How To Get Started Writing Book Reviews

I’ve written (twice) about how to get free books to review. (Here and here) But after a couple people asked me how to get started reviewing, I realized that there was a whole ‘nother blog post there.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive, my-way-or-the-highway list, rather it’s a helpful-tips-to-get-started list. These are in no particular order; just some things to get you going.

  • Set up a blog if you don’t already have one. There are a few free services out there, but the top two are Blogger and WordPress, which happen to be the only two I have used. I’ve used Blogger for years with no serious problems, but moved to self-hosted WordPress (which is not the free version) when I wanted more functionality. Talk to blogging friends or go Googling to decide which one is right for you. You can always switch later, so it’s not a life-or-death decision. Just jump in.
  • Review books you already own or have recently read.
  • Post your reviews on Amazon.com as well. (You have to have made at least one purchase on the account in the past before you’re able to leave a review. The purchase does not have to be the item you’re reviewing.) Consider posting them on Goodreads. It’s free to join.
  • Add a page to your blog saying that you’re accepting books for review. Include which genres you prefer. Eventually, you’ll want to work out a Review Policy.
  • Keep a list of the books people have sent you to review. I use an Excel spreadsheet that lists the book title, date received, source (author, publisher, publicist), ebook or physical book, and any special notes (giveaway with review, deadline for review, etc). I keep all emails associated with a book until after the review is posted, so author, contact information, and other information I need is handy, but not cluttering up my spreadsheet. When I only had physical books, I could keep all the information in my head (why isn’t “having a head for trivial knowledge” a marketable skill?), but as I started accepting ebooks, I needed something more to keep track.
  • Have an idea of how quickly you can read books and write reviews so you know how much time passes between your receipt of the book and when the review is posted. It’s nice to know that for yourself and also so you can let authors know when (or before) they submit a book.
  • The FTC requires that you note on any review if you got the book (this goes for products as well) in exchange for the review.
  • Make sure that you have some way for readers to follow your blog. At the very least, offer an email subscription. Blogger and WordPress both make this very easy to do. Or you can use Feedburner.com.
  • Check out other book blogs to see how they do things. You don’t have to spend a month studying 50 different blogs. Just find a few, look around, see what’s going on. Everyone is different, and you’ll learn something from each of them. I have email subscriptions to five different book blogs and I read several others once or twice a week.
  • Giving away books is entirely optional. I do it to get books out of the house and bring in traffic.
  • Familiarize yourself with the names of genres (and their abbreviations). I knew what YA (Young Adult) was, but I had never heard of MG books. (For those who are wondering, but not enough to look it up, it’s Middle Grade, ages 8-12.) As far as I knew there was non-fiction and fiction, which consisted of mystery, romance, horror, and science fiction. I’ve learned a lot in the past year.
  • Your reviews do not have to sound like something a New York Times reviewer would write. In fact, people don’t really want to read reviews like that. They want to read reviews written by real people, customers just like themselves. All you need are decent grammar and spelling, and to able to explain what you like or don’t like about a book.

I hope these tips are enough to give you the confidence to get started. There are more than enough books out there to review, and there is no such thing as “too many reviewers”. Use this as a jumping-off point, get started, and you’ll learn as you go.

Do you have any questions I didn’t address here? Reviewers, do you have anything to add to this list?

This post was written as part of a free Blogelina event. Welcome Blogelina friends!