8: The Long Form Book Review:
In the last post we discussed the structure of the review and looked more closely at the commercial format. We discussed the appropriateness of posting a commercially formatted review at a retail website, and we very briefly discussed the long form review and why it belongs at your blog. If you’ll remember, the distinction between these two formats is that the commercial review serves as an endorsement of a book, whereas the long form review serves as the discussion of a book.
In the long form review you can explore the characters and the plot far more deeply than the author could or should in the blurb. In the long form review you can discuss some of the questions raised and some of your emotional experience of the story. You can and should discuss how the book related to something in your own life. In the long form review you are at liberty to expand on what you feel is important for a reader to know—about the story, the theme, or whatever it was that touched you or inspired you about the book. Remember, when looking for a book to review you are looking for a gem. You are looking for a thoughtful novel that provokes an emotional response. Among the many reasons for seeking such novels is the fact that you will be required to think about it, to write about it and to spend your time with the novel in question. Another good reason is the opportunities such a novel provides to you.
You already know from your own experience that a thoughtful novel provokes an emotional response in the reader. Oftentimes when the novel ends, the reader experiences a sense of loss. Perhaps you enjoyed the world in which the novel took place, or perhaps you felt a close personal connection with the characters and the trials they endured over the course of the novel. If you chose well when selecting the novel, you will have felt that sense of loss too. You know that the reader wants to talk. That urge is what should inspire you to write the long form review. It can and should serve as the source of your passion.
It’s been said that, unlike almost any other product a person may purchase, the purchase of a book requires a personal connection, be it word of mouth, recommendation from friends, or as we’ll explore here, a discussion prompted by a professional. Consider Oprah and her book club. Think for a moment about what it did for her, for the authors she selected, and for the millions of readers who turned to her to find their next meaningful reading experience. How do you, the professional, start that discussion? Answer: The long form review. The long form book review is your opportunity to connect with your reader, to engage them and to serve as that personal connection. It is a marvelous opportunity to provide a forum for your readers to participate in the review process.
I strongly recommend creating a member’s only area where you can invite such discussions. Ask and answer questions of those who followed your recommendation and read the novel. Follow up with them. Share. Debate. Discuss. Serving your readers in this manner will do nothing but benefit you as a reviewer. It will strengthen your following and demonstrate the sincerity of your commitment to review. Some books will simply not provoke a powerful emotional response, but if you choose well, many will. Review those books thoughtfully and encourage the discussion and your list of followers will grow.
In the next post we’ll discuss some of the “dos and don’ts” of the review process.
Suggestion: When crafting your long form review expect to edit and revise often. It would not be unreasonable for this draft process to take about four to five edit passes before the meaning you encountered while reading begins to show itself to you. The more honestly you engage with yourself, the more engaging your review will be, and the more likely it is that a reader will follow you. Keep in mind, you don’t have to “rip your heart out and show it to everyone.” But the long form review is how you engage with each story, and with each reader. Under the best of circumstances your review should open the discussion. A well written and thoughtful review is how you call them. Engagement is how you keep them.