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.