Running a Book Review Blog, by Andrea Johnson
I’m still offline, but wanted to share a guest post from my friend Andrea Johnson, aka the Little Red Reviewer…
Hi! My name is Andrea Johnson, and I’ve run the book review blog Little Red Reviewer since 2010. I review primarily science fiction and fantasy, I interview authors, attend local conventions, buy books like its going out of style, and generally talk to everyone all the time about some book I really liked. I’ve done radio segments, been on live TV, and now I’m kickstarting The Best of Little Red Reviewer, a print book of my best reviews! Because why dig through the archives of my blog to find the good stuff, when I can package it in a beautiful little paperback just for you? Can blog posts and book reviews exist outside of a computer screen? Let’s find out! Click here to learn more about the Kickstarter and what The Best of Little Red Reviewer is all about.
In the meantime, here are some Useful and Interesting things to know about running a Book Review Blog.
What are some of the pitfalls of running a book review blog?
I think the biggest pitfall is overextending yourself by setting unrealistic goals, and then getting burned out. Your blog is a hobby, right? So set realistic goals for yourself. Pushing yourself to post 4 book reviews a week, do three cover reveals a week, download 20 books a month from netgalley, and accepting every review request that comes your way are all sure recipes for burn out and having a really un-fun time with this whole book blogging thing. And trust me on this: the moment it stops being fun, the moment it starts to feel like “work”, you will stop posting content to your blog.
It’s OK to say no to a review request, it is OK to remove your contact information from your blog if you’re feeling overwhelmed with review requests. It’s OK to take a break if you are feeling burned out. It’s OK to read something you feel like reading, even if everyone else isn’t reading it. It’s OK to have an unpopular opinion. It is super OK to do as many blog memes, blog tours, cover reveals, and non-book-related posts as you want.
To avoid common blogging pitfalls, just be honest with yourself about why you are blogging. Stay true to your personal goals, and you’ll be fine. Don’t beat yourself up if your blog doesn’t look like someone else’s or if your content is different than theirs. And if your goal is to download 20 books a month from netgalley and read and review all of them? Go for it! But don’t beat yourself up if you only read and review 15 of them.
How to Get People to Read Your Reviews
Be social online. Be authentic in your reviews, and develop your own style.
Be social! I’m an introvert, so this one was hard for me. Being social online is easier than it looks. See a post on someone else’s blog that looks interesting? Leave a comment. I love WordPress “reader”, it helps me find recent blog posts on any topic I want, and I when I find cool posts on science fiction, book reviewing, Star Trek, etc, I comment on ’em! Many of those bloggers end up visiting my site in return, and we’ve both found a new blog site to follow. Are you on twitter, facebook, instagram, or whatever the cool kids are using these days? Follow authors you like, follow publicists, follow other bloggers, talk about books you are excited about, link to your posts, and most importantly, interact with people on social media. Tell them you liked their book, or liked their review of a book you read.
The secret is to make sure you are starting a conversation. Talk with people, not at them.
Be authentic and develop your own style. Authenticity is a fancy word for being honest. If you loved the characters in a book but thought the plot was undeveloped, say so. If certain kinds of books work for you and you know you struggle with other kinds of books, say so. Be super honest, be authentic, be yourself. You’ll develop a style in time. It probably took me 5 years of writing book reviews to develop my own style. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my book reviewing style matches who I am in real life: Snarky, sarcastic, sometimes sweary, sensitive and sometimes poetic, brutally honest, and sometimes shy and unpredictable.
Be social so that people know who you are, what your blog is all about, and what content you’ve recently posted. Be authentic and they’ll keep coming back for more.
What happens if I don’t like a book I’m reading?
This is a toughie! If you dislike the book so much, maybe because it is a genre you really aren’t into, just DNF (do not finish) it and be done with it. Life is too short to waste on bad books, right? Some book bloggers only post positive reviews, and will stay silent about books they didn’t finish. In my “5 Books 50 Pages” posts (here and here), a good half of the featured books got DNF’d. Nothing was inherently wrong with those books, they just weren’t the book for me.
If I’m committed to reviewing a book I didn’t like, I try to find something positive to say about the book, and then I discuss the reasons the book didn’t work for me. For example, I know for a fact that I struggle with books that have large casts of characters and lots of different POV chapters. My review will tell you that perhaps that aspect didn’t work for me, but here are some other things I enjoyed about the plot or the world building, so maybe this book will work for someone else who is reading the review, especially if you love large casts and different POV chapters.
Not every book is going to work for every reader. We all have things we love in books, and things we don’t like. It’s OK to not like a book. It’s OK to respectfully talk about what you didn’t like about it. Be respectful, be honest. And if you attend conventions, be prepared to come face to face with an author whose book received a negative review on your blog. Because that will happen. It will be awkward. You will survive.
Now that we’ve gotten through all that, let’s talk books and reviewing!
What’s your favorite book review that you’ve ever written?
What book was a surprise for you?
Do you go back and reread your favorites? Why do you enjoy reading them again?
Andrea Johnson runs the science fiction and fantasy book review blog Little Red Reviewer (littleredreviewer.wordpress.com), where she has published over 400 reviews since 2010. In 2012, she founded the #VintageSciFiMonth blogging event, and she has organized read alongs and blog tours. She was a contributor to SFSignal, and is currently the author interviewer at Apex Magazine. Andrea and her husband live in a college town in Michigan, and their home looks like a library that exploded. In January of 2019, Andrea will be running a Kickstarter to print a book of The Best of Little Red Reviewer, which will include her best reviews.