Book reviews are the staple of a book blog’s audience’s diet, yet they’re easily the thing that most people overlook. They’re also probably the most difficult type of post to write – they require a large amount of thought, probably more so than discussion posts. There’s always that fear that nobody else will agree with you, or that you’re only making 50% sense and the review is confusing.
I’ve found that in my time as a book blogger, reviews generate the least amount of views and engagement. Discussion posts – as the name tends to give away – encourage much more discussion within readers, whereas reviews tend to bring a spike in views for one day, but little interaction.
But as a book blogger, you simple have to know how to write a good review. If you find that nobody is reading your reviews, then here are some tips to help you turbo-charge your book reviews.
Write between 400 and 500 words
Often, it all comes down to length. When writing a book review, the best length is between 400 and 500 words – that’s about three to four minutes of reading time. Any less, and your review seems sparse and unhelpful and it’s unlikely that you’ve covered enough. Any more, and people start to leave.
1000 word posts are only good when you can guarantee that your audience is going to stay until the end – majority of the time, this will be “How-To” posts, or posts that are so insanely useful that your reader just has no choice but to read to the end. The purpose of a book review is not to be entertaining (it can be funny, but that’s not its purpose), and it’s not helpful enough to warrant any more than 400-500 words. KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Break up the wall of text
A wall of text is the worst thing you can write. Nobody – I repeat, nobody – wants to come across something like this while browsing a blog:
The easiest way to get rid of this is to go overboard with paragraphs. Make your paragraphs as frequent as logically possible. If it’s even vaguely on a different topic – GIVE IT A NEW PARAGRAPH.
Another way you can do this – and this is a little bit more interesting, but takes significantly more effort – is to add visuals. This might be reaction gifs, fan art, or just relevant images. I sometimes try to find fan art, but if it’s a ‘small’ book, and reaction gifs don’t really work in that particular post, then I just add super frequent paragraph breaks.
Another way is to bold and italicize important text. If you think there’s an important morsel of information that warrants a bold, then bold it.
Make your text easy to read
One of the rules of design is to make sure that your theme does not let your text go for ages across the page. By this, I means something like this:
If your text goes all the way across the page, then it’s too difficult to read. If it can only include six words per line, then it’s too short. The optimal length for reading a blog post – or anything, really – is something like this:
At this length, it’s really easy for your eyes to skim the words and read as quickly as possible. A lot of themes take this into consideration, and do make sure that text boxes aren’t too wide, but some themes don’t – and if you’re running a theme like that, then it would be in your best interest to change it. Making sure that your text is easily readable should be the first and foremost concern when it comes to writing posts.
Record your thoughts while reading
A fool-proof way to make sure that you don’t forget what you thought of the book while reading is simply to record it all. Personally, I use a notebook and for each new book I read, I just flick to an empty page, write the book name up the top and then write down various thoughts as I read, with page numbers next to them.
If you’re reading an e-book, I know that on iPad, it’s really easy to just highlight text and add a comment. I’m not sure about Kindle, but I’m 97% sure that there has to be that same function. (Update: Daniela @bookstogetlostin has just informed me that Kindle indeed, does have the same feature! Thank you!)
Then, when you’re reviewing the book, you can just flick open to those notes and write your review. So convenient!
Wait a while before reviewing
When I first started blogging, I would review a book almost immediately after I wrote it, which lead to a few problems, because a lot of my reviews would be: “OMG THIS BOOK IT WAS SO INCREDIBLE THE FEEEEELS I LOVE IT SO MUCH”, and then I’d wake up the next morning and go, “It doesn’t seem that good anymore”
To counter this, I’ve taken to leaving it at least one day after reading before reviewing it, so that my reviews aren’t overly emotional. It also helps put you in a better frame of mind, so you can write a clear, concise review.
If you’re scared that you’ll forget all of your thoughts about the book, then not to fear! The previous point helps out there 😉
Shake it up
From time to time, shake it up a little. If you always write reviews with gifs, maybe write one with fan art. If you always write well-structured essays with introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions, maybe just write a list of things you liked and didn’t like. If you really enjoyed a book and you’re good at graphics, offer wallpapers. If you can afford to, offer a giveaway. Changing it up will stop you from going insane, and stop your readers from getting bored.
Thanks for reading all of this. If you have any questions or thoughts, drop me a comment below. Let me know how it goes if you decide to implement any of these ideas!