How I Write Reviews

OK you guys, time for something different! I thought I would interview myself about how I go about writing book reviews for this blog, and I’d love to hear how YOU write reviews as well. I know we all have different styles and each one adds something different to the book blogging world. There is no right way to do it, and I think that’s what makes reading book blogs so interesting. So here we go, if I were to imagine someone interviewing me, there are the questions I’d like to be asked:

1. How long does it take to write a review?

Reviews are still tough to write, even after almost seven years of writing them! It takes me an hour minimum and sometimes up to two hours per review, not including proofreading and editing. I really admire bloggers who can write quickly and WELL. I do always try to write my best, even if it’s just a book review, but sometimes writing is hard, especially when I don’t have a lot to say about a particular book.

2. How many words is your average review?

I’m very aware of the word count when I’m writing reviews (although I’m betting not everyone is so weird when it comes to word counts!). My average review is 1,000 words, although I’ve been known to go up to 1,500 occasionally when I really have a lot to say. For smaller books, like novellas, I try to keep the review shorter as well, around 700-800 words.

I feel like 1,000 words gives me enough time to discuss everything I want to, and hopefully that length isn’t too long that readers get bored and start to skip to the end.

3. What format (if any) to you use to write reviews?

I don’t use a formal format, but I do notice my reviews all have the same beats. Here’s what I include in my reviews:

  • Introduction, basically summing up my overall reactions to the book. The reader gets a clear sense of whether I enjoyed the book or not.
  • A short recap of the story in my own words. Usually no more than two paragraphs. I know some bloggers reprint the Goodreads book blurb before they start their review, but I’ve always liked the challenge of summarizing the story myself.
  • I like to start with the positives first, so the next few paragraphs are the things that worked for me, plot, pacing, characters, writing, etc.
  • If there are any negatives, I talk about them next. Usually for four stars or above, I can get all the negatives out of the way in one paragraph. Books I didn’t like? Obviously this section will be longer.
  • A concluding paragraph, summing up my thoughts. At this time I usually mention whether I would recommend the book or not. For books I love, lots of gushing ensues!

4. Do you ever change up the format of your reviews?

I really don’t. The only change I’ve made occasionally is to write a “list” review. You can see a few examples here and here. I actually enjoy list reviews, because they are much easier to write, and I’ll bet they are also more interesting to read.

I know lots of bloggers who use GIFs in their reviews, but I just cannot bring myself to do that. It feels a little silly to me and it’s just not my style. However, I do enjoy READING reviews with GIFs in them, and for those bloggers who can make that style work, I applaud you!

5. Do you write your reviews first in a document and then copy and paste into your blog, or do you write them directly into a blog post?

I’ve always written my reviews in a separate document first, and then copied and pasted them into a post. Ever since the day I accidentally posted a cover reveal post by mistake, the day before the actual reveal, I panic about pushing the “publish” button before I’m ready. That sort of thing will scar you for life! So I write and rewrite my reviews in a separate document, then when it’s about 90% ready, I import it into the blog post and finish up at that point. I absolutely recommend Google Docs if you aren’t already using it. With Google Docs, I can move between different computers and still have access to all my documents, and I never have to worry about saving them either. (Google Docs has auto save). I know there are other programs out there that do the same thing, Evernote for one.

Sometimes, though, a review is so easy to write that I do write it directly in WordPress. That doesn’t happen very often, but it has happened a few times.

6. After you finish a book, how long do you wait to write your review?

In general, I start writing my reviews immediately. I want all the details fresh in my mind, and even though I take notes as I’m reading, I like to remember the emotions (or lack of emotions!) that I felt when I finished, which I want to come across in my reviews. I’m not a very fast reader, so it’s not like I have a huge backlog of finished books waiting to be reviewed. And due to my full time day job schedule, I do about 90% of my blogging on the weekends, which means I have to have at least one book finished by the weekend in order to write the review and post it for the upcoming week.

7. After you post a review on your blog, what’s next?

I am in the habit of scheduling all my blog posts to go live at 1:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (I have no idea why!), so I’m asleep when they go up. In the morning, the first thing I do is to let the publisher know about the review. If it’s a NetGalley or Edelweiss book, I post my review to those sites first. I have a nifty plugin called UBB Add-on Review to Goodreads which is set up to automatically post my reviews to Goodreads without me doing anything. It’s seriously the best money I’ve spent on my blog! If you have a self-hosted site, you have to purchase the Ultimate Book Blogger plug-in first, and then you can add this on. I KNOW I should be posting to retail sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I’m a totally failure when it comes to that. Barnes & Noble is tricky because they limit the words of your review, and so Hell No I am not rewriting/editing my review once it’s done, sorry! I do need to work better at posting to Amazon, though.

8. Do you Tweet your reviews to authors and publishers?

Yes, as long as I give the review four stars or above. Anything under that and it just feels weird. And some authors don’t respond to tweets, which is fine. But some do! I love when authors tweet back and thank me for the review:-)

9. What about proofreading?

I’m obsessive about proofreading my blog posts, it makes me SO MAD when I discover a typo or some other kind of mistake. I always worry about spelling characters’ names wrong as well, so I usually double check those before I publish a post. In addition to proofreading, I do a lot of editing before I push that “publish” button. I go back and tweak awkward sentences and I check to see if I’m repeating myself too much. THEN the night before I publish a review, when I get in bed I read the review once more on my WordPress phone app, just in case I spot a mistake that I missed.

So there you have it, my process for writing book reviews. I’d love to hear from you! Do we have similar processes, or do you do things completely differently?

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Posted February 15, 2018 by Tammy in Discussions / 48 Comments

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48 responses to “How I Write Reviews

  1. How interesting. I always use the same format too and I know my reviews are always really in depth. If I don’t like a book, I still try to find some positives to point out because I know that others may not enjoy it. I always schedule mine to go up at midnight EST. I do love how people do their reviews differently. It keeps things interesting.
    Barb (boxermommyreads) recently posted…Romanov Blog TourMy Profile

  2. Tammy V

    I don’t have a blog but when I review on Goodreads or Amazon I just do it like I’m telling a friend the high and low points., what I liked or didn’t., a unique part of the book, characters I want to hear more from, etc. I never do a recap, too many books in the TBR that I want to get to read.

    • Tammy

      Yeah, sometimes I think I should ditch the recap, but I just haven’t figured out how to just jump into the review.

  3. I used to do the summarizing myself instead of the synopsis from Goodreads. But then a year ago, I had someone criticize me and say that I was writing a “book report”. So I started using what Goodreads has now. My reviews have changed so much ever since I got that comment from that former friend. I wish I spent as much time on reviews as you do. That is probably why I will never get quoted on a cover for a book, though, and someone like you will definitely be quoted I’m sure! Oh well. I read for the love of reading, and review because I want to talk about books, so I am okay with the way that I do it for now.
    Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature) recently posted…Cover Reveal: Cake by Carmen JennerMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Oh that’s mean! I’m sorry someone made that comment. I wish I could write “chattier” reviews, but I’ve been reading Publishers Weekly reviews for so many years that the style is permanently lodged in my brain

  4. I honestly have no format. The only thing I do consistently is include the GR blurb because I’d rather get the review done and move on to the next book. I basically write as if I were chatting to a friend. I tried the professional route and it didn’t work for me. Sometimes I will take notes and occasionally I will include gif’s but typically I finish a book and sit down and start writing and whatever comes out ends up being the review. I don’t work well with formats. In the past I wrote reviews for several different websites and newsletter and I would have to follow a format (usually intro, blurb, feelings, closing) and stick to a strict word count and it burned me out. We’re all different and that’s why I love our little blogging world so much 🙂
    Laurie @ Bark’s Book Nonsense recently posted…Thoughtless #BookReview: Spoonbenders by Daryl GregoryMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I love that you write chatty reviews! I love reading a more relaxed style of review, sometimes my brain just can’t handle anything too long or formal:-)

  5. One major differences between you and me is that you only seem to post your reviews on GoodReads.
    I on the only hand also post ALL of my reviews on :
    LibraryThing.com
    Amazon-UK
    Amazon-US
    If an author lives in Canada or Australia, I also post my reviews on their Amazon sites.

    As far as writing my reviews is concerned I refrain from giving away spoilers. To add some sort of authenticity to my reviews by indicating a song which came to my mind as I read the book {I’m a child of the 1950’s]. In one review I’d mentioned three songs: one which described the protagonist being torn two lovers; the second described one of the guys she’d been in love with; the third not only described the other guy, it had also been the inspiration for her book as well as the book’s title. If this doesn’t show I’ve actually read the entire – what does?

    In a recent review I’d confessed in being 5’8″ and weighing 225 lbs, showing how I’d related myself as being in the protagonist’s shoes.

    The last time Amazon had updated it’s Reviewer Ranking I had:
    Amazon-UK with 488 reviews / ranking = 2.694
    Amazon-US with 745 reviews / ranking = 1,795 I also have a TOP CONTRIBUTOR badge for True Crime Books
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  6. Oh wow. After reading through all your steps, I feel like a slacker. My reviews tend to be short and to the point. As if I’m booktalking it to a friend or potential reader. But I also don’t have much time to blog, so it’s all good 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!
    Liz H. recently posted…Book Haul: February 4-10, 2018My Profile

    • Tammy

      LOL I’m sure you are NOT a slacker. Anyone running a blog is not allowed to use that term on themselves! I really enjoy reading short reviews, in the interest of time because I don’t always have a lot of extra time to visit blogs, so believe me when I say THANK YOU for your short reviews!

  7. What a great post! It is always fascinating to see someone else’s process. I very much enjoyed reading how you write your reviews. I, too, never, never write them straight onto the Dashboard but always write them into a Word document first after losing one of the first ones I’d sweated blood to get absolutely right. I thoroughly enjoy reading your reviews, which are always informative and thorough – and I’m always SO impressed at the marvellous books you manage to get your hands on:)). Looking forward, as always, to your next reviews!

    • Tammy

      It is fascinating, right? We are all in our own little bubbles, and sometimes I just assume we all do things the same way, but we actually don’t! I appreciate your kind words:-)

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s fascinating to see how other fellow bloggers go about with their reviews, and to discover that all of us have our little… operational quirks 🙂 And should someone criticize that, we could always reply that “it’s not a but, it’s a *feature*!” TSK!
    As for me, I work on my reviews on a program called Scrivener, that allows me to store my reviews in the same place: I always have a few (never less than 5) ready-made, so that I don’t feel the pressure of posting if I delay a bit with my current book. See? That’s one of my quirks!

    Great post, thanks for sharing!
    Maddalena@spaceandsorcery recently posted…Short Story Review: EACH TO EACH, by Seanan McGuireMy Profile

    • Tammy

      I’m so envious that you have so many reviews ready to go! I wish I could get ahead like that. My main sadness about reading so slowly is that I struggle to post more than one review a week. I try to get two up but it’s hard for me.

      • It’s just as difficult for me, since I’m not a quick reader either, and it’s also the main reason I built a small store of reviews before I started blogging, and tried to keep it… stocked, as an emergency supply – for lean times 🙂
        And one book review a week is all I can manage, indeed – but for the fun of it, it’s more than enough…
        Maddalena@spaceandsorcery recently posted…Short Story Review: EACH TO EACH, by Seanan McGuireMy Profile

        • Tammy

          You’re right, more than one review a week is very hard for me too, at least right now when my personal life is so busy. But I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I put up two reviews in a week. I have to work really hard to do that and I love the feeling!

  9. todd

    Great post! You do a fantastic job with your reviews so it’s awesome to see the process behind it. I don’t post a large number of reviews so I don’t have much of a process right now. I didn’t even take notes at first, but I’m finding it’s much easier with at least some level of note taking while reading. I also like to start the review as soon after finishing the book as possible. I lose the mood of the book if I wait too long, then I need to reread sections to try to get back into it. Thanks again, I really enjoyed this post.

    • Tammy

      Thanks Todd:-) I agree with you about my mood when I finish a book. It’s so hard to capture that/remember it if I wait too long to write the review.

  10. Loved reading about your process Tammy! You are after one of the rare bloggers who write such eloquent and interesting reviews ALL the time. I tend to write my reviews up as soon as I finish as well, and I sometimes write my reviews on a seperate document and at other times I just do it directly on WordPress (it gives me a better grasp of how long a paragraph actually looks like too). I seem to average 1k words too I think and rarely ever go lower. I’m always impressed by those who actually take the time to read my much longer reviews, but I do love saying everything I got to say. I usually give a quick proofread, but there are times where.. well.. I don’t have the time so it goes out fresh and I tell myself that any huge typos will probably be pointed out or I’ll spot them at some point in time hahah Great post Tammy! 😀

    • Tammy

      Thanks Lashaan! You are too sweet:-) Yeah, sometimes I’m just too tired to proofread but for some reason it’s one of those things I make myself do anyway:-)

  11. We have such similar review styles! I too, take atleast an hour to write an review (unfortunately), and are usually atleast 1,500 words. (I remember when I first stated, I could barely write 1,000! Now I literally have to back and make edits almost all the time to get them under 2,000)
    I always tweet 4/5 or higher to the authors/pub too. Occassuiobnaly a 3.5 if there was something about it I super loved. But I’m not going to tweet an author directly to read my review of thier book unless I loved something about. Otherwise that just plain rude.
    I use you Google Drive for interivew, but not reviews. What I actually do for reviews, is before I even write anything down, I set a publishing date for like 10 years in the future XD
    And I’m with you on when to start writing them too. Unless I finished a book at like 10 pm, almost always writing that review the same day.
    Loved reading this post! 🙂
    DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape) recently posted…Author Interview: William C. DietzMy Profile

    • Tammy

      Thanks DJ! It’s definitely hard to edit reviews down sometimes. I also use Google Drive for interviews, it’s so convenient for both you and the author, right?

  12. This post is more or less the same thing I do, down to the finest details! Though I have become a lot less diligent in publicizing my reviews on social media these days, it’s just fallen by the wayside this past year with a lot more on my plate. My reviews also tend to follow the same structure as yours, though now sometimes I jump right into the recap if I can’t come up with an intro (I used to be obsessed with sticking to the same format and would spend too much time agonizing over not being able to write an intro, for example, but have since become better at being more flexible!)

    I also like doing the recap because sometimes the publisher blurb is way too vague and I find that giving a quick overview helps me down the line too when I’m looking back at the review to remind myself what happened in the book. My reviews also tend to come in at around 800-1000 words, but in order to save time and challenge myself to be more concise, these days I try to aim for 600-800. It’s something I’m still working on, sometimes I just can’t help it 😛
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    • Tammy

      The best is when you just finished either an AMAZING book or a HORRIBLE book and the words just flow. I almost always have intro paragraphs for those reviews, but I know what you mean, sometimes with a “meh” book you just don’t have much to say.

  13. I often worry my reviews are too long, but you’ve made me feel better about my long ones! Lol. I really don’t have a format, but I also can’t bring myself to use gifs. To each their own though! It’s just not my thing either. I’m also just like you in that I take notes while reading, but I still like to start my review asap! Even with notes, I feel like I start to forget if I wait. And oftentimes I’m just kind of inspired with certain sentences and how I want to say things. But I like to have at least a few days before the review is posted so that I can go back and add anything, edit, etc.!
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    • Tammy

      I’m trying to sit down right after a session of reading and put some thoughts in a Google document I’ve created, so I don’t forget what I’ve read that day. And then add to the notes each day. But seeing as I often read in bed and then fall asleep, I haven’t been very good at doing that!

  14. It also takes me roughly the same amount of time to write a review. Most of the time goes into formatting… I like changing up my review style though. It really depends on how I feel and on the book! And I absolutely would not be able to write posts without GIFs xD

    Sometimes I “write” the review while I’m reading… Like jotting down notes, and then putting those together into a post.

    I used to tag authors more often before in my review tweets, but lately I’ve just sort of been forgetting (and not bothering xD)

    Proofreading though… Oh my gosh, that is always half the formatting time 😀 annoying, but necessary.

    This was very interesting to read! Finding this stuff out about you 🙂
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    • Tammy

      I’m glad to meet another obsessive proofreader! There just aren’t that many of us:-) Thanks for reading, Evelina!

  15. I don’t think I have a format I just write them and sometimes I think maybe I should have a format…lol. If I don’t write a review right after reading I tend to have very short reviews cause I can’t remember as much, so I hate getting behind but sometimes I do. Great post!

  16. I love this! I’m with Lynn, I think it would be interesting to answer your questions. 🙂 I feel like I’m the worst in the blogging world for writing reviews. My review mojo comes and goes, and I’m in a definite slump at the moment due to the stress of life. I love your reviewing style. I wish I had a set routine or style, but I pretty much do what feels good at the time.
    Jennifer | Book Den recently posted…Recent Updates and Currently Reading | February 17My Profile

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