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Who Do You Write Reviews For?

Discussion: Who Do You Write Reviews For?

Who Do You Write Reviews For?

Book reviews are a big part (perhaps the biggest?) of book blogging, and I assume that we all want our reviews to be read by our readers and useful to our readers. However, it seems to me that there are two types of readers: those that have read the book and want to discuss the finer aspects of it, and those who haven’t read the book and want help figuring out if they should. There are some conflicts between these two groups in what to include in your reviews though, so my question is who do you write reviews for?

Reviews for Readers Who Have Read The Book: Discussions

If you write your reviews for people who have already read the book (which seems reasonable for books that are quite popular), then you can make them more like discussions. Put a disclaimer at the top that there will be spoilers for the book, and then you can talk about plot twists that you liked or characters that in the end you didn’t like. This can lead to great discussions in the comments and interactions with your readers, but this technique is completely reliant on at least a handful of your readers having read the book and having a strong enough opinion to discuss with you. It also of course opens the door for disagreements, though hopefully  none of your readers are that disagreeable ;-). Many readers of your blog who haven’t read the book, though, might completely skip that review in fear of spoilers, leading to lost numbers (if you are concerned with that) and the lost opportunity to convince them that the book is something they would like. These sorts of discussions can also be tackled in the realm of read-alongs, however that often takes more effort to organize etc, and might not reach as many people if they don’t think they have time to read another book in that moment of time. These aren’t the type of reviews that I aim for, so I’m curious if anyone does use this approach and how they go about it? Tips for us?

Reviews for Readers Who Haven’t Read the Book: Recommendations

Writing your reviews for people who haven’t read the book often ends up more like discussing the general aspects of the book and avoiding specifics that could give away spoilers. I find myself making recommendations along the lines of “if you liked this other thing, then you should definitely try this book!” since it just seems safer than outlining the exact awesomeness of the book in question. This does, however, then make your review slightly less relevant to someone who has already read the book: they know if they liked it or not, they don’t really need your recommendation. Perhaps there can still be some discussion in vague terms along the lines of “wasn’t that plot twist awesome” but without risking spoilers, it isn’t really safe to discuss details. Even in the comments, I get squeamish if too many spoilers get mentioned, since I worry that someone scrolling to ask a question will happen to see them and be disappointed.

Is there a happy medium do you think? Or do you think that one approach is better than the other? Should discussions be kept to a separate type of post, such as read-alongs? Who do you write reviews for, those who have read the book or those who haven’t? Or do you even think about it too much, do you write them for yourself? Am I over analyzing things again ;-)?

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings-A

© 2013, Anya. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. I started out writing reviews mostly for myself. The process helped crystallize the book for me – what worked, what didn’t, and the review also closed the book for me. Now, if I know a certain book will appeal to some of my readers and blogger friends, then i find myself highlighting certain elements of the book in the review. If spoilers are necessary, I simply mark the section/sentence that way. I mean, if you are reading my blog then you are savy enough to know whether or not you want to read the spoilers.

    So, mostly, I write reviews for fun, for myself, and I am quite happy when I have entertained someone else.

    • I read a blog post recently that recommended blogging like no one is reading, which seemed like an interesting way to go about it, but blogging for fun and for yourself seems like a good approach ;-) And highlighting parts that you know friends who read your blog will be interested in is definitely appreciated <3

  2. I write reviews mainly for myself and the authors. They deserve to be recognized if their hard work is good. I also do it for the readers so they have great book recommendations! I work with a variety of indie authors as well as published authors to make sure I can give the best possible variety to my blog readers.

    • That’s a great point, I forgot to mention the authors! I definitely love promoting a book (indie especially) that shines and should be better known than it is!

  3. I always try to bear in mind that my readers may not have read the book, so my reviews probably come out a bit more like recommendations than literary criticism. On the rare occasion that I include spoilers, I try to warn the reader beforehand. But I do think there’s a middle ground, a way to talk about what makes the book special and wonderful or terrible or merely “meh” without giving too much away to someone who hasn’t yet read the book. The Book Smugglers are one of my role models for doing this well. As I read more blogs, I’m finding (and following) more bloggers who review in this way, and I’m trying to write some of my own reviews along the same lines. Wouldn’t you say that when you discuss a book’s strengths and weaknesses, you’re taking that middle ground, too?

    • Hehe, I definitely try to take that middle ground, though I am generally assuming that the reader hasn’t read the book, unless it is a fairly popular one. I suppose I more want to explain my reasons for recommendations, and that middle ground helps a lot for a new reader to understand why you liked or didn’t like something. You’re right though, that then can lead to great discussions!

  4. If it’s a new book, I usually go the route of writing a review to help others decide if they should read the book or not. If there are very few reviews of a brand new book, it’s hard to have a discussion because so few people have read it. That actually gets really lonely, really fast.

    If it’s an older book, it’s more a discussion post. There’s a better chance people have read it, and we can often have a nice nostalgic conversation about a book that came out when we were kids, some memory of the first time we read it. This is especially fun with classics like Dune or The Hobbit. It can even go the direction of an author-centric discussion, because folks may have read other titles by that author, and it turns into this wonderful recommendation post (oh, you liked On Stranger Tides? they you are gonna LOVE Anubis Gates!) and such.

    I just like to share books that I love with other people. I ain’t too focused about how I do it.

    • Excellent point, though some older books are just as unknown as new books, poor things :( Author discussions would be great too! That’s actually a really fun idea for some posts, talking about various books by a favorite author ;-)

  5. My favorite part about blogging is getting a new book, or even a new genre, into someones hands! So, I write for people who haven’t read the book. Talking about all the awesomeness in a book is fun, but I keep everything spoiler free on my blog. I normally do my spoilerish talking on goodreads with my friends who’ve read the book :)!

    • Awesome, I definitely understand that desire! That’s interesting that you have separate writing for goodreads vs. blogs. I usually cross post without changing anything since I don’t think about it too much, whoops!

  6. I try to write the kind of reviews that I would like to read, the kind that apply to both camps. A discussion post is not a review, not really. I try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible. I also point out things I really liked and things I really didn’t. Mentioning those things helps the soon-to-be reader make an informed decision, but it gives the already-read reader something to chime in on. “Ooooh, I hated that part, too!” etc.

    • Yup, I hear ya, that middle ground is a good place to be. Do you worry that the already-read readers will post spoilers in the comments?

  7. I try to write my reviews for those who haven’t read the book. It’s tough because sometimes I really want to talk about stuff, but I also hate to spoil a story. I’m conflicted in just about every review with how to write it. So basically, I write the kind of review I’d like to read. I try to put why I loved it, liked it, hated it, etc so that those who HAVE read the book can add to that or disagree or what not, but also so those who haven’t read it will be able to decide if they’d like to or not.
    GREAT post! Interesting to think about. I don’t think one is better than the other, but I think people tend to hate spoilers and hate stumbling upon them by accident.

    • I completely agree that erring on the side of no spoilers seems to be safer! I might stop reading reviews of a blog in general if I found too many major spoilers…. I’m also conflicted at times, but maybe then you could write too post, one as a recommendation review and one specifically as a discussion with a big warning at the top?

  8. I’m with Redhead above – new books are almost always recommendations to others who might be interested in reading it, but older ones where there are plenty of existing reviews tend to be more of “here’s what I thought of it, I liked it for this reason, I didn’t like this guy, etc”. It really depends on how you approach each book, some books jsut ask to be recommended to people, while other times you might just want to talk about how much you disliked the characters or something :)

    • Definitely! Do you base those decisions on assumptions of your reader base as well though? For example your readers in general might not have read an older book since it isn’t well known or outside of their typical genre, or they might all have read the hot new book?

      • That’s true.. I guess it’s all an assumption based on how well known the book seems to be. I’m especially “recommending” of Aussie books though (ones I like, anyway), because I know they don’t always get a lot of press overseas!

        • That is a great point, I do a similar thing with a Michigan author that I love since it continues to shock me that he isn’t as well known as I expect!

  9. For the most part I write non-spoiler reviews that focus on my experience with a book rather than focusing too heavily on the kind of details that might color another readers experience with the book. That being said, there are occasions where I have wanted to share very specific thoughts on a book. In those cases I’ve actually posted a non-spoiler review followed by a spoiler-filled review so that readers can go to whichever best fits them. My most popular example of this was with Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, a book that frustrated me so much that I had to talk more deeply about it. I still get the occasional hit on that post and the comments it has generated are sometimes as long as a blog post.

    I think it is hard to write that kind of review unless, as you say, you know the book is getting read by everyone because people won’t want to spoil there experience by reading your post. At the same time those posts can sometimes generate a long conversation between just one or two other people that makes it a very rewarding experience.

    • That is an excellent strategy, one that I’m thinking of adopting for books in the future, since I like providing spoiler-free reviews to help readers decide whether to read a book, but it’s also fun to discuss books more in depth at times. As you say though, it is nice when at least someone responds to discuss with you ;-)

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