Saturday, September 17, 2011
Reviewing Books for Free
I came across a wonderfully informative blog called Yaminatoday.com. It is by a young lady who lives in New York City who, by the looks of her blog, is a highly energetic go getter who has wonderful creative powers and knows how to find out what she is looking for. I have found several helpful articles on her site concerning the world of publishing and writing. She has asked me to write an article expounding on my experience as a book reviewer. I feel highly flattered but hardly qualified because I've only been doing this for a few years. But here goes:
A couple of years ago I decided to start a blog simply for the joy of writing articles and posting photos. At first it was a creative outlet to post my thoughts on different subjects, publish photographs I had taken and review books from my own library, which is considerable.
As time went on I began to find my niche as a book reviewer. There are a number of publishing companies that will send you an e book or hard copy of their books in exchange for a review. I currently review books for five different publishing companies. The ones I review for are below. I've posted the links for anyone interested:
They simply require that you post your review on your blog and a commercial website such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble. As you can see I mostly review for Christian publishing companies (with the exception of Dorrance). If you have a specific genre you're interested in, I would suggest getting on Goodreads, writing to Amazon.com and other publishing companies inquiring how to get complimentary copies to review. Search engines are a great resource. Type in “book reviews” or “how to get free books to review” and a lot of different links will come up.
As I produced more and more reviews I began to receive requests from authors to review their books on my blogs. How did I get authors to request reviews? Some, because they liked my posts, wrote and asked me. Others have requests on their sites, in which case, I sent them a note telling them I would be glad to review their book for them.
One great resource is http://bookblogs.ning.com/ . They have many discussion groups and forums where you can hook up with people who would like to promote their book. Darren Rowse has an informative article on how to get publishers to send you copies at his web site .
Different people review different ways, many good, some not. My own method has refined over time. Instead of retelling the story I try to give a pithy synopsis and then pluck one or two particular aspects of the book that I liked or hit me in some way. As reviewers, we know the main reason authors want us to review their books is to promote their book. With that in mind, I try to be as objective as possible. Unless the book is about something I strongly object to, I do my best to lay out the facts and give the reader a taste of the story in order to allow them to see if it's their cup of tea or not. I've reviewed a number of books that weren't to my liking but I know that other people are satisfied with that type of writing so I try to paint as plain a picture as I can in order to enable a potential buyer to make an informed decision on whether or not they'd like to buy such a book.
I've noticed a lot of people jump on the best seller band wagon-especially if the book is being made into a movie. That is, they only review books that are currently popular. I daresay this is in hopes of increasing traffic to their blog and bumping their link higher up search engines. I personally don't do this because I'm not interested in reading books solely for the purpose of increasing traffic to my blog. I want to read books I actually would benefit from and enjoy reading as well as improve my writing skills. Life is too short to spend it reading books you don't care for. Nevertheless, this may be a good strategy for promoting your blog, I'm not sure. Especially if you're one of a bajillion bloggers posting about the same book.
Having said that, I largely review books I wouldn't normally buy for myself and I think that has affected how I write reviews. You can read some early reviews of mine here and here to see a difference in the review of a book that I bought for myself as opposed to a review that I wrote for a publishing company such as here . If you'd like to see where I lambasted a book given to me by a publishing company you can go here . You don't have to give a positive review but make sure you well support your assertions if you want credibility otherwise you're just ranting to yourself.
The good side to reviewing for the publishers is that it has expanded my reading repertoire and I have come to appreciate and learn a lot from books I would not have otherwise read.
Well, this has been my personal experience thus far in the blogging world. I haven't been at it very long and I'm still learning a lot. I hope what I have to give benefits others out there. Thanks, Yamina for encouraging me to write this essay.