Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review Writing Tips with Candace + Giveaway

A warm welcome this Tuesday to Candace from Candace's Book Blog and CBB book promotions! I have always been impressed by Candace's review writing skills and today she has been generous enough to share her 8+ years of reviewing expertise with the following tips.


First of all, I don’t really think there’s a right way or a wrong way to review. We all need to find our voice and practice usually does that. If you write enough reviews you start to find your own style and once you have that style and your voice is down people will start to realize your own uniqueness and will come back time and time again to read your fabulous reviews! 

I have been reviewing books for almost 5 years (on my blog) and even longer on other sites. Once I found my voice (which has changed over the years, BTW) I discovered it’s best for me to write like I talk.  This isn’t always easy. I mean, sometimes we just don’t have much to say, right? Well this is where I have a few things that I purposely try to point out.

  • My Emotions ~ What did I feel when I finished reading the book?  Recently I said in a review that I had so much love for the book that I hugged it close after finishing that last page.  I stroked it tenderly while tears ran down my face. Yeah, that might sound a little creepy to non-readers, but any avid reader will understand. (What? You don’t hug and stroke your books?!)
  • Characters ~ I talk about what I like and what I didn’t like. Did I connect with them? Did they annoy me? 
  • Plot~ Did it move at a smooth and steady pace? Were there surprises I didn’t see coming? Was I satisfied with the resolution?
  • Romance ~ If relevant, of course. Was I ‘feeling’ it? Did I fall for him/her? Did the romance have anything that bugged me? 
  • Setting~ Sometimes the setting has a lot to do with how much I enjoy a book while other times it doesn’t really matter at all. If it does make a difference, I point it out. I love small town stories, I love European settings, and I love the Southern settings.
After all that I wrap things up with whether I was happy with how the book ended, if I’m excited to read more by the author and who I would recommend the book to. If it’s YA and needs some warnings for content I usually say whether it’s more for mature YA readers, or if it’s appropriate for all MG and YA readers (for example). I end things on a happy note every time.

I do not take notes while reading. But I do try to review as soon as I finish a book if at all possible. If I wait too long the book fades from my memory, the excitement I felt has dwindled and my review ends up sounding blah.

I avoid spoilers in my reviews. If you ever have a spoiler in a review you should always label it, but since I read a lot of series books and later books in a series will obviously have spoilers for the first books, I usually just do a review about the emotions I felt when reading and whether I was satisfied and leave out any content to avoid spoilers for previous books.

Reviewing books I feel negatively about:

I’ll be honest; I rarely ever write negative reviews. This isn’t because I’m opposed to them, but more because I don’t finish the book. I have hundreds of books on my shelves to read. If a book isn’t catching my attention in the first 50-100 pages I set it aside.  And while I often intend to pick it back up, I rarely ever do.  However, if I do write up a review that’s at all negative I always remember to not bash the author. I’m not a snarky person anyway, so my reviews are usually pretty mild.  I’m careful to be kind while pointing out the things that didn’t work for me. I know that some things I consider a negative, others may consider a positive. 

Q&A with Candace

About how long do you spend writing each review? 

I take forever to write my reviews! Sometimes I can type up a review in 5-10 minutes and other times it takes me 30-45 minutes. It just depends on the book and if I have plenty to talk about. 

On average, how many books do you review per month?

Every month is different but I think it’s about 20 or so. I like to have at least 5 reviews a week and sometimes it’s a double review, especially for middle grade or children’s books.

How long have you been writing reviews? (Not how long blogging, but writing reviews, like if you started out submitting to Amazon or Goodreads before you began blogging.)

I’ve been blogging for 4 ½ years but I was really active on Shelfari since 2005. I didn’t write real great reviews there, but usually a very short and general review. So I guess I’ve been writing reviews around 8 years or so?

Thanks so much for having me on today Nikki!  I hope that my ‘tips’ are helpful for some new reviewers still seeking their ‘voice’.


Win a Book Lover's Journal (US) or $10 Gift Card (INT).


a Rafflecopter giveaway



26 comments:

  1. Thanks CBB for the helpful blogging tips. I am a relatively new blogger myself and am always looking for ways to improve!
    http://beerensbaby.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I'm glad I was able to help w/ a few tips. :)

      Delete
  2. Candace, I have to know... what was this book you loved so much you wanted to marry it? lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for having me on Nikki! And for including extra entries to follow me, that's a very nice gesture!
      Yeah, the book I was talking about was Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers but I felt the same with Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta which I think I read immediately after writing this post up. Both were AMAZING!

      Delete
  3. I never really wanted to write reviews because I was worried I'd say something that would come back to haunt me. Then I realised it's just my opinion, and it's like anything I write; not everyone will agree with what I have to say. Thanks for the tips. Like you, Candice, I always try to be positive even if I don't like something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm still afraid I'll say something that will come back to haunt me! I just reread the review awhile after writing it to make sure that my tone is accurate, etc. And yep, we don't all like the same kinds of books! Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. Loved your review tips, especially re including how the book made you feel. I've been reluctant to review books, but I'll think I'll give it a try using your model. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm glad my tips helped you out! It can be a little overwhelming at first, figuring out what all you should say, but once you do it for awhile it's pretty easy!

      Delete
    2. Yay, Candace! You're converting readers into reviewers. ;)

      Mimi, I've been an avid reader most my life and it never occurred to me to write a review until the day I messaged an author telling him how much I loved his book (in 2009, I believe) and he said, "Thanks. Mind repeating that on Amazon?" LOL

      As a book buyer I've always appreciated the time readers take to review books and always felt like I should pay back the favor. Reviews are a huge factor when I book shop. I hadn't even thought about authors and what a support that is to them.

      Delete
  5. I enjoyed reading about the 5 categories she likes to think about when she is reviewing the book. Glad romance is one:) Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping by, Erika. Romance rules! ;)

      Delete
    2. The romance was definitely something I realized needed it's own paragraph. ;)

      Delete
  6. I love that she says to "write like you talk". If more people did that, alot more reviews would seem less formal, and would be more enjoyable to read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Holly. That was my favorite of all Candace's tips.

      Delete
    2. Oh awesome! I think that's what's great about book bloggers, we *usually* aren't as formal as the 'professional' reviewers who are much more formal. I'm glad you like that tip!

      Delete
  7. I think her tip about putting a bad book aside. I've been sent a few that I didn't click with an haven't wanted to leave a review as it would be bad. Thanks!
    I'm INT so sad I can't get the book, its awesome!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do the same thing. If I can't get into a book I move on. There are so many wonderful stories waiting to be read, why force yourself through something that's not providing enjoyment?

      Delete
    2. Exactly! Why suffer through something we don't love?

      Delete
  8. Thanks so much for the awesome giveaway!!!! I want that book so bad!!! It's the most awesome book I've seen!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked all of her tips because that is what I do! I find that a lot of people who review more or less do a summary.

      Delete
    2. I've been seeing that, too, Justine. A lot of summaries. I can get that myself from the book description. I really enjoy it when reviews get personal - not on the author - but when the reader shares how the book and characters made her feel and her reactions to what happened. Well written reviews are entertaining in their own right!

      Delete
    3. Yeah, I tend to skim reviews that include another summary. I don't think it's necessary most of the time. Sometimes I add something, but it's not much. I think showing emotion in a review is what people love to see the most. I know I do!

      Delete
  9. I don't take notes while I read because I think it would put me off the book. I'm like you, Candace, I try to write a review as soon as I finish a book.

    I like the tip about writing negative reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for the great tips!! I don't know why, exactly, but I find that I really struggle with writing reviews. I think part of it is, as you mention, that practice is important and I don't do enough of it. I know now how important they are to authors, and I really do TRY, but sometimes I just have trouble getting my feelings on paper! I really like your tip about writing like you talk, though... that is usually what I end up doing, and sometimes I feel like I'm not being formal enough, so it's good to know that at least some folks prefer non-formal reviews :) Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for the tips, I love hearing experienced reviewers share what works for them. Finding your own voice is great advice. How well I connect with the characters is make or break for me, so that's always my starting point.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Maybe I am a die hard reader, but I can't stand to not finish a book. In fact I remember several that I did not years ago and it still bugs me! I think I do a pretty good job when I select a book of picking one that I will enjoy. Of course, I do not have people soliciting me for reviews so I don't have anything that doesn't intrigue me on my to-read list. Very helpful tips, though, as I have starting reviewing on Amazon and GoodReads.

    ReplyDelete