective.
Tip #5: Be careful with spoilers
I prefer to keep my reviews spoiler-free because I firmly believe that expressing your views at the cost of another reader’s enjoyment is not a nice thing to do. I was spoiled for Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and I couldn’t like the book as much as I wanted to because I knew the mystery all along. Sometimes it may be necessary to post spoilers to fully illustrate your views on a certain scene/aspect in the book and discuss it with other readers. If that is the case, make sure to include them as an expandable section upon clicking so readers can choose whether to see it or not. Goodreads automatically handles this, but you can use simple HTML and CSS to do it on your blog too.
Tip #6: Include a rating and recommendations
A rating towards the start or the end will give a clear indication of your overall thoughts on the book. Many bookish sites use this metric to recommend books to readers, so people have grown accustomed to seeing a rating along with a review. You can get as creative with your rating scale as you want to stand out from the crowd. No review is complete without having a line or two to sum up what kind of readers would enjoy the book you are reviewing. Regardless of what you thought about the book, every reader has different tastes, so adding this helps people decide for themselves whether to pick the book up for themselves. A small paragraph summarizing your feelings and recommendations for other readers at the end will add more value to your review. I take it a bit further and add pairing notes for each book with some music and food recommendations, so if you’d like to add similar extras, those can go here as well.
Tip #7: Be honest
This seems like a no-brainer but I think it’s worth repeating as integrity is a very important aspect of book blogging. Many people do paid reviews or receive a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Make a mention of that somewhere in the review so you cover your legal bases. If there’s any kind of compensation involved, make it clear from the start that you will be posting your sincere thoughts and that the other party, be it the publisher or the author, has no say in the content of your review.
I hope this gave you a few pointers on how to make your book reviews better! Do you have any additional tips? Let me know in the comments section below your own reviewing process and style.