Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

The Pros and Cons of Offering Book Reviews

My blog is not a “book review” blog. It did not start out that way, and it will not end up that way. However, like many bloggers and a few authors, I opted to include book reviews as part of my blogging/author platform. Why?

  1. I love to read.
  2. I want to help out my fellow indie authors.
  3. I hope that one day those authors will return the favor.
  4. It’s an easy way to generate blog content and gain readers.
  5. It engages with both bookworms and my fellow authors.

For the most part, my reasons for reviewing books have proven true. I’ve engaged with the indie author and reader community, made several business connections (and even some friends!), and been “saved by the review” when I do not have a regular post prepared. However, as many book review bloggers and authors will tell you, offering book reviews isn’t all free books and fun times. There are definite drawbacks to reviewing books.

Today, I want to share with you all the pros and cons I have experienced over the last nine months by offering book reviews. If you have ever thought about incorporating book reviews into your blog or platform, consider these items carefully before making your decision.

booksYou will receive a lot of books.

Pro: If you love to read, you will be set. Even when my blog had minimal traffic, I received quite a few review requests.

Con: You will receive A LOT of books. Reading all of these books is very time consuming, and if you’re an author, it will (obviously) take away time you have to devote to your own book.

You will receive free books.

Pro: You can support your reading addiction for no cost.

Con: (I know, I know, how could this be a con?) For some individuals, getting the book as a “gift” creates a sense of obligation to follow with a good review. (For the record, you should always strive for objectivity — being untruthfully kind prevents the author from learning from his/her craft.)

You will receive “good” (4-5 star) books.

Pro: You will enjoy your reading and reviewing experience.

Con: (I know, another toughie.) My biggest issue with receiving several good books is that sometimes I end up comparing them in my head and rating them on a curve against one another. I know that this is not the fairest practice, but sometimes, if I’m on the fence with a star rating, the comparison will help me determine between 4 and 5 stars.

On a different note, if you are an aspiring author and are easily discouraged by reading books that you judge to be “better” than yours, prepare to have your confidence occasionally dashed.

You will receive “bad” (1-2 star) books.

Pro: These books offer a great learning experience. They test your skills as a reviewer and can provide lessons in what “not” to do as an author.

Con: These books can be rough to read. Some reviewers will simply stop reading and tell the author that they cannot go through with the review. However, it is my personal practice to push through the book and offer as much constructive criticism as I can.

bookshelfYou will receive “meh” (3 star) books.

Pro: Somewhere between the pros for “bad” and “good” books.

Con: Again, these books can be rough to read. I try to avoid three star reviews, if possible, and provide a more “definitive” rating, but sometimes, you just have to split the difference.

Even if you write a book review policy, someone will ignore it.

Pro: This makes it easy to turn down a request if you’re feeling bogged down by your review list.

Con: It is annoying, and if you choose to work through the issue with the author, it can be time consuming.

Authors are trusting you with their books.

Pro: Many authors think of their books as their “babies,” so getting the chance to review one is quite an honor. Plus, you do a great service to the author by helping their book gain visibility and traction on book-selling websites.

Con: If you give a negative review, you run the risk of upsetting the author and/or harming his/her sales. While the author chooses these risks in soliciting a review, some authors can be rude when this happens and/or it can make you feel like a bit of a jerk (Assuming you have the same kind of bleeding heart I do.).

You will make business connections and/or friends.

Pro: Reviewing books helps cement you as a part of the reading/writing community. As an author, it is a great way to earn favors. As a reader, it is a great way to get more books and connect with authors.

Con: When you make these connections, you may feel obligated to give people you know/like good reviews. Again, you should always aim for objectivity, but this can happen with some reviewers. Also, if you are an author and your first interaction with another author is as a book reviewer, you run the risk of your connection thinking of you first and foremost as a reader/reviewer, which may not be what your platform is really about.

readingIt is a commitment.

Pro: Reviewing books helps hold you accountable to your reading goals. It is a valuable contribution to the book industry/community.

Con: As previously mentioned, book reviewing takes time. If you offer it as part of your platform, it can grow into a rather large piece, and it will become part of your online reputation.

So should you offer book reviews? Easy answer: that is entirely up to you.

If you do decide to offer book reviews, here are a few best practices for you follow:

  1. Create a book review policy. Establish from the beginning what you will and will not read, what you expect from the authors, and your rights to cancel a review agreement.
  2. Use a contact form. This helps organize a system for your reviews and keeps a level of privacy between you and the author.
  3. Be polite — in your exchanges with authors, in your review, on social media. You can give a negative review while still being respectful and helpful.
  4. Only advertise if you want to make a big commitment. This is the most I have ever discussed the fact that I do book reviews. Unless you want to be a “book review blogger,” trust me, you do not need to advertise. Authors will find you organically.
  5. Know when to say “no” and don’t be afraid to do it. Sometimes, you just don’t have time to review a book. Sometimes, you just don’t feel like it. Sometimes, you get halfway through a book, and you know it is not for you. That is all okay. Do a service to yourself and the author and know when your plate is full or palate dissatisfied and speak up.

All this being said, I’m not sure how much longer I will offer book reviews on my site. While I enjoy doing them, they take time away from my own writing and books that I want to read for my own selfish interest. I might keep them around for a while longer, but I anticipate leaving them behind when my own novel is finally published. However, no matter when or if I stop doing them, I appreciate the lessons the practice has taught me and the connections it has brought. (And if you are reading this and your book is sitting in my to-read list, don’t worry — I always keep my commitments. I’ll get to it, slowly but surely!)

Do you offer book reviews? What are your personal “pros” and “cons” to book reviewing? Share your experiences in the comments!