Many of you, my lovely readers, know I used to review books. Since that seems to be a popular business for book bloggers, several writers and readers I know have asked me about how book reviews work.
Many bloggers, established and looking to try reviewing or newbies setting up a book blog, assume that you have to get started with your own books and your own money. Not so! Even the newest bloggers can get in on the amazing world of review programs.
Now, you can read anything off your home bookshelf or the library stacks, but you can also get a free book for reviews. I signed up for the Blogging for Books program. This is the program I started with, and it's a great starting point. Another good choice is BookLook Bloggers.
Other programs include...
- NetGalley - Reviewers must be eighteen or older. They've got a solid reputation in the book blogging world.
- LibraryThing's Early Reviewers and Member Giveaways - These can have great books, awful drivel, and everything in between. You just have to be willing to sort through it all and sometimes end up with a book not as good as you'd hoped. (I've found some real gems; it's worth the effort.) Keep in mind that these are two separate programs, and they will require as much attention as individual programs (especially if you select the multiple-books-per-batch option).
- Zondervan Street Team - I haven't had many review chances with them as other programs, but they seem to be a good program. This is specifically a Christian group.
- Blink Street Team - A new program for a new young adult publishing imprint under HarperCollins. I signed up when they first opened, and while I haven't seen much from them yet, what I have seen has shown that this looks like a pretty cool program.
- Pump Up Your Book - This one's like LibraryThing. You could get something great, awful, or in between. There's more initiative involved and only individual sign-ups for each book you're interested in, rather than a one-time team/program sign-up. I'm not very fond of the books I've received through this one. You might find a new favorite, though!
Once you've chosen or won a book (depending on the program), it's sent to you. You then have a certain amount of time -- usually 30-90 days -- to post your review on your blog. Some programs are more lenient about time frames than others, so be sure to check the rules. Some programs also require you to post your review on a consumer site (such as Amazon or GoodReads) -- a practice I encourage regardless of the rules.
- Be on time. While many programs don't have deadlines, others require a review within 30 or 90 days of receiving the book. You can check the rules of the program you're using, but I try to post all reviews within 30 days, just to be safe.
- Keep it a good length. Most programs have a minimum word length, but you don't want your readers to get bored and leave, either. Check your chosen program's rules. As a rule of thumb, I recommend 200-400 words.
- Make it worthwhile. Readers don't want you to ramble on about your favorite part, and they don't want something that sounds like a book report for sixth grade. If you're not sure what to write, start out with a summary of the book. Make sure not to reveal any spoilers, but give the readers a general idea of the book's premise or theme. Then write your opinion. Did the writing stink? Were the characters amazing? Were there holes in the research? What did you (or didn't you) learn or enjoy?
- Rate it. Whether or not the program you're using requires a rating, I recommend using a 1-5 star rating chart. It helps sum up your review and clarifies your opinion. (Plus, if readers are in a hurry, they can skip to the star rating to get your five-second opinion.)
- Share the cover. It's a well-known fact that readers prefer blog posts with pictures, and a book review already has a great built-in photo op: the book's cover! No review is complete without it.
- Add some links. Everyone has a different idea of what to include. I link the Amazon and GoodReads page for every book and the author's website. I try to include a book trailer if there is one. I also link to related reviews of mine -- like a book from the same series or by the same author. Other reviewers include the Shelfari, Barnes & Nobles, Christian Book Distributors, or Books-a-Million links; publisher site link; the author's social media links; first chapter previews (only if already online; don't add that yourself!); and other fun extras. It's up to you what to use.
- Include an FTC disclaimer. This is one of the most important steps. A legal explanation of FTC disclaimers and why they're necessary can be found here. Mine are usually "I received this book for free through [Program Name/the author/publicist name] in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own."
- A note on blog tours: If you're part of a tour, then you may be asked or required to list the other blogs participating in the tour. You can do so easily at the end of the review but before the disclaimer, and make a note of where your blog is in the list, to let readers know where they are. Make sure to note if one or more of the blogs is hosting a giveaway, too!
Posting Your Review
Now that you've got a review written, you have to get it out there. Once it's on your blog, you should copy and paste it to your favorite consumer site. I use Amazon, since it's a widely known site and most review programs accept it. You can post your review on multiple consumer sites; I recommend it. I post on Amazon and GoodReads, and I previously posted on LibraryThing, for every book. Make sure to include a link to your original review.
After the review is on your site and a consumer website, most programs require that you post it on their website. If this is true of your program, there should be fairly easy instructions on their website.
If you really want to get noticed, share your review with everyone you know. Share the link on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any other social network you use. Ask your blog readers to check out the review program site, and ask readers on the consumer sites and review program to stop by your blog. Keep your posts connected, and your voice is sure to be heard.
You've signed up for a review program and received a free book. You read the book and reviewed it. Your review is now all over the Internet. What do you do now?
Start over. Request a new book to enjoy. All the programs I've seen have no limit on how many times you can get free books for reviews, as long as you always post the reviews on time. This is the great thing about these programs -- the cycle continues as long as you want! All you have to do is write a review, and you get more books for free.
But if you want to show your appreciation for this wonderful agreement, here are my suggestions:
- Share on your blog or website. Let new readers know where you're getting your books -- and how they can get free books, too!
- Share on social networks. Share links on social media every time you review a new book. If your reading and blogging friends ask for reading suggestions, let them know how to get new books for free.
- Host a giveaway. After a while, the books can pile up. If you loved a book and think your readers will too, have a giveaway! Let readers know that on a certain date this gently-used book will be shipped to one lucky winner. Have them stop by the program, author, or book's website and share what they learned; share/tweet/blog about the giveaway; or like and follow you, the author, and/or the publisher to enter. As a bonus, running giveaways (and posting them on giveaway sites online) is a great way to boost blog traffic and followers. Rafflecopter is the most popular giveaway management system. The website has simple instructions and is super easy to use, plus you can use it for free.