A short look at keeping reviewing fun! It’s bullet point mania here.
Are you guilty of any of the following?
- Making sure you write enough in your review to prove you’ve read the book.
- Forcing yourself to finish a book you aren’t enjoying because you’ve already spent time reading it.
- Above, but so you can count it as another book read on your goodreads or written down list of completed books.
- Approaching a review like a piece of homework or coursework, begrudgingly completing it.
- Stressing about your review not looking intelligent enough; that you have missed some of the big metaphors or other plot devices.
- Worrying your terminology is incorrect or that your vocabulary isn’t on par with other reviewers.
- Feeling overly-critically or not critical enough and how that looks to others.
- Pressuring yourself to complete a review by a certain date or x number of reviews per week or month.
- Being bored linking to the online store the book can be bought at, or finding the publication date or page count.
- Even just feeling obliged to write a review in the first place if you bought the book yourself.
All these things are making you sad and/or stressed! Is this why you became a reviewer?
As much as to anyone else, this is addressed to myself. Recently I’ve been struggling with the whole review culture (especially after a recent debacle about blogging on twitter) and wondered is it all worth it? It has affected my enjoyment of reading and put pressures and schedules on me that I haven’t had and don’t miss, since university 7 or 8 years ago.
I had a think about why I’m doing this; what made me want to do it to begin with? Am I still getting that enjoyment and if not, is it my fault? And I think it is my fault, I’ve lost touch with what it is I enjoy and seeing this as a hobby. So the question I then asked is What are the core satisfactions you got/get from reviewing? They are:
- Sharing books I loved with others, to help the author spread the word.
- Discussing books and sharing excitement with others in the community.
- Looking at what others are reading and reviewing to populate my own reading lists.
- Finding out more in-depth what type of books I like most.
- Keeping track of my own personal thoughts and feelings on a book for future reference.
- Letting authors know their hard work is appreciated and what I loved about it.
- The satisfaction of a good post that others enjoyed reading.
Pretty much all of those bullet points point towards personal enjoyment or satisfaction. This is a hobby and it started off as one, though is drifting away. I’m determined to get that back on track. Perhaps you’d like to join me and remind yourself of why you’re doing this (not necessarily reviewing as being part of the reading community can have its expectations) and promise yourself, like me, that you will:
- Rid yourself of specific targets (book bingos and annual figures don’t count) – but don’t say “this review will be done by the weekend” or “I’ll be reading 2 books this week” – all you do is end up rushing and affect the enjoyment of the book. Reading for pleasure is meant to be relaxing afterall.
- Stop trying to make your reviews so academic (unless you want to and enjoy doing so!) – nobody really cares if you picked up on some symbolism or judge your intelligence on the unique way you perceived the plot devices – only you! Most of the people reading your review won’t have read the book and won’t be judging you on it – they just want to know whether they’ll enjoy the book and decide whether or not to but it themselves!
- If you want to make the review look really well laid out with extra information like the author’s Twitter link and date published, or copied and pasted synopsis, do so! But you really don’t have to if you don’t want to. Give yourself a break from all the fiddly bits and see how it goes just sitting down and writing what you loved (or didn’t) about the book! That’s the main thing.
- Stop feeling like you owe anyone. Sure, be kind. But if you aren’t enjoying a book, quit. If you read a book but feel a bit meh and can’t be bothered to write a review, don’t. Of course I’m not advocating accepting review requests and not reviewing; I see that as a little dishonest. But if you’ve bought a book out of your own money or have been gifted it for your birthday, there’s no expectation on you to review, except from yourself. Do you notice if other reviewers haven’t posted a review for a book they were reading, or are taking a long time to finish it? What book was it again? Others just aren’t paying as much attention to you as they are to themselves, or you are to yourself. Just chill, relax. Nobody’s paying you. You’re providing a free service.
- On the above point, acknowledge that especially with ebooks, the author is getting more out of this than you are. With the exception of a big release that you really wanted to buy, 99% of the review requests or arcs you get will be more beneficial to the publisher and author. There is no disrespect to them in admitting this. You can pick even bestseller ebooks up for 99p/99c so never feel forced; just read what you want to read.
- Shout about authors’ books that you loved! Unless they have some sort of issue with praise, if it’s a 5 star review, tag them in it. They don’t have to look at it but nearly all authors absolutely love to hear how much you enjoyed their work. Afterall, they’ve put so much time and effort into it! Equally, don’t be that person who tags an author in a critical review! Don’t be that person!
- Ultimately, if you loved or hated a book, say so. I recently gave a 5 star review to a book that a lot of reviewers I really respected were giving 2 and 3 stars to. I spent ages deliberating over it until I came to my senses and realised everybody is different; a book doesn’t have to be original or amazingly written or anything. If you enjoyed it, you enjoyed it. This is why reviews are important, because a book needs a range of different people to give their opinion. Reading a review ultimately comes down to this: Will this book appeal to me and will I enjoy it? That’s all there is to it. Sometimes people don’t want to read a massive review and can even be put off by it. It’s totally fine to write a paragraph or two.
So what’s the message to take away from this? Read what you want, from who you want, stay kind, but be relaxed and honest, don’t make promises to yourself or others. Most of all have fun! Please let me know your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!