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Starting a Review Blog

Book reviewing blogs are becoming more popular with each passing day. This is both good and bad. On one hand, it gives authors more publicity options but on the other, it makes it so much harder to make a name for yourself. Over the year and a half or so that I’ve been reviewing, I’ve been sent numerous emails asking for advice on starting a review blog. You’ll find all of that and more below.

Let’s start off with some advice from Lenore of Presenting Lenore,

“Do it because you love books. Not because you might get free books. Your time is more valuable than a free book!”

This is the most important thing when starting a book blog – you have to do it because you love books and want to share your opinions, not because there’s a possibility of getting new books.

If you’re serious about starting a book blog, the next step is to decide where your site is going to be hosted. The most commonly used sites are Blogger and WordPress. Personally, I prefer WordPress but they both have their pros and cons. Take a look at both and decide which you prefer. You should also decide on a name for your blog. It can be something simple, like Your Name Book Reviews, or it can be catchy. Just try to make it memorable. If possible, I would suggest making your URL something like blogname.whatever.com and also setting up an email account blogname@whatever.com. Yahoo, Google, and Hotmail all offer free email services.

Once you have that done, begin posting reviews of books you’ve read recently. Look at other reviewer blogs to see how you want to format them and then post away. During this beginning period, try to post a review a day or so. You want to get content up!

However, don’t expect people to be reading or leaving comments. Yet. Once you have some content up, now is the time to start networking. Visit other blogs and leave comments relevant to their post. Email bloggers and ask to be put on their blogroll. Get yourself out there but don’t push your site in people’s faces.

Now would also be a good time to get yourself a Twitter account or a Facebook or whatever other networking site is currently popular. This is where you will be able to add authors and have a place for your readers to keep up with you. Plus, it’s almost guaranteed to bring more people to your blog.

You may also want to start contacting the authors of certain books you’ve read, enjoyed, and reviewed to ask for an interview. If you want a quick response, it’s always best to go for the authors that aren’t bestsellers.

Contests are always a guarantee of bringing more people to your blog, especially if you give extra entries to those who link to the contest. However, until you have at least a few followers, there’s little point in doing this.

Another thing that is always helpful is to have a nice, clean blog layout. WordPress and Blogger both come with templates you can change and there are a bunch of places you can find additional templates. Use colors that are easy to read. Also, keep the sidebars clean. A few countdown widgets or other graphics are fine but when you start cluttering it up with lots of graphics not related to books, it becomes an eyesore. Some bloggers add music to their site but I personally advise against it, especially when it’s hard to find the shut off button.

At any point, there’s a chance of authors and/or publicists contacting you to review their book. Always be courteous when replying to these requests and it’s always a good idea to put up a Review Policy that details what genres you read, what your review guarantee is, and any other information an author or publicist may want to know. Do not feel like you have to accept every request, especially if it’s not something you usually like to read.

If you look around the blogosphere, you may see some reviewers talking about requesting books directly from authors or publicists. This tends to be a controversial topic and you’ll have to make up your own mind on it but if you do decide to email authors directly, do it once you’ve established your blog. Even then, NEVER demand a copy and always be polite.

In the word’s of Sharon from Sharon Loves Cats and Books,

“Don’t get into blogging for free books. Also, don’t go on twitter begging for books or being annoying and don’t be a suck up to authors just so you can get books and always be honest in your reviews.”

The bottom line is this – reviewing is work. It takes time and patience and there’s still no guarantee that your site will become popular but if you’re truly doing it for your love of books, other bloggers will support you and there’s no reason why you should give it a shot.

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