As someone who loves to learn, one of my favorite aspects of blogging are the book reviews I get to do! I don’t get rich doing it. In fact, writing a book review doesn’t normally pay anything. But I do get to review some of the latest and greatest good books: books that aren’t available at my local library. And I receive the books free of charge…then I can donate them to my local library!
Is this right up your alley? Reviewing books isn’t a tough business to break into. Any book enthusiast can do it. How? I’m glad you asked!
Set up a Blog
You can’t review books if you don’t have a place to post your reviews, so first you’ll need a blog. Getting a free Blogger blog is a good way to go. In my early blogging days I used blogger, and it’s fairly easy for even technologically challenged people to use. Another option is to put a blog on Weebly.com. I haven’t personally used Weebly, but I have a friend who does, and she insists that it’s super-easy to use.
That sounds easy, but writing your first blog post can be a daunting task. To make it easy, just review the last book you’ve read. Be honest. Readers can sniff out dishonesty from a mile away. I try not to be too negative in my reviews. Most books that I review have some kind of value, even if I personally didn’t like the book. But when I don’t like something, I say it…nicely.
Between writing reviews for books you’re already reading, find other blogs that review books and leave some comments. Don’t leave just any comment, though. “Hey, nice blog!” isn’t generally considered useful. But something like, “I’ve read that book too, and I really liked it for xxx reason” or “Wow, what a great review! I may just have to stop by the library to check that book out!” are more along the lines of what you want to be writing.
Or, if you have questions about a book review, feel free to comment with your questions. It gets a good conversation going, and that brings value to that blogger’s blog. And in return, that blogger and her readers might just check out your blog!
There’s no point in starting a book review blog if nobody reads your reviews. You need to make your blog visible. Link your blog to your facebook and twitter accounts. Talk about books on your social networking sites. Chances are, if you love books the people you’re friended to also love books, and they’d love to chat about your latest reads. So don’t be shy! Talk about what you’re reading off your blog, as well as on your blog.
You may also want to join a site like Goodreads.com or Shelfari to connect with other readers. Who better to read a book review blog than people who love to read?
Connect with People Who Want Their Books Reviewed
Once you have your review blog up and running, begin seeking out publishers and networks of people who want their books to be reviewed by people like you. I’ll list a few resources here to get you started. Since I mainly review Christian fiction and non-fiction, most of the sources I’m aware of promote Christian books. But if you’re into another genre, rest assured that there are resources out there for you too. A little networking and researching will give you lots of possibilities.
Here are some of the organizations that I work or have worked with.
FIRST Wild Card Tours – This is where I got my start in book reviews. FIRST stands for Fiction in Rather Short Takes. They provide authors with a book tour, meaning all of their members reviewing a certain book post a review on the same day. You need to join the FIRST yahoo group (link on their website), where you can request to receive books for review. You do not have to review every single book, and you won’t want to, because there are a lot of books!
On the day of the book tour, you post your review of the book, as well as the first chapter. FIRST will provide you with the HTML code to post the first chapter, so you don’t have to type it all out. That’s all there is to it!
Blogging for Books – Blogging for Books is the blogger book review program by Waterbrook Multnomah Press. The number of books you’re offered depends a lot on your reputation as a blogger. WMB offers coding for a review rating widget to post at the end of your book review. If you get a lot of positive ratings for your reviews, you gain access to more books.
Blogging for Books has also begun using Klout scores as a means to determine who gets the pick of the book crop. If you have a good Klout score, you can review any book they offer.
This program has a few additional requirements to posting a review on your blog. You must also share your review on the Blogging for Books website and post a review on a site like Amazon. I don’t do a lot of reviews for Blogging for Books, because I’m not fond of the extra requirements. Sometimes I see a book I must read, though, and the extra trouble is worth it!
NetGalley – I’ve recently discovered NetGalley, and so far I really like it! NetGalley offers a public catalog of soon to be/recently released books that are available to review in just about every genre you can imagine. You search or browse the online catalog for books you want to read/review. If you see something you like, you request it.
The publisher either accepts or denies your request. If the publisher accepts, you get an e-copy of the book and you read it. You are under no obligation to post a review, but I prefer to do so. When you post a review on your blog, you can copy it onto your review page in NetGalley, and your review will be sent to the publisher as a courtesy.
You will not receive a printed copy of a book through NetGalley, but they do work in formats that can be used by most of the e-readers out there today.
Becoming a book review blogger is an easy way for a reading enthusiast to gain access to the newest books. It’s not hard to get started, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Make sure you start slow. There are a lot of books out there that will just scream to be reviewed. Don’t request them all! Remember you do have a life outside of reading, so only review those books you know you have time to read by the deadline. And have fun! Becoming a book review blogger won’t make you rich, but you will never lack for reading material again!
Photo by Florin Gorgan.