Tag Archives: Reviews

Whatever You Do… Don’t Look Back! (Thoughts on Old Reviews)

discussion

Oh, nostalgia. I love looking back at my life — both my blogging life and personal life — and reminiscing about where I’ve been, what I’ve gone through, and how things have changed since then. It’s wonderful to see how much I’ve grown or places I could still use some improvement. I love remembering the good times and try to learn from the bad. But it’s easy when all of those memories are inside of your head… The good and bad thing about being a blogger is that every step of my blogging life has been documented in print and when I look back at old reviews… well, my advice to you is…

DON’T LOOK BACK.

Kidding, of course. Well, for the most part.

I just recently started cross-posting my reviews to Amazon (and Goodreads) which is a BIG job considering I had only posted a few reviews on Amazon (started cross-posting to Goodreads a little while ago so that wasn’t as bad) and I literally have hundreds of reviews after two years of blogging. Thankfully, I started with more recent reviews and am working my way backwards, but I just had an incident where I updated a review from 2012, only a couple months after I had started blogging. And boy, was that review a hard one to read.

Looking back at my time as a baby blogger can be downright embarrassing at times. I do enjoy seeing how much I’ve grown and changed my style since then, but BOY OH BOY are those reviews downright embarrassing. I still have qualms about my review styles right now but looking back at my very first few months of reviewing… I can’t believe that was me! They weren’t bad reviews, but the writing just seemed so sloppy, so rushed, and my reviews were so short! I had no idea that world building was a thing. I never really thought about writing styles unless it was incredibly obvious. I really didn’t just didn’t have the experience writing reviews. Everything I had done up until that point was just a quick jumble of thoughts spit out into Goodreads. The more I wrote, the more I read, and the more I interacted with other bloggers, the better (and less harsh) my reviews started to sound.

I do plenty of linking up to old reviews. All the time, actually. Discussion posts, full reviews, Top Ten Tuesdays… Lots refer back to those embarrassing reviews from when I first started and it ALMOST makes me want to go back and rewrite them. There are some reviews for some of my FAVORITE books that just don’t seem to do them justice now that I read them again and it pains me to share those poorly written reviews when trying to promote a book that I just couldn’t seem to put into words at the time!

So what can I do? Nothing, really. I can’t go back and change my reviews because those were my relevant thoughts at the time, no matter how they ended up on the page. I won’t stop linking up to them either because they’re still incredibly relevant reviews. The only thing I’ve been able to do so far is re-read. I’ve been doing a few re-reads of my favorites — not for the intention of wiping out the bad reviews, of course. Purely for the fact that I want to re-read them — but that gives me an opportunity to both reevaluate the book and reevaluate my original thoughts. I get a brand new review with new ideas and opinions!

I know I can’t re-read everything. There will just be those older reviews out there and I’ll just have to suck it up and know that even though they’re not always being actively promoted, people will still end up reading the old, embarrassing reviews. I just hope that people take into considering when I wrote them and that the feelings come across well, even if the words aren’t sufficient! And I’m sure to other people they don’t read NEARLY as bad as they do to me. I’m probably my harshest critic after all!

But old and embarrassing reviews aren’t ALL bad. At least I know I’ve grown over time! I’ve developed a review style that I really enjoy and feels effective for me. I still have quite a few elements from my “early years” in place and I’ve also added and removed quite a few things. It’s obvious how much I’ve grown as a blogger and a reviewer and the fact that things are so different now make me feel like I’ve really settled into my own little corner of the internet. When I first started, I would have never guessed my blog would  be ANYTHING like this or that I would read so many books or that I would have so many amazing bookish friends.

So that advice of “Don’t Look Back”? Maybe that’s not the best advice to give. It’s always okay to look back and even to be a little embarrassed of your “baby blogger” days.

DO LOOK BACK

… But with caution! 😉

Results from the Survey on BOOK REVIEWS!

Something that I feel has been coming up a lot lately is discussion about reviews. We as book bloggers initially put a lot of focus on reviews for our blogs, but I think as our reading, writing, and blogging habits develop, our opinions on reviews tend to change. Obviously there is no right or wrong way to blog — including how to write a review, how long a review is, or if you even DO include reviews in your blog — but I wanted to get inside the heads of the masses and see what the general consensus is on reading and writing reviews. I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of people questioning how they write reviews, ways to shake things up, and guilt for not reading other people’s reviews. What’s the best way to find out? Ask!

The results were incredibly interesting! I had a serious number of people respond (thank you for taking part if you did!) and I got to see all of your responses on how reviews affect your blogging habits, both in writing them and reading reviews from other people. I know you’re curious, so without further ado… The results!

Book Blogger Reviews Survey Infographic

SURVEY REACTIONS

I asked if there was annoying you didn’t like about SHORTER REVIEWS. You replied:

  • I feel like the reviewer isn’t sharing enough about the book to help me (35%)
  • I feel like short reviews show a lack of connection to a book (10%)
  • They don’t help me decide whether a book is worth buying (21%)
  • Write-in options: “They say what they like or don’t like but don’t elaborate why.” // “It really depends.”

I asked if there was annoying you didn’t like about LONGER REVIEWS. You replied:

  • I have limited time to read and/or comment so I tend to skim (45%)
  • I feel like longer reviews tend to get overly ranty/fangirly (18%)
  • I feel like longer reviews tend to get too cluttered and start to lose focus (28%)
  • Write-in options: “Chunky paragraphs are hard to read on screen.” // “Long reviews need humor.” // “I’ve found that longer reviews tend to contain spoilers.”

Thoughts on rating systems: 

  • Most people review star systems or number scales (also including a “grading” scale). At 70%, it was the popular vote. It’s the quick and easy way to tell how a reviewer felt about a book. Only 13% chose a system that uses words/a written out rating, frequently because their star ratings don’t match up with the Goodreads star ratings. 7% said that ratings systems aren’t helpful at all. A few added extra comments to say that they liked a star/number system WITH addition information as to why they rated it that way.
  • Extra thoughts! One reviewer (who approved to be quoted anonymously) said: “I rarely use a rating system. [… ] Rating systems are very subjective. Some bloggers are very specific about their rating systems and list it clearly on their blogs, but sometimes I have to dig around to actually find it. Ultimately, I read reviews of bloggers who are consistent, respectful. I have learned to trust their opinions and follow their blogs. Their reviews weigh much more than their ratings.
    I also believe that a star system can prevent excellent reviews from being read by authors and other reviewers. For example: I have been quoted and RT by authors for reviews that were thoughtfully written, but if I had put stars on the review, they never would have read it.”

“Extras” In Reviews: 

  • The most popular options for “extra”s in book reviews? An image of the cover, a book synopsis, a rating, and links to Goodreads. After that, a few more people selected that they like to see a quotes section, gifs, and specific sections like a character breakdown or specific world building section followed.
  • GIFS were a hot topic in this survey! Despite the fact that so many people selected that they like to see gifs in reviews, the people who don’t like them were very outspoken!
  • Quote it! “GIFS! I feel they’re a bit overused in place of actual feelings. A good gif, well placed, I’m all for ;)” // “GIFS. They make me crazy. Please use words in your review!” // “I find gifs to be really obnoxious when used too much. I can’t explain how annoying it is to go through Goodreads and see gif after gif. I find it to be juvenile and distracting.” // “A limit to how many gifs are used per a review. Sometimes it feels reviewers use gifs when they don’t really have anything to say about the book. I don’t mind seeing one to two gifs per a review, but when the post is mainly images and not nearly enough writing, I tend to skip checking it out.” // “I only like reviews that include gifs if they are on Tumblr. Gifs are for Tumblr, people. You want to use gifs, get on Tumblr.”

I asked how many books you write reviews for and you said: 

  • I review every book I read, including DNFs (15%)
  • Every book except for books I marked as DNF (11%)
  • Almost all of them (36%)
  • I review almost all of them but I don’t write negative reviews (8%)
  • About half (3%)
  • I pick and choose (23%)
  • I rarely write reviews (0%)
  • Other: Providing they were not books I had to read for school // I review everything on Goodreads but only some on my blog

Do you take notes while reading? 

  • YES : Handwritten notes (23%) // Keep notes in draft as I’m reading (2%) // I use tabs (18%) // Update Goodreads (15%)
  • NO : Takes me out of the book & ruins my experience (23%) // I have no interest in taking notes (17%)

So how important are reviews to your own blogs?: 

  • Most people said VERY important. Reviews are THE main focus.  (34%)
  • Shortly after that the response was that they’re pretty important and should be prominent, but doesn’t have to be THE focus of the blog.  (31%)
  • Shortly after that, responses leaned toward just kind of. This group felt like reviews make up their blogs, but they have other features that round out their book blog besides just reviews. (28%)
  • Only a couple people replied that reviews weren’t very important to their blogs. (3%)

SOUND BITES FROM THE BLOGGERS

“I generally write long reviews but recently I have decided to shorten my reviews to just a few paragraphs with one focusing on “summing up” my experience. I find that though I like writing longer, analytical reviews, I do not like reading them and just want to see the overall feelings someone had upon finishing the novel.” — Anonymous

“Writing reviews is often the hardest part of my blogging experience. I have not once been able to write a review in less than a half an hour, so I need time that I don’t always have. And I often find that I would rather keep reading than write the kind of review that I want to post (I write longer reviews), so I struggle to keep on top of them. Also, I forget things if I wait too long, so I struggle sometimes to piece things together. But I do think that reviews are important to blogging, especially when I’m reading a book I got from a publisher before it’s release. I do feel more of an obligation to post something in those cases even though I recognize that I will never be able to do it for all of them.”  — Anonymous 

“I think reviews help log our reading experiences. I like writing reviews to track my own enjoyment of books. My reviews are more for me. I read most reviews on goodreads to either validate my feelings of how I’m feeling about a book or help me decide when to read a book. I don’t typically allow reviews to decide which books end up on my tbr. I don’t read many reviews on blogs because it would take me forever to read them all and I won’t remember the review. I find it better to read reviews when I’m looking for thoughts on a specific book.”  — Michelle from Playing Jokers

“There’s been a lot of debate about the validity of negative reviews. I ALWAYS read both the positive and negative reviews, and often the negative reviews make me want to read the book! If someone says, “this was depressing,” or “these characters weren’t nice people” I might run right out to read the book because I like dark, complex characters.” — S.W. Hubbard

“I feel like the book blogging world is becoming an increasingly competitive arena. There’s a constant comparing of number: how many posts, comments, followers, ARCs, mailing lists, infographics, memes. Even though I’ve been at this for a while, my blog is tiny and will probably remain that way. I started reviewing the books I read because it was supposed to be fun and a way to share my thoughts with others. In the last few months, I do post less than I used to because I’ve accepted that my schedule doesn’t allow me to read as quickly. Also, since I don’t write negative reviews, that means I don’t review every book I read. The internet is so supersaturated with book blogs (especially those focused on YA), and while I’m glad to be a part of this community, I also recognize that not everyone can be the most popular so I’ve just got to stick with doing what works for me. :)”   — Monica from The Fuma Files

“I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to review. Everyone has their own style and it’s that diversity that makes the book blogging community so worthwhile.” — Nicole from The Quiet Concert

“I think reviews are something that initially made the book blogging community what it is, but it’s also pretty difficult to write reviews that are entertaining and keep your readers focus. If a blog is simply one review after another and there are no other sorts of posts, I’m 99% sure won’t follow it because I feel like something’s holding me back from connecting with the blogger and because that would just make for an incredibly boring blog.” — Ashley from Ok, Let’s Read

“In general, I think we’re under the impression that writing book reviews need to be professional and critical. That it’s supposed to be objective. People lately have felt the need to set themselves apart by saying they’re doing “book talk” and not reviews. But I feel like, for me, these are the same thing.
Every review that I write is personal. I always mention how books made me feel or react or the like. While I don’t know if that’s always helpful for other readers, I feel like, for me, that’s usually what I try to find in other people’s reviews too. That way I know if there’s a chance I’ll be able to connect or like a book as much as they did!
I do think it’s interesting that reviews are getting so much flack. Personally, whether or not my reviews are read by other people, I find joy in sharing my thoughts — even if it’s just for me! Sure, I post it so that other people can see it an hopefully benefit, but I also don’t mind if it doesn’t get any attention at all. I’m very grateful for my readers and friends, but they’re not the main reason I write my reviews. I write them for ME.” — Anonymous

“I blog for myself, and I can’t say that I am very strategic about attempting to reach readers.
I feel like people say that their reviews get less traffic/comments, but I feel like if you write quality reviews, and make an effort to interact with followers, they can lead to good discussion. I blog for discussion, not for page views.
If I look at my stats for the past 30 days, reviews aren’t my most viewed posts, but I think that’s because my library program posts, booklists/readers’ advisory graphics, etc, get way more traffic overall.
But still, several got plenty of traffic and comments. When I look at “all time” I was surprised how many reviews did well over a long period. Reviews of adult books and nonfiction do really well, I think because there are less adult/nonfiction book review blogs out there. Reviews of books that I think no one will be interested in sometimes get a lot of search traffic because there just aren’t that many reviews of them out there.” — Molly from Wrapped Up In Books

“If bloggers feel their reviews are not getting great hits, I think it goes a little deeper than people don’t want to read reviews. Have you been posting infrequently? Are you reviews too long? Are you reviewing the same books as every other blogger in the universe? (Diversity is so important!) Is your SEO not working for you? I think instead of making a broad generalization that readers don’t want to read them throughout the community… a little exploration needs to be done.” — Anonymous

“I feel like WAY too much is given out about a book, especially in the “special sections” part. I don’t want to know why you love this character (except maybe a few general reasons), because I want to meet them on my own. I don’t want to know in great detail all the slow-burning phases of a romance. I want to be surprised. I want to anticipate. Please, no character analysis. You only see those in spark/cliffs notes that kids read if they don’t want to read the book for class.
Tell me how [a book] made you FEEL, but not all the reasons why it made you feel that way. I want your opinion, not a play-by-play. Really, I’m looking for whether or not I want to buy the book and read it. I have had books spoiled so many times that I don’t read reviews anymore unless I REALLY need to, or I have already read the book and want to see what someone else thought about it.
I think people just need to remember that they are writing a review, which is a short little blurb on their thoughts and if they recommend it or not. It’s not supposed to be a book report, where you analyze everything to death. The professional reviews on Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly are around 300-500 characters for the most part. And I think they are MUCH more useful than some of these reviews that go on forever.” — Anonymous

“Pet peeve–and I’m guilty of this too–is obviously bad grammar. There are going to be slips. Typos, etc. But I’ve read reviews before–from tremendously popular bloggers–that are short and have glaring errors. GLARING. It always makes me think that they are only throwing something together to have better stats from posting every day and that they don’t care about their content. Drives me NUTSSSS.
I think finding a way to vary the structure of a review would help pique people’s interest. This is something that I work on as well, so I don’t just mean that I find other reviews lacking because they are traditional. It is sometimes difficult to read a review fully–just because of the time it takes to take it all in–so finding a way to communicate the same points and thoughts in a more easily digestible manner would be awesome!
Writing reviews is often the hardest part of my blogging experience. I have not once been able to write a review in less than a half an hour, so I need time that I don’t always have. And I often find that I would rather keep reading than write the kind of review that I want to post (I write longer reviews), so I struggle to keep on top of them. Also, I forget things if I wait too long, so I struggle sometimes to piece things together. But I do think that reviews are important to blogging, especially when I’m reading a book I got from a publisher before it’s release. I do feel more of an obligation to post something in those cases even though I recognize that I will never be able to do it for all of them.” — Anonymous

“I’ve always felt that summaries of the book should be in the blogger’s own words and not copied from the back of the book or Amazon, GoodReads, etc.
I would like to see more reflection on the cultural significance of thematic considerations within the text. The relationship between what authors write/what readers get out the book and reality fascinates me.
I would also like to see more reviews which discuss both the positives and the negatives of the book. So many reviews are either gushy/fangirly or hate-filled; however, in my experience, readers aren’t so one-sided in reading.” –– Trisha from Eclectic/Eccentric

“I personally love reading book reviews, because it allows me to get to know the blogger behind the review a bit more. Sometimes I will avoid reviews for books I’m particularly anticipating, since I don’t want to be spoiled in any way, but for the most part I use them to judge whether or not I’ll like something. Reviews have been very helpful in terms of keeping me on budget! A lot of anticipated reads have become library loans instead of purchases based solely on other bloggers’ thoughts.” — Anonymous

“In general, I think we’re under the impression that writing book reviews need to be professional and critical. That it’s supposed to be objective. People lately have felt the need to set themselves apart by saying they’re doing “book talk” and not reviews. But I feel like, for me, these are the same thing.
Every review that I write is personal. I always mention how books made me feel or react or the like. While I don’t know if that’s always helpful for other readers, I feel like, for me, that’s usually what I try to find in other people’s reviews too. That way I know if there’s a chance I’ll be able to connect or like a book as much as they did!
I do think it’s interesting that reviews are getting so much flack. Personally, whether or not my reviews are read by other people, I find joy in sharing my thoughts — even if it’s just for me! Sure, I post it so that other people can see it an hopefully benefit, but I also don’t mind if it doesn’t get any attention at all. I’m very grateful for my readers and friends, but they’re not the main reason I write my reviews. I write them for ME.” — Anonymous

 So what do you think? Do you agree with the general consensus? Is there any thing in or about reviews that you’d like to see more or less of? How important do you think reviews are to your blog? To the book blogging community? To the industry itself?

We keep saying that there is no right or wrong way to write a review… But is that only to a certain extent? I’ve heard people say that and then still are upset with the length (either short OR long) of other people’s reviews. Or is that just a matter of personal taste and not what we “should” or “shouldn’t” do? Sound off below! I’d love to hear further discussion!