Here’s a sad little suggestion going around the internet: Book blogging isn’t necessary anymore. Yes, a lot of book bloggers are getting burned out, because it’s time consuming, and not always rewarding, and can feel repetitive. Well, on World Book Day, here’s why I think taking the time and effort to create our reviews and put them on our blogs is still important.
We can present an unbiased account of a title to a weary, cash-strapped public in desperate need of something good to read. Okay, maybe I’m getting a little dramatic here. But heaven knows that I’m a lot more satisfied with my library selections since subscribing to book blogs and Goodreads. As a busy mom/work-from-home writer, I can totally affirm for the majority of book-lovers that our spare time and spare money is limited. So we’d really appreciate a heads-up if we’re about to drop precious coin and hours on a novel that will make us want to run away to Albania and become a goat-herder in despair.
Since we aren’t being paid for our opinions, we have no reason to sugarcoat what we didn’t like about a book, or encourage people to buy it if we honestly feel they’re better off choosing a different release.
We’re helping to keep alive the art of literary analysis. Yes, I’m completely serious. Less and less in college and even high school are English classes teaching how to accurately analyze a piece of literature. More and more on Goodreads, I’m seeing low ratings posted by younger (teen) readers for literary-complex books, and their reason is simply: “I didn’t get it.” No, most people won’t go on to break down symbolism and allegory and archetype for a living. But it is a VITAL skill to possess. It encompasses problem solving, objective debate, understanding motivation, and learning from past failures.
We’re giving critical feedback to authors — especially indie authors. Indie authors are quite often people without creative writing degrees who are self-publishing purely for their love of the written word. A lot of us can benefit from receiving detailed reviews that point out what readers loved and what they thought could stand to improve. We don’t have big publishing companies throwing a ton of advertising at our work, so this can definitely make a difference in sales, as we can get a concrete idea of what our target audience is after.
So, what makes or breaks a review? Not whether you give the book a positive or negative review. It’s the WHYS.
You need to be specific. You don’t have to go through the selection chapter by chapter (in fact, many people would rather you not do that), but you must explain why you did or didn’t like something.
A lot of it does come down to personal taste. Certain content and genre preference should not be considered gold standards for “good” or “bad.” It’s absolutely valid for “like” or “dislike.” But, please, please know the difference.
Here’s what I look for when I read a review:
Adjectives. PLEASE stop just typing in, “This is soooo good!!!” and logging off. This tells me NOTHING. If you say, “This novel had a lot of clean humor that had me laughing out loud, flawed but relateable characters that I was cheering for, and an action-packed plot with a jawdropping resolution,” then I have a much better idea of what you think. And, by the way, I’m aware how “writer-y” the above example sounds. But I feel it’s important to develop a real craft to how you opine. Even if you never intend to have a career as an author/journalist/librarian, there’s an impactful difference between: “This book was stupid” and “The main character made a choice that put others in danger, and I thought that was a bad move.”
More than a rehashing of the blurb on the cover. I can find the synopsis of the plot aaaaanywhere. That doesn’t give me any insider information. Which is what I’m after as I peruse blogs and social media.
I avoid haters. If you really, loathed the content, the style, the story, or everything of a book, this is actually fine. This is free speech in action. I’ve left a few scathing reviews myself, when I truly felt it was warranted. However, you’ll never catch me sending hate email or tweets to the author, or the reviewer, and I won’t track with those who do.
You must have read the book for yourself. Recently I learned that some people are leaving 1-star/5-star ratings for titles they’ve never laid eyes on simply because their friend/relative/minister/favorite celebrity claimed it was racist/prejudiced/inappropriate. No. …No.
The same goes for folks who think that any fiction tackling tough topics (racism, war, suicide, domestic violence, child abuse, self-harm, addictions) is “bad” simply for discussing the hard stuff. NOPE. Not a valid reason to slam a publication.
A final few words: Are all our reviews going to be totally awesome little articles of genius? Yeesh, no. I’m sure some of mine aren’t detailed enough, or may have used too much slang for a broader audience. Is this okay, too? Yeah. If I had a tough time getting my thoughts to coalesce on this or that book, well, I’m only human. And I can always go back to my Goodreads account and revise later.
Do remember that people are getting something out of your reviews. Keep it up.