Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Be a Book Reviewer - Tips and Tricks - Guest Post

The winner of the e-book copy of Summer Spirit by G. Jay is...the blogger known as The Eye Wit, a.k.a. author/actor/musician Mark Woodland. Congratulations, Mark! And now, a guest post. 

I don’t know if you noticed, but there was an explosion of books in the last few years and it might feel like you are lost in a pile of books you want to read. It feels like there are far too many books to read and too little time. There needs to be someone to sort through this mess and help readers decide what to choose. The answers is book reviewers. You can be a book reviewer to help sort through the pile, but there are some things you need to know.

If you want to be a book reviewer to help people choose the best books to read I think I can give you some advice. It is easier than ever to be a book reviewer, but it is also harder than ever to be a good book reviewer. There is a growing need for them, but it is becoming harder to be found on the internet. Take a look at my tips and tricks of being a book reviewer and they will let you find your path.

1.      Find a Home and Choose Carefully

You need a home to be a book reviewer; a nice warm place where everyone feels welcome. Having a clean and easy to read layout is important, but also figuring out your long-term goals now is important. Don’t focus on this year; think about 3 years away (at least). Where do you want to be? Now you need to think about the path. Do you want your own site? Your own blog? Or just working on someone else’s site? Each is up to you, but most people do a combination of two. They have their site and also write on another. I think it is best to have your own site because it lets you control your work. If you write on another site, they control your work (which is not good long-term).

For your own book review site you need to decide if you want complete control (your own URL and Webhost) or if you want to be a book reviewer on typepad.com, blogger.com, or wordpress.com (they technically control your content). Controlling your book reviews lets you decide to change formats, grow, or change topics easier than the other sites, but it is more expensive and time consuming in setting it up. That’s why you need to look longer term and decide how often you will write and if there will be other writers eventually. For control of your blog check out wordpress.org (not .com, they are different). It is really hard to change from one to the other, so choose carefully. If you do change you might lose lots of links from other sites and you’ll see a huge drop in traffic (plus angry readers looking for your great book reviews).

2.      Decide on a Name and a Genre

You need a great name that fits the genre you will review. I still love www.rabidreads.ca that reviews science fiction. Also, look up some great information about choosing a blog name. It isn’t easy and once you choose there is no turning back, it is permanent. A name usually defines the content and your style. I would rather read a site called Bookdwarf than a site called John Does Book Reviews, unless John Does has a really unique name or nickname.

3.      Realize the Responsibility

When you choose to be a book reviewer you are taking on a huge responsibility. Something you may not realize. You might just start doing it as a hobby, but your writing affects people around you. It affects readers and authors. You write a bad review authors can be angry because people don’t buy the book. You write a great review and readers will be upset if they don’t like the book. You influence buying decisions and both your reviews will change people’s minds. Think about creating review guidelines so people know how you review and why you review in a certain way. You can have them in an area on the site for everyone to see. Then when you receive negative reviews you can mention the guidelines and clear up any misunderstandings.

4.      Be Honest and Objective

Once you realize the responsibility you probably realize that being honest and objective book reviewer is really important. You need to protect the authors and the reader, while providing them with useful information. This doesn’t mean that you should give everything 3 stars, far from it. It just means you need to justify yourself in the book review you wrote. Don’t sell yourself out for paid reviews, but do it honestly. Be objective, but still emotional.

5.      Connect with the Reader

The reader wants to connect with the book reviewer despite it being an honest and objective review following the guidelines. You need to be able to paint a picture when you are a book reviewer. This will help you connect with the reader and have them coming back. Try to engage them on the site with questions, polls, and other information. If you have the time you can also create content that is not book reviews, but opinions. Giving them more information will bring them back more often.

6.      Write and Rewrite

Every time you write it is never perfect. Therefore, rewrite it and make it better. Make a review and check it the day after. Make adjustments and then publish it. Be a book reviewer who cares about his content. 

7.      Promote Like Never Before

Promotion is probably the hardest part of being a book reviewer. There is so much that needs to be written and then you also need to get people to come see it. Where do these people come from? How do they find you? Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other social media are good starts, but not the be all and end all. They are good for finding a few people and keeping them engaged. The best promotion comes from hard work. You need to be in the book blog network to be a book reviewer with readers. When you write a review tell the author, tell your friends, tell other blogs who reviewed the same book about it (in the comments), and anyone who will listen. Ask other blogs to guest review on their sites. Ask other people to guest post on your site. Reciprocate and share link love. Link love makes the internet go around.

And for every post you need to be doing this. Remember the secret to being a book reviewer: read, write, promote, rinse, and repeat. That is the key to success for every post.

Advanced: It is also good to learn the basics of SEO (search engine optimization) in order to get Google working on your side: SEO for Beginner Bloggers.

8.      Don’t Accept Every Free Book

Only accept the ones you like. Read what you love and the reviews will be better. Sometimes give other books a shot, but it is better to choose something you thought you would love over something you took a risk reading. Risks do have rewards, but being consistent may be more important. There is no reason not to try it once or twice and then decide if it is for you.

9.      Have Fun

Have fun. The moment you feel like you need to get the next book review out because you readers are expecting it and you are stressed out means your writing is going to suffer. You need a break at this point. Write about something else besides book reviews or write a blog post about how you are taking a week off. You need a fun and happy blog to be a book reviewer who has great reviews.

With Barnes and Noble closing its brick and mortar every other day, people will move online more to find books they want to read. This is a great chance to be a book reviewer, create a following, and learn more about books. You can get free books and once your following is big enough you can maybe put some ads up and be a book reviewer who makes money. Good luck.

About the Author

William Yatscoff is the founder and marketing manager of both Bookkaholic Magazine and Bookkus Publishing. Bookkaholic is launching in February 2013 and Bookkus launched in September 2012. Bookkus is continuously looking for readers to be book reviewers and writers wanting to improve their manuscripts. William is an avid readers and a manager of book reviewers on the site.

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