A Letter to Aspiring Book Reviewers: A Blog Series

1: Some Advice to Start:

Reviewing books is an art.

In a perfect world, every aspiring novelist would start their career as a reviewer. I wish I had. It would have been much easier to learn the craft that way. Reviewing books is much like writing because it is writing. It requires the same skills your favorite authors employ. You have many of these skills already, but those skills will grow. Your skills will develop and you’ll add more skills to your list because all writers develop. You will become a better writer with each review you write. You’ll learn to craft better sentences, you’ll learn to view a story as whole rather than as a series of events, and you’ll learn to recognize the difference between theme and plot. That’s something not everyone manages to do, but you will. It will take time. Don’t rush. Be patient. Give yourself a chance.

In time, you’ll find you have a following. Your followers will give you clout and will extend your influence. Those are important factors for reviewers. Followers, clout, and influence are both the reward and the measure of your success. A reviewer develops their following, and garners clout and influence by remaining authentic, remaining honest in their reviews, and by remaining true to their purposes. If all of this talk of clout and influence and purpose seems a little vague to you right now, don’t worry, as we proceed it will become clear.

In these posts I’m going to propose a way to get you started. It’s not the only way, but I think it’s the best way for a new reviewer to get started in the “business” of book reviewing. This method will help you avoid some of the complicated issues that will influence your independence as a reviewer. We’ll have a discussion about “industry standards and practices,” and we’ll discuss what the Federal Trade Commission regulations mean to you toward the end of the series. For the time being we’ll side-step all those issues and concentrate on the basic process of reviewing books and to do that we’ll use Kindle Unlimited. It’s a good way to start, and I think in the end you’ll find that it’s a better model for your career in the long run too. More on that in a moment.

You’ll need a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and you’ll need a Goodreads account too. You likely already have them, so that’s a good start. There are others, but these are the basics. You’ll also need a blog, a “book blog” where you can base your reviews. If you don’t have one already, start with a free blog provider. You can always upgrade to paid, or move on to a full blown website a little later if you wish. For now, you just need a place to feature your reviews and gather your followers-to-be.

You’ll need retailer accounts too. I recommend that you start with Amazon and then add retailers as you go. Someday you’ll need a Barnes & Noble account, and an I-Book account, and there are others too; Kobo, Google Play, Indiebound and still more others. Eventually, you’ll want them all. For now, keep it simple, start with Amazon. Be organized. Bookmark important resources, and keep a password log. A little effort now will save a lot of time later.

So, why Amazon above all the rest? Because they’re the biggest. It’s purely a numbers game. You may find some authors on Nook and some on I-Book, and a few more at the others, but you’ll find almost all of them on Amazon. That’s where you’ll find the greatest number of readers and potential followers too. Start with Amazon, and you can add the others, book-by-book, as you go.

If you already have a Kindle reader, you are well on your way, but an Amazon Prime account is a more valuable resource than any specific piece of hardware. For the time being, a free Kindle App for your phone or tablet can serve you just the same as a reader will. If you have limited cash and must choose between an e-reader and an Amazon Prime account, choose the Amazon Prime account so you can access Kindle Unlimited.

Why are we starting with Kindle Unlimited? As a new reviewer, using Kindle Unlimited will keep you fully independent. By using Kindle Unlimited to receive books, you will not need to receive “free books” from authors and publishers. “Free books” come with a whole list of obligations. There are even federal regulations that must be met. If you want to become a reviewer for the “free books” turn back now and get a library card. Being a book reviewer is a lot of work. There are costs and issues and obligations associated with book reviews. At the outset, I’d like you to avoid the issues and obligations that come with those “free books” and concentrate on building a quality body of work. Using Kindle Unlimited, you will be free to review only those books that satisfy your goals. I’ll talk more about developing those goals as we proceed, but for now bear with me. In time, I think you’ll come to agree that getting Amazon Prime and using Kindle Unlimited to get started, will prove be the best choice for you now and in the long run too.

In the next post “The Role of the Review” I’ll talk a little about the “job” of a reviewer.


Suggestion: We learn best by doing. If you’ve decided to follow along using Kindle Unlimited to get started, go set up your accounts and then, over the coming weeks, get to work on designing your blog. Take your time. Make it sweet. You won’t need a FTC compliance page or complex guidelines page at your blog if you are using KU. On your guidelines page just list the genres and demographics you prefer. On the contact page don’t display your email address. Use a form. With a form you can better organize the submission information to suit your needs. Be sure to include a field for Amazon Page so you can quickly navigate to the books that are submitted.

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