How to Break Into Book Blogging
As either a writer or a reader, having an awareness of the book blogger realm can be a huge benefit. For writers, you will find a circle of willing readers who will devour pages of a book and turn around and post reviews. Many writers will confess that one of the most difficult tasks they encounter is obtaining reviews, and so book bloggers can step in to help fill that void. As a reader, becoming a book blogger can be a rewarding task because you will be able to network with other people who love similar books (and thus discover books that might otherwise never cross your radar), as well as get the chance to read books for free in exchange for reviews. Yet one of the most daunting tasks for a new book blogger is where to begin, not only with forming the blog but also with where to go to get books to review.
The First Step: Creating a Review Policy
If you already have a blog, active or not, you are already heading in the right direction! If you are needing to make a blog, there are several free options out there such as Blogger and WordPress. Once you have your blog established, with a good title and layout, you’ll want to ensure that you add a very important area: a Review Policy that is easy to find and access. Ideally this will have a permanent link that is visible on the same spot on each page. Here is where you will lay out the groundwork for what you do and do not want to review, anticipated turnaround for review, and many other details. Here are some of the areas you may want to cover on this page, with the ones in italics being the most critical:
- Book genres you actively prefer to read and are always willing to consider.
- Book genres that you may choose to read but are not as high on your list of favorites.
- Book genres that you are most likely to avoid reading.
- A statement mentioning if you are willing to read self-published or small press books.
- A statement mentioning the formats of books you would accept (hard copy, epub, mobi, pdf, audio book, etc.)
- The amount of time you anticipate passing between accepting to read a book and when you will have it finished and a review posted.
- Where the review will be posted, including your blog. Reviews appearing on places like Amazon and Goodreads are often desired by writers and publishers.
- How you will handle a book you did not like or was unable to finish.
- What information you will include in all reviews.
- A sample review policy can be seen on my own blog at this link.
After setting up the review policy, the next important step, if you haven’t considered it already (and you should have as part of the review policy), is how you plan to format your reviews and the information you plan to include in them. Will you use a ratings system? What areas will you rate a book in? What information will you include in your review? A few months ago I wrote a post on Our Write Side about writing book reviews which goes over a lot of information to get you started. Here is a sample review from a few of my own favorite book bloggers to help you get some ideas of the similarities, and differences, that appear in reviews:
- Review of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Andrea Lundgren’s blog
- Review of Season of Glory by Lisa Tawn Bergren – Books and Beverages blog
- Review of Journey to Aviad by Allison D. Reid – Scholarly Scribe blog
- Review of King of Ages: A King Arthur Anthology – This is not Hitchhikers Guide blog
- Review of The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith – Our Write Side blog
How do I get books to review?
This is, perhaps, the most important question to consider for an aspiring book blogger. Unfortunately, most publishers want to see a successful track record of reviews before they will send out books, although you may find some sporadic luck in requesting books directly from the publisher and it is always worth a shot if there is one you are really excited about. There are plenty of great programs out there, such as NetGalley, where you can sign up to be one of their book bloggers and get free books in exchange for reviews. Many of these will feature recent, or upcoming, books by publishers big and small.
Our Write Side has a Book Review team, offering around 8 different titles each month across several genres that a reviewer can request, obtain a digital copy, and post a review that month. There are some excellent books that get listed from small and indie publishers and will introduce you to your next new favorite book. It is easy to sign up to become part of the review team and, for authors or publishers looking for an established base of reviewers, this is also a great place to sign up your books to get reviewed.
The other choice, of course, is to read and review what you own for the first 3-6 months and establish a schedule, format, and a base of readers. In time, this work will lead to publishers and authors contacting you directly with books that they are seeking reviewers for.
Growing Your Reader Base
This is the area I am still working on myself. The first thing is to start posting reviews. After all, the more content you have existing, the more likely you are to draw in readers. There are things like blog hops, where blogs link to each other and provide some sort of book giveaway as a reward. These are great for traffic spikes, but I question if anyone gains a long-term subscriber from those apart from, perhaps, the main host. It would be a better use of time to do some networking. Follow and comment upon the blogs of other book bloggers out there. Follow or like them on Social Media. Share their blog posts on social media and cycle some of your own posts back out on social media. Look for websites, such as the Book Review Directory, and try to get listed on there once you’ve got a few solid reviews posted. All of these things, and more, can help you to get more readers. The more you interact, whether with readers, publishers, authors, or other book bloggers, the more likely you are to make connections that provide you with a lasting readership.
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