Do you think too much about your reviews?

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!

18 thoughts on “Do you think too much about your reviews?

  1. Another excellent post and yes, I agree, find out what works for you and don’t end up following the herd. And always make sure it’s fun, otherwise, what’s the point, right? ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. We all need to be reminded that reviewing is an unpaid hobby, we do for the love of reading, and sharing our love with others.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is something I really needed to hear! I always worry my reviews aren’t academic enough but that’s not what I enjoy.

    Fabulous post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Awesome post, Alex. I definitely stress over my reviews on occassion, and I’ll admit I try to keep a schedule because publicists want bloggers to post reviews near the release date, but it’s nice to be reminded that we are indeed only volunteers 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for posting this! I stopped reviewing completely about a year ago pretty much because of all the things you mentioned. Now I have what might be the worlds most assertive review policy and pretty much just do what I want when I want. Blogging has been a lot more fun since I stopped worrying about making everyone happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hallo, Hallo Alex,

    I used to stress about how to style my book reviews and how to approach writing them – this goes back to Year 1 (next month on the 31st I celebrate my seventh; though I started to announce it a bit easily this past Sunday) – the same year I struggled with DNF’ing a book I was receiving for review. Over the years, I started to organically feel out how I wanted to write my reviews, how I wanted to approach the book blogosphere and how I wanted to readily engage, interact and chat with book world on Twitter. I purposely (due to time constraints and IRL situations) confined myself to routing myself though my blog, Twitter and the book blogosphere. LibraryThing came later and only a week ago I joined Reddit for the first, er, second time but I seem to understand it better now than then.

    I’ve lamented in the past – the best way to approach your online niche you’ve created is to do what makes you personally happy. I chose to limit my commitments to blog tours four years ago and outside of this February I’ve made good on that promise. I’m erasing my backlogue this year as its the first where I’ve seen such a profound change in my frequencies of migraines & health afflictions so I can finally focus on those stories and get back into reading Non-Fiction. However, as my #TheSundayPost talks about – each year I like to see personal growth – as a book blogger, as a reader but also as a curious and intuitive seeker of all things bookish and geeky. I like curating new experiences and seeing what is out there. Hence the length of that post! lol

    I know I blog the heart out of the stories I’m reading and that makes them longer than most – but its my personal expression of talking about what I like in the stories and how the stories are leaving their impression as I read (or listen to them via audiobook). Blogging gives me a lot of joy – not just for the reviews, but the guest author features and sometimes the special posts I get to do as well – like interviewing two actors from a pilot television production!

    The hardest bit is letting go of the ‘guilt’ of what isn’t able to be done. That is everyone’s bone of contention because anyone who cares about what they’re doing and has a conscience check is going to have guilt about something or other when your blogging your bookish life. Sometimes I have to reschedule reviews (some were rescheduled this week!) and sometimes you have to acknowledge not every book is going to be your cuppa (such as my last “Sense and Sensibility” variant I reviewed) but that’s okay, too! Maybe someone will visit that review and say, “Ooh but I’d like this for the reasons she didn’t”; as that has happened to me when I visit with bloggers.

    The best thing is just to trust your own instincts, listen to your instincts and just be ‘you’. Be vulnerable to the experience and the adventure and try to tune out those who try to be too critical of your approach. For the wider world of bookish culture and of book world – you will always run into a few authors who don’t understand what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. That’s on them. Some you’ll find don’t like book bloggers at all, that’s their prerogative. And, other still might harp on you about buying second-hand books and borrowing books via your local libraries – honestly I have nothing to say to those people. In essence, just be yourself and you’ll find your audience, your followers and your bookish tribe. Welcome to the fold!

    PS: As a migraineur who could barely visit her peers in the book blogosphere for more years than I need admit, never apologise for your lack of visiting other bloggers. Find your own rhythm of balance and embrace it. This is my first year back going into the book blogosphere each day / week / month – for me, its a year of reckoning as that is how I started – commenting & visiting back in 2012 before I developed my own in 2013. If you can’t make the rounds, just keep doing what your doing now and the rest will follow suit.

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  6. Love this post… I think with my next review, I am going to take a chill pill (not that I haven’t left my blog in a bad shape already!) and drop the whole linking up rigmarole… people will purchase the book and find it on Goodreads themselves anyway and looking at my stats, no one really clicks on the links, so… off with them! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it Liz! And I totally agree (obviously!) – if people are going to buy it and enjoy your review, they will buy it without the link (and probably don’t click it anyway as you say) – it’s little things like that I find could save us some stress and time!

      Like

  7. Great post! I’ve been thinking about this point in particular for a few days:

    “acknowledge that especially with e-books, the author is getting more out of this than you are”

    I was wondering whether there is anything that authors or publishers can do to make everything more symmetrical, because you’re completely right. I mean, hobbies are (usually) intrinsically enjoyable until they’re stressful, and writing books also falls into this category! However, most authors – myself candidly included – hope to actually turn this into a paying job one day, so there’s certainly an agenda in addition to the joy of writing and creation, and book bloggers are instrumental in making this happen.

    I’d be intrigued to hear your thoughts – payment is the obvious option, but for a lot of indie writers, it’s not that feasible. We couldn’t hope to compensate you adequately (and there are lots of you lovely people) for what is usually at least 10-12 hours work, even at minimum wage (£100 a review across 10 reviewers is an eye-watering amount already)

    Or is – as you say – is it more about self-regulation (and community regulation) and reminding ourselves that this is something we do for fun and shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it?

    (disclaimer: apologies if this is rambling and incoherent, my cat just threw up in the hall)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think we can ever start paying reviewers because then we become promoters. And there’s all the questions that will arise from it. Imagine for example paying someone even £20 to review the book and they give it 2 stars… Then if you know someone has been paid for a review would people be as accepting of a 5 star review and take it as seriously?

      I say generally the author gets more out of it especially with ebooks is because if it’s not a book we would have bought ourselves (in which case it is more mutually beneficial) – that’s perhaps 6 or 7 hours of a reviewers time and possibly 1-2 hours to write the review in exchange for an ebook they could have bought for 99p. I didn’t intend it in any way whatsoever as ungrateful or disrespectful (and I know you didn’t take it that way! – but some might) but it’s just the truth really. Physical books I feel are a bit different. Ebooks cost nothing, so an author is basically getting 10 hours or more potentially of a reviewer’s time for free PLUS the sales of the book they may influence others into buying that wouldn’t have before. I don’t think there’s any major changes anyone in the community can make. Before I started blogging I was amazed that people got books “for free” through the post; it’s only after doing it for a few months I’ve realised the trade you actually make. What is nice is what you did with your review copy and sent the thankyou card. I received a book you can see on my Instagram that came with artwork which was really awesome. Then sometimes it can be beneficial if you get an ARC of a book you were planning to buy (like myself with the Wolf of Oren-Yaro) but for me at least that’s pretty much a one off occasion. Just keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

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      1. That’s a really great point, paying for bad reviews isn’t a very appealing proposition! Although I’m sure there are some companies that have spent millions on terrible ad campaigns in the past…

        You’re totally right on ebooks, it does feel a bit like “cheating” but it also makes sense in keeping costs low (and conversely, not lumbering a blogger with lots is ARCs that they might not have enjoyed!)

        Anyway, all very interesting – thanks for your thoughts 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s an awesome post and I said yes to nearly all the questions in the first part. Especially the vocabulary, not sounding smart enough, not using enough eloquent words to describe my feelings and I feel constantly not critical enough. Which is so sad if I really think about it because I actually love that I get so much enjoyment out of so many different books? They don’t have to be the next big great literary masterpiece for me to have fun reading them or get something out of them and I’m glad it’s that way. But I constantly feel like a fake reviewer or imposter when I have such a high average rating …

    I really needed this post to take a step back and think about why and how I want to read and review!

    Like

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