Independent Book Blogging: 7 tips for writing a great review

Kate Ward e1446920677674

It’s tricky finding your feet when you start out as a book blogger. First you need to decide on several factors, most importantly, the ‘Who?’ and the ‘Why?’

Who are you creating this content for? Why do you want to write? Is it a personal hobby, say an online journal, where you can extol your love of books and maybe pass that onto readers? Or are you one day hoping to work in publishing and see blogging as a way of reaching out to the industry and making contacts?

Either way, there are ways of getting your reviews noticed and, while there’s no hard and fast rules to adhere to, there’re some tips and tricks that could help you on your way.

1. Avoid retelling the plot within the review

Too often I come across blog reviews where ¾ of the review is a recap of the entire plot of the novel, with the last part a perfunctory “I liked the flow of the novel”. Keep mentions of the plot to the publisher supplied blurb, with a brief recount of the set-up within the review. It’s not the reviewers job to tell the story, it’s their job to tell you if it works (or doesn’t).

2. And who wants to read the book if you’ve recounted it in it’s entirety anyway?

Think about readability and your audience. Many blogs are accessed on smartphones and tablets – fill your reviews with too many gifs, graphics or long rambling paragraphs, and you’ll lose readers. No one wants to wait for pages to load. If that is your style, then warn ahead so readers can save for later. Nine times out of ten, if you can say it in a gif, you can say it with words and, while no one wants to read bland and overly stuffy pieces, they don’t want their data chewed either.

3. Be original

Whilst it’s recommended to read other reviewers (after all, we learn from those around us), try and find your own voice and then use it to talk to your audience – gauge their opinions, utilise what works, scrap what doesn’t and keep them coming back for more. Publishers love reviewers with a regular readership as that means guaranteed publicity for their titles and authors.

4. Be BRAVE!

This is so important. Don’t be afraid to write a bad review, but be honest. If the reason it’s receiving a less than favourable critique is because you couldn’t connect with the narrative or the characters, then say so, but don’t trash it unfairly. Equally, if it’s because you think the writing is awful, or the plot incoherent – say so. Reviewing is about trust so if you want readers to come back to you time and time again, then honesty really is the best policy.

It really is OK if the new blockbuster wasn’t for you. Publishers know that not every book they send out for review will be a instahit for every reader and they won’t think less of you (nor strike you from their mailing lists, banished forever) if you speak up and say so.

5. Do your research

If you’ve been asked to be part of a big launch or campaign then do your research, especially regarding the author. A good review simply covers the novel – a great review includes the whole package. Talk about their previous works or former careers if they’re a debut writer; give some back story to the plot of the novel or talk about the authors research methods; mention similar novels in the genre (helps greatly if from same publisher, but not essential) and be sure to include a full author bio. Normally these should come with any press releases, but five minutes with google and goodreads and you’ll have everything to hand.

Online reviewing is about easy access to the product, which brings me neatly to:


It’s no good just pressing publish and leaving it at that. For one thing you’ve put too much hard work into the review to just leave it unnoticed. Instantly share to social media -twitter really is the best option here, tagging the publishing house, the author (always the author) and any third party involved. Often publishing employees have they’re own separate accounts that they reach out with, so make sure you use those as well. Make sure you time it right as well – allow for international publishers and readers. Don’t be concerned about ‘spamming’ accounts with tweets – it’s all good publicity, especially for new authors or independents.

7. Have fun!

This is a given isn’t it?

This is a guest post by Book Blogger, Kate Ward. Kate’s a keen supporter of literacy projects and firmly believes that reading of any sort should be available to the masses, no matter the genre or medium. Determined not to pigeon-hole her site, If These Books Could Talk, Kate covers and reviews everything she possibly can and will always thump the tub for independent authors and publishers.

For more info on book blogging, read Kate’s previous post ‘Doing it for the love of it: the life of the unpaid Book Blogger‘.


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  1. You need to have some previous jobs on your profile.
    All of these effective methods are completely attainable through simple training and can be performed from anywhere
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  2. I try not to tell the whole story – as you say if i’ve told the story what’s the point of the reader buying the book? I’ve found myself going “nice read” too many times in the past, which makes my review pointless. However, it’s also necessary to not write spoilers, where possible, or at least warn your readers!

    I try to include some blurb about the author (it constitutes my “research”). Link to their website and twitter, give some blurb (goodreads generally has a profile, which should link to that on the website). Link to their publishers, especially when the book is a preview copy (it’s called “manners”!…and FTC disclosure!), Give them a shout out on Twitter, especially if the review is good (maybe once if the review is average and not if…not!)

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