A couple of weeks ago, we talked about why you’d want to review books. Once you have your “why” in place, it’s time to get started. If you already have a blog up and running, I’m assuming you’ll post there. If you don’t you could start by posting reviews of books you’ve bought from Amazon. If you don’t have a blog and you don’t buy books from Amazon, I’m not sure what to tell you. Why are you here?
I’m going to proceed assuming you’re a blogger, or at least aspiring blogger. If you want to make reviewing books something you do regularly, I’d want a website where they can be archived. While I could do a separate post on how to setup a blog, I’ll also assume you’re setup on something like WordPress and have been posting. You could be using a different platform, but since I’m not going to make it WordPress specific, it shouldn’t make a big difference.
I would recommend creating a draft within your blogging platform called “Book Review Template” that contains text that looks something like this:
Author, Title. Place: Publisher, Date. pp. Paperback, Price
Buy it: Amazon | Westminster
Read an excerpt
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to for the review copy!
Save it in your drafts and when you start a review, open the draft, and copy and paste this into your new post.
You can tweak the above elements, but a good review will definitely have full bibliographic information, either at the top (like journals) or at the bottom (which seems better for blog posts). I used to do it at the bottom, then moved to the top, and have now moved it back to the bottom. As you can see, I like plans, changing plans, and regretting changed plans.
Beyond the bibliographic info, I’ve started providing a link to the publisher’s page for the book and also any excerpt that is available. If I’ve gotten a free review copy, I make sure to note it so the FTC doesn’t come looking for me. You could put the full blurb that is supposed to alert readers you’re complying with FTC guidelines, but I think overtly thanking the publisher makes it clear you didn’t pay for the book. If you do want to put the full blurb, it should look something like this:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
In addition to noting that, I also link to two consumer website: Amazon, and Westminster (if they have it). By doing this, I tend to earn on average a free book (under $20) a month on Amazon by people clicking my Amazon links and then making purchases. I get a small referral fee if they use my link even if they don’t buy the product I linked to. As an online book reviewer, you are contributing to the publicity and promotion process for a book and so in addition to getting a free book to review, it’s nice to get some side Amazon cash. Westminster’s program works a little differently. It takes longer to build up, but I’ve gotten several $50 gifts cards in the last few years of reviewing and linking. If you’re interested in getting that started, follow the links at the beginning of the paragraph.
The bottom three words, Overview, Evaluation, Conclusion, are formatted to be headings within the review, although I don’t necessarily always use them. At the very least, I use them as a mental outline. Generally speaking, your review should include some degree of overview that goes beyond the table of contents, but doesn’t comprise the bulk of the review (although it can). Likewise, it should offer your evaluation of the contents, both positively and negatively. Then, you should have some kind of concluding paragraph that ties everything together. This conclusion can be a good thing to post on Amazon and then note 1) you got the book from the publisher and 2) the full review is available on your blog.
As you’re just getting started, the best thing to do is pick a book that you’ve read recently and review it. I’d start with books that you’ve read that really grabbed your attention, either because you loved it or hated it. If you loved it, you’ll have not trouble summarizing and explaining why, but try to see if you can offer some criticism. Likewise, if you hated it, tell us why, but also commend what you can about it. The hardest books to review are ones that just seem kind of “blah.” By that I mean, books that are not interesting enough to get you excited and not horrible enough to make you mad. However, I tend to think that if you asked the publisher for a review copy, and they sent it, you ought to say something about it on the blog. We’ll talk about what to do here in a later post.
At this point, we’ve talked about why to review books and how to get setup to start doing it. In the next post, I’ll talk about good reading practices and how to apply those to your reviewing process.