Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One year into reviewing - My thoughts on my reviews

It’s been a little over a year since I first started reviewing books. I’ve learned quite a lot during this past year. Let me share what I’ve learned and how I like each publisher’s blogging program.
What I’ve Learned
The biggest thing I’ve learned is to keep my reviews short. My first review was really wordy. And I think it was too wordy. Here is my first review. So instead of trying to tell the entire story, I’ll do a brief summary, a paragraph of what I liked/didn’t like about the book. And who I’d recommend it to.
My early reviews also didn’t have me rating them. I saw on another blog that I follow that the author gives each book an xx star out of 5 star rating. So I snagged that idea. I then decided I wanted to add a picture of the stars into my blog post. I googled star images, but didn’t find any I liked. Then I had a brainstorm! I could utilize the drawing tools in Word and make my stars. So I did. I created a new document, drew my stars, filled them with green, and saved the document. My next dilemma – how to save them as a JPEG or GIF file? Another brainstorm – use Paint. So I did. And it was really very simple.
Blog Tours. I’d had no idea what one was before I did my first one for Promise Me This. It’s a book review tour that the publisher sets up on various blogs to promote the book. I really enjoyed being a part of that one. It made it easy on me that I was given a specific date I had to post my review on my blog.
I’ve learned how to schedule posts. If I’ve finished a book, and I’m not allowed to post the review until such and such a date, then not a problem. I just schedule the post to hit my blog on the date I need it to. Kinda nice really. Then all I have to do is go back and copy my review from my blog onto amazon & goodreads.
Best part of reviewing books – I get to keep them! Seriously, I’ve not spent over $500 on books. I’ve also discovered some really great authors that I probably wouldn’t have picked up at the store otherwise. Authors like Jody Hedlund, Regina Jennings, Shannon Dittmoore, Katie Ganshert, Cathy Gohlke, and others. I’ve had so much fun reading new authors or new to me authors.
I’ve discovered it’s fun to reward my followers with a giveaway. I don’t do them often, usually about once a month, and I’m terrible at remembering to mail the prize. But I’m working on that. A lot of the books I’ll give away will be ones I’ve reviewed and I’ve decided to share the book with others. They may books that for whatever weren’t my absolute favorites, or ones that I didn’t loan out to my cousin or my mom or a friend, but I figure that even if I didn’t really enjoy the book, someone else may. I’ve seen a couple of different tools for giveaways. One is random.org. This is a random number generator and is really simple to use. Another one I’ve seen, and it tracks entries, is rafflecopter. I’ve not tried it yet, but I’m intrigued by it.
Publisher Blogging Programs
While there may be things I don’t really care for in these programs, I still enjoy the overall program and will continue to be a part of it. These are just my thoughts on the different publisher’s programs. All of the programs require me to post a review on my blog & a retailer’s website. I have also gotten into the habit of posting my reviews on Goodreads. I’m slowly starting to post them on Pintrest, Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.
Blogging for Books – This is the blog program for Waterbrook/Multnomah. It’s pretty easy to understand. I told them what types of books I enjoy, and books that fall into those categories are available for me to review. There are usually both print copies and e-copies of the books. As part of their program, reviews are posted on their site, my personal blog, and a retailer site. I typically post them on amazon.
I’ve read several really good books from Waterbrook/Multnomah. I’ve also read a few that I didn’t care for. The communication is great. If I have any questions at all, I just shoot out an email, and I get a reply really quickly. I like the fact that other readers can rank each review. It’s kinda fun to see the rankings on my reviews when I go and manage my reviews. There are a couple of things I don’t like about the program. One is I can only have one book out at a time. Most of the time that’s a good thing since I always have a TON to read. But there are times when I see two titles and I want to review them both. I also don’t really like Klout. I’ve yet to figure out how Klout increases my reviews, but whatever.
Booksneeze – This is the blog program for Thomas Nelson. Every time I log on to their site, I have a chance to see all of the titles available to review. I love that. I also have found the monthly emails really helpful. They tell me what books are available and what dates they will be released. All I have to do in this program is post my links on their website.
What I don’t like about it, the fiction titles go fast! So in order for me to get the fiction title I want, I either have to stay up til midnight or wake up early. With my needing to leave my home by 6:30 in the mornings to drive in to work, I’ve not yet had the problem of not having any titles I want to review being gone. I also see in their monthly email several titles I’d like to review, but I’m only allowed to request one at a time. So that’s something I don’t really care for on that. I think that I’ve only read 2 books from Thomas Nelson that aren’t “keepers.”
Tyndale Blog Network – This is the program for Tyndale. When I first applied to it, I had to wait a month or so before I was approved to join in. And that’s because I had just started my blog, so I had very few followers. On their site, I post my links to my review on my blog and on Amazon.
I don’t like having to enter a word verification each time I log onto their site to post a review. I’m also not too thrilled with links must be approved before I can request another title. I’ve gotten 4 books so far through this program. The one nonfiction one I’ve gotten has been passed around to some of my Mary Kay sisters. What I’ve liked about this program is that the books have been really pretty good. Each of the four are by authors I’d not read (or have read very little from). So I’m exposed to new authors.
Bethany House Publishers – This is one that I get an email anytime there are books available and I am allowed to select one per email. So I typically have 2 or 3 books from them out at a time. I’m part of both their contemporary fiction & historical fiction groups.
With the exception of one book, I’ve really enjoyed each and every one I’ve reviewed for Bethany House. Once I’ve read the book, I send an email to Bethany House and enclose my links. What I wish was better is the communication between the editor and myself. I may email to ask a question, and I don’t really get a response.
Revell Books – This is the program for Revell Books, a division of Baker Book House. This is an invitation only program. I’ve only been doing this one since May, and I love it. I get an email each time that there is a blog tour. I’m given a chance to participate in it. If I don’t want to, then I don’t reply to the email.
What I love the most about this, is like Bethany House, I can have more than one book out at a time. I also like being given a specific date range in which I must post my review. This makes me actually read the book by that date. Once I have my review posted, I send an email to them and enclose my links. The communication has been great. Any time I’ve had questions, I shoot out an email, and I get a reply within a couple of days.

Overall, I’ve loved being a part of these review programs. And I’ve had several authors stop by my blog too. It’s rather fun. I look forward to what the next year brings as far as books.

Some of friends have also started to ask me to review this book or that book. I don't have a problem doing that as long as they are aware that it may take me a bit to get to those books.
*There are links to the publishers websites and review programs on the page called "Publishers I Review For."

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