I never used to review books. Yeah, I’d read plenty of titles then head over to review sites and read others’ reviews, but actually writing one myself?
What was the point? Had I anything worthwhile to say? Could I articulate my feelings adequately? Why should I spend my time outlining and writing a review when I could be reading the next book in the pile, or writing a story of my own?
After posting on my blog semi-regularly for over a year, I admit I was beginning to run out of ideas. It’s well known in the blogging world that regular content is a must to keep you relevant and to make Google love you. So, I thought, maybe I could attract a few visitors by reviewing a book or two.
Then I caught the bug.
Now, whenever I’m reading a book I’m already constructing the review in my head. There’s been a few times when I’ve elected to work on a review over a current story I have rotting on the hard drive. And in my opinion this is something every indie writer should do.
So do I have any evidence to back up this outrageous claim? Erm, yes, seven things, to be exact.
1. It helps the community. Writers love reviews, especially the positive ones. Apparently the negative ones are helpful, too, although they must be difficult to stomach sometimes. But seeing readers review their work at least shows that people are reading them and feel strongly enough about them to say something.
Online writing communities are supportive and friendly places. Book reviewers and bloggers are constantly sharing each others’ reviews and commenting with their feelings on a particular book or review. And this is great. When books are being talked about, sales will soar.
It’s not just writing communities, but genre ones as well. As a lover of horror it’s great to see others reviewing scary books I’ve posted about, and seeing a certain title cropping up again and again on the social media newsfeed just whets my appetite even further. The horror genre is very much alive and kicking like a flesh-hungry zombie-mutant bastard thing.
2. It creates interactions and networks. You know when you buy someone a birthday present and just can’t wait to see their face when they open it in front of you? I think that about book reviews. There have been a few times when I’ve reviewed a book only for the author to share the post and thank me personally for taking the time to share my thoughts. And that’s a great feeling.
But not only that, by interacting with the authors you create a kind of bond where they may even share more of your posts for other books, especially if they are fans of the other works you’re talking about. This has happened occasionally to me on Twitter, and it’s amazing. Having these authors promoting your posts feels like you’re being recommended by a star.
3. It brings extra traffic to your site. I know that successful blogging is a long term plan, one where you build your number of followers slowly, with each post gathering more and more Likes and views. But by posting book reviews on your site (you’re a writer, and writer’s read, and readers of writers also read), you’re encouraging more people to click onto the article. Readers see you’re not some self-obsessed writer of self-proclaimed greatness, and realise you’re as much a part of promoting others as they are.
This also ties in with the above point. Authors sharing your reviews to their many, many followers is going to bring more traffic than rush hour in Broken Legsville.
4. It’s all writing practice. If you are a writer, when not reading (or at work), you’re probably writing. But it doesn’t always have to be a story. By writing a book review you’re not only practicing typing faster, you’re thinking about sentence structure, correct prose, and putting your own stamp on the piece, much like you do with a work of fiction. As a horror writer reading and reviewing horror stories, I like to try and make them enjoyable with little turns of phrase here and there that other horror lovers will enjoy.
It’s also a good writing exercise if you’re currently at a brick wall in your current project. Taking a step back from that scene that just doesn’t work, or that so-called protagonist that won’t stop sounding like a massive dick, can clear your mind of the obstacles that were in the way. Penning a review is just the distraction you need.
And you never know, you may come up with the perfect title for your current WIP while typing it, unthinkingly, in your mighty impressive book review.
5. You can soften up potential reviewers. OK, this may sound a bit pyschopath and I don’t mean it like that. But once an author becomes aware of you and thanks you for your kinds words about their book, they will probably be more likely and willing to help you out with your own book. Writers are nice like that.
I’m not saying only write favourable reviews to try and get established authors on your side and garner ‘fake’ positive reviews, but it’s all networking, as they say.
6. It helps you remember the story. Some stories just stick with you. Others you can enjoy immensely for the week or so you’re reading them but then they disappear in the vast blackened void of your mind, never to be thought of again. This is especially irritating if someone you know mentions a book you may have read a while back. If they try to have a conversation about a particular scene with you, sometimes this can be a bit embarrassing. “Have you actually read this book?!”
Maybe this is just me, but if I don’t think back to a book a week or two after finishing it, I’ll forget massive portions of it within weeks. Sometimes I’ve even forgotten whole endings. This also happens with films, so maybe it is just me.
Reading through past reviews you’ve written is a great way of reminding yourself exactly what you loved about the book in the first place. It also highlights how bad your grammar and word choice used to be. Not only that, something in your memory of that story may spark an idea that you can roll with, which ends up becoming your breakthrough piece. Maybe.
7. It’s fun. Perhaps this is the most important point here. Writing a review and hitting ‘publish’ is a very rewarding experience. You’re putting your mark on a tiny portion of the internet’s butt cheek, and there it will stay forever. But the process of writing the review is also very rewarding. I love it when I open a new document and begin to let the words flow. It’s like writing a story, but more you, if you know what I mean. You can put your own thoughts down, instead of the thoughts of your characters.
There are so many great book bloggers out there I wonder whether some of them could turn their hand to writing a novel or short story. This is a very realistic possibility. And likewise, the writer should invest a few hours of their time biggin’ up their peers.
So authors, take yourselves away from that climactic scene that hasn’t quite got the punch you’re after, and write a little review for that awesome book you’ve just finished. And then we can all rejoice in a giant, snuggly book-loving bubble of joy!