Life Before Blogging: My First Experience Writing Book Reviews

Bookish Discussions

Several years before I took the plunge and started this blog, I participated in Elle Magazine’s Elle’s Lettres Reader’s Prize, a book review program whereby Elle solicited interested readers to read and write short reviews of three current books, either fiction or non-fiction. Β You had to send in an application with a sample book review so they could evaluate your writing skills. They selected fifteen reviewers each month, and all fifteen were sent the three books in question. Each month, they would alternate fiction or non-fiction, and when you applied, you could state your preference. I was lucky enough to be chosen three times during a two-year period. (You had to reapply each time, so once you completed your reviews, you could send in another application.) Then, after sending in your reviews, Elle editors would select a few excerpts to print in the magazine. Of course, all this happened months ahead of time, because in the publishing world, as you all know, things take time!

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Elle Magazine, circa 2008-2009. Check out Miley Cyrus before she became weird!

Writing that first book review to send in for my application was the first time I’d ever taken a shot at reviewing a book, and I was hooked. I was turned down by Elle a bunch of times before they finally selected me, but I was so excited when I got that email telling me I would be a reader for the March 2008 issue. After reading the books and writing my reviews, I anxiously awaited the release of the magazine to see if Elle had chosen my reviews to blurb. Of course, that was the best part of the experience, seeing my words and name in a national magazine!

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After that first time, I was selected two more times, but I was placed in non-fiction months instead of fiction. Not to worry, however! Even though I’m not much of a non-fiction reader, it was still an awesome experience. And I got blurbed in both issues!

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The Reader’s Prize is still going on, although it’s mostly online now, unfortunately. A sign of the times, I guess! Several years ago, Elle cut way back on their print book reviews, probably for budgetary reasons. But despite this, I still find their book recommendations to be some of the best out there. Are you interested in joining the Reader’s Prize program? You can email for more information! And check out the latest Reader’s Prize books here.

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Posted September 25, 2014 by Tammy in Bookish Discussions / 23 Comments


23 responses to “Life Before Blogging: My First Experience Writing Book Reviews

  1. That’s awesome. I felt the same way when I was an editorial assistant for one of my professors. I wrote a few articles for his encyclopedia and received copies of it when published. πŸ™‚

  2. That’s definitely really cool! That seems like it would be way more pressure then just writing for my own blog. One of the reasons I would never apply to write for a blog like or some other such genre/org blog. So much pressure!

    • It was definitely stressful, and I didn’t even have a blog yet. But fun! And I got free books, that was before I had any publisher contacts, so it was very cool.

    • I agree, there is still nothing like print:-) Honestly though, Elle has great book coverage, not necessarily genre, although sometimes, but they dig deep and don’t always go with the obvious “best of the month” choices.

  3. I haven’t heard of this program before, but what a great way to get readers of their magazine involved! Congrats on being selected to review several times πŸ™‚

  4. That is very cool, Tammy! I’ve liked Elle’s book reviews since I subscribed as a teen. I need to add them back into the rotation to see their book coverage!

  5. That is soooooo cool! If I had heard of this years ago I probably would have tried, though I suspect they don’t review speculative fiction much πŸ˜‰

    • I only ever saw literary fiction or memoirs, that kind of thing, so no speculative. And I’m way too busy with my blog these days to do it again!

  6. It’s amazing getting work put onto a publishing page. You have come so far and your reviews are awesomely informative. Just keep it up and thanks for sharing a little bit of yourself with these posts !!

  7. Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    That’s super awesome! It’s too bad they don’t print it in their magazines anymore. It doesn’t seem the same when it’s online but it’s still something. I might have to check that out still. πŸ™‚