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Monday, June 28, 2010

BOOK BLOGGERY 101: How Do I Become A Book Review Blogger?

Becoming A Book Review Blogger

I have been receiving emails in regards to the how-to’s of becoming a book review blogger so this entry is dedicated to answering those questions.  Consider it Book Bloggery 101, from a simple someone who loves to read.  I’m not a professional blogger (which is most likely obvious!).  I’m just a  “real” person who loves words, loves to read and has found a fantastic way to take that hobby and earn free products.

If you’re interested in becoming a book review blogger, first and foremost you’ll need a blog.   While I won’t get too in-depth about all the free blogging sites available, WordPress, Xanga and Blogger seem to be the most popular.  After you choose a site and set up your blog, you’ll need to post some entries and establish yourself in the blog world.

You’ll also need to sign up with a book blogging program to begin receiving books to read and review.  I would also suggest posting on your blog about books you’ve already read, just to get started and acquire some practice. If you check out the right sidebar on my page, there are buttons you can click for various publishers who have book blogging programs.  

You’ll also want to network your blog and get the word out so you will have traffic (visitors) to your site.  There are plenty of helpful sites which explain how to do this if you do a Google search on how to network your blog.

Quite often, before you are accepted into a book blogging program, publicists and authors will check out your blog to see how many followers you have.  If you have a visible counter on your website, they will also look at how many visits your blog has.  Keep in mind that while you may have a lot of traffic, you may not end up having a lot of followers.  Don’t get frustrated or try to keep up with someone else.  Make an effort to post frequently (3+ times a week) to keep readers interested and engaged in your site.  With so many blogs out there, it will take some work to get yours read.  Make sure you take advantage of social networking sites like Facebook, Good Reads and Twitter.  There are tools available that will send your blog posts automatically as “feeds” to your networking sites which means you can reach a wider variety of readers in less time.

Don’t forget to be original!   Make sure you don’t only post “canned” interviews or press releases that come with your books.  Although those are informative, you need to post your own feedback and thoughts about the book, even if you didn’t enjoy it.   I work really hard to be objective and do my best to give the positive and negative aspects of an item even if I hate it.  

If I receive something in a genre (a fancy word for category) that I don’t normally read or like, I state that so that my review doesn’t seem dull or lacking.  If I can’t get into the book, I note that too.   I sometimes jot down notes as I’m reading so that I can give a quality review when I’m done and not forget important details.

With so many blogs out in cyberspace, you’ll need to make your blog stand out.  I’m not suggesting garish, loud colors and neon flashing lights but give the publishers and authors a reason to pause and notice you.   Use a name that they will remember and that will be unique to you.

Book review bloggers receive free books in exchange for reading the product and posting a review.  This requires setting aside enough time to actually read the book and then taking the time to write up a review.  Publishers each have their own requirements and you need to make sure you understand and agree to those requirements before you sign up to request free products.  There may also be specific disclosure statements that you will be required to include in your post or various copyright laws.

Keep in mind that when you agree to blog for books, you’re entering into a partnership of sorts with the publishers and authors who are sending you free products.  Not only do they incur the cost of the product itself, they pay postage to send out their items.  Unfortunately, too many bloggers sign up to get free books and then don’t post any original comments or feedback.  They do the minimum amount of work and post only what the publisher sends them – and some bloggers forget to do even that!  Remember that part of your job as a book blogger is to help spread the word about new books, which hopefully increases sales.  You don’t have to write lengthy, glowing reviews but you should post something that you liked or disliked about the book.  

I don’t fabricate positive feedback or give rave reviews to stay on the good side of a publisher.  Negative feedback can sometimes generate just as much interest in a book as a positive review.  My personal goal is to be as honest as I can possibly be.  There’s a chance that my comments about why I didn’t like a certain book, will pique someone else’s curiosity about it and they will go out and buy it.  Having said that, I also don’t go out of my way to slam an author or their work.  If I don’t agree with something I try to be very forthcoming about it and yet do it in a way that is constructive.   

Don’t play “follow the leader” if you review a book that is getting tons of positive feedback and you hated it.   Be yourself and be honest.  I’ve never had a publisher kick me out of their book blogging program because I was honest and shared why I disliked a book.  

(I also try to make sure I always check my reviews for typographical errors – who is going to take me seeriusly if I can’t spell?  Pruferead, proofhread, proofread! )

I try to put myself in the shoes of the publishers and authors who are looking for bloggers to help spread the word about a product.  If I were a publisher, I would seek out bloggers who are timely, consistent, and dependable.  

I attempt to stay very organized and keep a schedule of what I’m reviewing and when the feedback is due.  I do not request more books than I can actually read nor did I go into book blogging just to get “freebies”.   I realize that the publishers pay postage to send me free products and I do my very best to give them the professional courtesy of actually reviewing what I’ve requested and posting some feedback. 

I think that one of the best things you can do if you’re serious about blogging for books is establish yourself as a reliable, quality blogger.  Publishers will more than likely go out of their way to use you when reviews are needed.

Also, keep your reviews short enough to actually be readable.  Your readers can glean the most information about a book within a reasonable amount of time if you stick to the main points.  Personally, I don’t have time to read long, lengthy wordy reviews.  I like reviews that get right to the point.   If you are writing a review and there’s several options for helping to market the book such as a book trailer, video, author interview, etc, post those separately.   That gives the book more exposure at your site and also helps your readers digest the information.

Last but not least, if there’s a book you’re interested in reviewing and the publisher runs out of copies – consider actually BUYING the book!  You can’t expect publishers and authors to finance your personal library. One of the best benefits of book blogging for me, is that I continually discover new authors and titles to read. 

Networking with other bloggers is helpful too – sometimes my friends have suggestions for books that I haven’t heard of.  Good Reads is a great site to connect with friends and share book interests, reviews and more.

If you’re a current book blogger and have any other advice to add for newcomers, I welcome your comments! 

If this article was helpful to you in anyway or you have a question that wasn’t answered, I’d appreciate your feedback as well.  

Please feel free to sign up as a follower here at Café Lily (there’s a follow button on my right side bar) to see what’s posted next!


~Cindy~ said...

there is also influencing where you actually work with an author helping to promote their new books, often this is done through a publishing house but more commonly thru the author. By being members of authors circles (ie such as writing groups, etc) or friending authors on facebook you might be contacted to influence a book for them.
I love reading, and I love reviewing books..and these programs make it so much fun to do so!!

Anonymous said...

there's a lot of great info here thanks for that! I've reviewed 2 books now for booksneeze so I'll check out your sidebar in a minute. I wish there was a place to get cookbooks and cooking books I love those the most! barb

Anonymous said...

Sorry I forgot to give you my blog! I have 4 giveaways going on if you have time to visit!

Anonymous said...

The Thomas Nelson blogging book thing won't click to anywhere. Could I get the web address for that? thanks!

Cafe Lily said...

Hi Barb -

Thanks for stopping by and for leaving comments.

I fixed the Book Sneeze (Thomas Nelson) button but if for some reason it doesn't work, the link is:

If you have cookbooks that you like, maybe look and see who the publisher is and then send them an email expressing your interest in reviewing their products. All they can say is "no" and it might be worth a try.

Happy Blogging :)

Cafe Lily said...

You can also check out these sites for more review opportunities: