Last Updated on March 3, 2023 by ThoughtsStained
Friends! I am back in what I believe will be the last (?) in my impromptu series about book reviews. It’s amazing to me that I went on a tangent, inspired by one post, that resulted in a little mini blog series. If you want to read some previous thoughts, check them out below:
So, to round out our series, let’s discuss book review etiquette. Namely, is there any specific etiquette to follow? What should you be doing with book reviews? What should you be avoiding? And, are there even any rules to begin with?
Let’s find out.
My History With Book Reviews
So, imma answer the unspoken question out loud first: I don’t think there is any “right” way to write a book review. Which might be a bold declaration, considering I am writing an entire post on what I believe book review etiquette should be. 💀 However, book blogger styles vary. Not to mention format and posting varies, too. A book review posted longform on a blog might look a lot different than a BookTok video or an Bookstagram caption.
Take my own history, for example. You can’t see the history, because I spent the entire winter season cleaning up my reviews to match my current style. But I have evolved in many different ways.
- Long form thoughts, all vibes: my first reviews were just word vomits of emotions and opinions. It had no formatting, no linking, no a lot of things. 😂 Just a photo of the book cover and unfiltered thoughts.
- Introducing formatting: eventually, I moved on to introducing some formatting, with having a block at the beginning that had all the metadata: publisher, genre, word count, title, those sorts of deets. Then more word vomit.
- Evolving to consider SEO: now, we’ve made it to the format I like the most (for now 😅). I have an intro paragraph giving my general thoughts, a metadata section, and then split my “long form thoughts, all vibes” approach into something a little more accessible: a likes and dislikes section, before summarizing it all at the end.
None of these approaches were bad! And obviously, I stand by my all vibes theme that’s lasted throughout time. But, I think the most important thing to consider, when thinking about your own book review etiquette, is what is important to you for your reviews.
Book Review Etiquette: My Style
For me, as I mentioned before, my book reviews serve three primary functions. One, a place to share my unfiltered thoughts about a book. That is always paramount for me. Because of that, I knew I wanted to share more vibes, split into likes and dislikes, than more structured reviews, that break things down into plot, character, summaries, etc. This is because it matches how I select my reads. By the cover alone half the time, but mostly by how its marketed (what tropes, what vibes it gives off, what emotions I can expect to feel). So, my reviews match.
Second, my reviews are for other readers. Because of this, I wanted to include things I thought might be important, if a fellow reader is using my review to help decide if they want to read the book or not. This had me add things that didn’t used to be present when I first started reviewing books. Things like:
- Content warnings: though I always provide the caveat that my list is subject to being incomplete, I want readers to know that I’m trying to help them easily identity if this book might be for them or one to be avoided. That’s why there’s a section clearly marked and easily pinpointed, if a reader wants to go straight there.
- Spoiler tags: if I’m going to spoil something, I’m going to have that clearly marked. I try very hard to not include spoilers, because I recognize that not everyone who discovers my reviews has read the book. But if I do spoil, it’s marked.
Finally, the third thing I consider is author impact. Again, reviews are not for authors. Yet they can still help them, whether it’s free marketing, combating algorithms or gaining sales. For this reason, I did a few other things, too:
- Including purchase links: I didn’t use to do this, but I thought it might be nice to have, if a review made a reader want to go out and get their own copy. (Which, how cool is that!?) But, because I hate Am*zon, I don’t link there. I link to my favorite indie bookstore, The Raven, and other, more accessible outlets (especially since I have a lot of non-US readers).
- Cross-posting my reviews: a great way to support an author is to leave a review at a review site, as more reviews = greater engagement and numbers for them. So, I try to remember to cross post to Goodreads, StoryGraph, Twitter and, yes, unfortunately, Am*zon. Especially for self-published, indie or midlist authors.
Book Review Etiquette: Things to Consider
Though again, that is just my style and what I considered when I wanted to revamp how I did book reviews. Doesn’t mean my reviews are any better than someone who doesn’t do all these things. Or that they’re any worse than someone who does all of these things and then even more.
But, if you’re wondering how to create your own book review etiquette, here’s a few things to consider:
- Your Audience: do you prefer to write for you and others who have read the books to have in-depth discussions? Or do you want those who have never read the books to be engaged? Do you consider them first as free marketing for publishers or a journal for your reactions? All of these things will have you formatting, writing and including different elements to your reviews.
- For example, if you want to have reviews that are filled with spoilers and meant to discuss in-depth reactions with other readers of the book, great! But making that intention and purpose clear through an intro paragraph, spoiler warnings and tags would be a kindness to your audience who finds them and hasn’t read it.
- What You Have Access To: I’m lucky enough to have gone self-hosted. Doing so gave me access to tons of things I didn’t have before. Obviously, this changed how I formatted my book reviews. For example, now I have special block plugins, which gave me access to columns, table of contents, buttons and more. Plus, I use the SEO Yoast plugin to help guide my SEO efforts.
- Your Impact: Don’t tag authors in negative book reviews. Just don’t.
So, that’s a little bit about some potential book review etiquette. Although honestly, it’s more of a post about finding your own book review style. *shrugs* I kinda like how it evolved as I wrote it.
What about you? How did you determine how you write, present and format your book reviews? Do you have anything you’d add to these considerations? Anything you swear by (or avoid)? I’d love to know.
And thanks for all the love on this random series. It’s been a lot of fun and I hope it’s generated some good discussions!