As many of our books noted, reviews are an essential component to self-publishing. This makes sense: without reviews or endorsements, it’s awfully hard to get noticed, or demonstrate (what a few of our books called) social proof. In How to Market a Book, Joanna Penn identifies three main types:
- Customer reviews [example from Goodreads]
- Book blogger or vlogger reviews [example from Wordsy Woman blog]
- Reviews in traditional media [example from Forbes]
Bloggers, BookTube, & podcasts
Before we get to online reviews, we should talk briefly about how lit fandom and bibliophiles help sustain self-publishing culture through blogs, vlogs, and other forms of social media. If you wrote & published a book and are looking for reviews to help publicize it, you might consider searching Reedsy’s database of book bloggers. Their search engine will also give you a sense of what’s out there if you’re looking for influencers and models of blogging styles.
After all, you should probably consider being a book blogger yourself. You have a newly minted website that needs content, right? Not only will this give you a sense of purpose and accountability with your writing, connect you to other writers, and build content, it might lead to free stuff. Publishers and self-publishers alike give away advanced review copies or ARCs in exchange for reviews. If this something you’re interested in, heed the advice of those who came before you and reads posts like this one and this one from Book Riot.
Of course, blogs aren’t the only medium for lit fandom. There’s also Instagram, Booktube, and many podcasts. Booktube doesn’t seem like it’s my thing (see Exhibit A, below). But perhaps you have a different perspective?
Amazon & Goodreads
Online customer reviews are the easiest to get and are the most important for starting since they factor into the site’s algorithms (though you have to be wary of phoney reviews using apps like ReviewMeta). Partly for this reason, you will publish a review of the book you chose for this unit.
To prepare for this review I asked you to read some existing reviews for your book. Where did you look? And what did you notice in these reviews in terms of:
- The volume of reviews and its average score? How might this influence your review?
- How many reviews did you read? How did these vary in terms of length? Content? Structure? Praise and criticism?
- What implicit or explicit criteria for evaluation did these reviews speak to? Notice that this criteria is reflective of genre, since genres are defined by a reader’s expectations.
Goodreads does post guidelines for reviewers. What’s notable here is that you can use your review to promote your own writing, so long as you do not leave a review only to suggest your own competing book. That said, there might be good reasons to create a pseudonym, especially if you identify as a woman.
So how do you write a book review? Book Riot has some helpful, concrete advice, but as you probably discovered when reading reviews of your book, in practice online reviews vary quite a lot. Let’s dedicate some time to this in class.
Homework for next class
Post a review of your book on the site of your choice and post the link here.