It’s not a secret that book bloggers are also book hoarders. We blithely add books to our TBR piles on a daily basis, often without consulting the Big Picture, which is this: How many promises have we already made to authors and publishers, and will we even be able to get to those new books in that ever-expanding pile? No matter how many systems we’ve devised to stay on track—spreadsheets, Google calendars, white boards—there comes a time when your system fails, and you find yourself buried under a huge and (metaphorically) heavy pile of obligations, clawing blindly to get out.
In the “old” days, before blogging, this wasn’t a problem for me. Surrounding myself with books (and we’re also talking life before Nook or Kindle) was my favorite part of being me. Even if I knew in my heart that I might never get around to reading a particular book, it made me happy just to know that it was sitting there waiting for me, just in case. Some people need to surround themselves with nature, others need friends and family to make them feel complete, but for me, it’s always been books. Even though I now have a family of my own, whom I love dearly, I still feel as if my books are my first children and I can’t imagine life without them. And back before blogging, my books never made me feel guilty for letting them languish in piles and on shelves.
Life’s a bit different now, now that I’m making friends with authors and publicists. (I have a terrible time saying “no,” although I am getting better at it.) They kindly ask me to read and review their book. I’m flattered and say “yes.” And this happens again, and again, and again. Until I realize I may have made a teeny mistake. I have said yes to twenty books when I only have time to read ten (as an example). I now feel the need to freeze time so that I can read those twenty books in the same time frame that I can realistically read only ten.
I know bloggers who are able to read 200-300 books a year (or more!) and I can only think that they are either a) speed-readers; b) skimming through the books; c) don’t ever go to sleep; or d) have nothing else to do but read. (And please, if you are one of these talented bloggers, I’d love to know your secret!!) I am none of these things. I love to sleep and I need a full eight hours every night. I have two teenaged children, two dogs, a husband and a house, all of which require attention and maintenance. I’m heavily involved in the PTA and my daughter’s show choir. And I read every word in every book I pick up. Maybe this isn’t a good quality for a book review blogger, but there you have it.
So let’s break it down, shall we? Here’s what it takes for me to read a book and post a review on this blog:
1. Read the Book. Like I just said, I am not a fast reader. Nor am I a slow reader! I’d say I read books at an average speed. (One of these days I may actually time myself to see how long it takes me, but for this post I’m going to guess.) For your average 350 page book, let’s just say it takes about six to eight hours to read. Keep in mind those are not six to eight consecutive hours. If that were the case, I could read a book every day and be one of those superstar bloggers! It takes me about three days to finish a book, sometimes two if the book is really good. And if I’m not enjoying it, it takes longer because I have to put it down and cleanse my palate before I can pick it up again. (Here’s another thing about me: I always finish everything I start, so I’m one of those bloggers that does not have a DNF pile.) If I’m reading a physical copy, I often have to stop reading and take notes, which is important when I go to write my review. This note-taking could add another hour to the total reading time. (It’s much easier to take notes with a Kindle because you can just highlight things as you go, and it really doesn’t add much time.)
2. Write the Review. I do not always sit down immediately after finishing a book to write the review. I wish I could be that disciplined, but I’m not. Sometimes I wait a few days before I sit down to write. I’m always worried about making mistakes in my reviews—getting the character names wrong, misinterpreting plot points or character motivations, for example—so I translate my notes into a Word document before I even begin writing the review. As I’m writing, I refer to this document, which I open alongside my review doc. Each time I write a review I try to make it as thoughtful and complete as possible. I treat it as an assignment, as if I were being graded on it. I try to make my reviews sound professional, probably because I’ve been reading reviews from Publishers Weekly for so many years, and their review style just sticks in my head as I’m writing. It takes me about one to two hours to write a review that I’m happy with. I don’t worry too much about the length of the review, as long as I’ve said everything I want to. My reviews average about 700-1,000 words each.
3. Create the Post. This is the fun part! I do love creating posts. I’m a very visual person, so the way the post looks is important to me. Using the right sized image in the correct position, making sure my text is justified, and creating a well-balanced layout sometimes takes a little trial and error. Linking up images and phrases takes some time, too. I always have links for Goodreads and usually Amazon, and I try to put author links in the post as well. After I copy and paste my review into the post, I check it over several times and edit it, looking for words I can cut and checking to make sure the review flows and has a beginning, middle and end. I run the spell check function and review everything one final time just to check for errors, missing words, or misspelled book titles or author names (if you get anything right in a post, those two things are the most important!) I know I’m not perfect, but I try to be! The last thing I do is make sure to add the author’s and publisher’s Twitter handles to my “publicize” area, that way they’ll (hopefully) get the news that I’ve reviewed their book. Creating the post often takes another hour.
I also want to point out that I run this blog all by myself. I don’t have any co-reviewers, like many bloggers do, so everything that appears here is mine alone.
If we add up the times for all these steps, it takes me approximately eight to eleven hours to read, write and post a book review. And that’s if things are going smoothly. Throw in writer’s block, internet connection problems and everyday interruptions, and you can see how it’s nearly impossible to complete a book review post in one day.
So I guess there are easier ways to be a blogger. I could blog about my kids or my dogs. I could take photos of weird stuff and post about those. I could write personal essays about deep subjects. But I chose something harder, and I’m not the only one. I chose to do what I really love, and that’s reading and reviewing books. It may take a little longer than talking about how my dog Otis sometimes says “mama,” but I think it’s pretty rewarding. Will I try to take on less and catch up with the books I’ve already committed to? I’ll try for sure, but I know I’ll never stop adding books to my pile. Hang in there, authors and publishers! Your book is next:)
What do you think? How long does it take you to read and review a book? Are you one of those lucky bloggers who can read a lot faster than I can? I’d love to hear your opinion:)