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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review How To

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Once upon a time reviews of books and movies were things that could be found only in print publications. Most reviewers were people with degrees in literature or film history. Occasionally, those familiar with pop culture would publish short blurbs in the entertainment section of the newspaper grading the most recent movie releases.

With the advent of the internet, Amazon, and digital media in general the public's desire to find out information about books and movies became an almost instantaneous thing. The need to wait for them in print became smaller and smaller. Now anyone can go on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads and find a review of a book or movie and decide whether or not to spend the money on them without ever having to leave the comforts of home. Anybody these days can be a reviewer.

This is not a bad thing. It makes it very easy as a consumer to make informed decisions on how to spend our money on entertainment. Without word of mouth some authors would still be unknowns instead of the multimillionaires they've become. But for the reviewer it becomes harder and harder to stand out. You can still get paid to writer reviews on books. I know this for a fact because I've done it. I don't know as much about movie reviews because I've only published those for fun here on my blog. But in order to get publication credit and a paycheck for writing a book review you have to put as much effort into writing that review as you do any freelance article. And it doesn't hurt to begin small and build a following by reviewing books for free on sites like Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble when you first start out. You can also become of a fan of some of your favorite authors and keep track of when or if they are offering free giveaways or seeking readers willing to read an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of their work in return for an honest review.

It also helps to research the field and read professional published reviews in such places as the New York Times Book Review or the Washington Post. It's a good way to familiarize yourself with the use of language, etc. of other paid reviewers. Researching the field can also help you find a niche you are passionate about in your book reviews. By developing a writing style and narrowing your focus on what types of books you like to review you can increase your chances of being noticed and taken seriously as a reviewer. This in turn can increase you odds on getting paid, either with money or in free books or ARCs of books to review. It is also important as a reviewer to stay current on upcoming releases in books so you can get those reviews out there BEFORE the book comes out. You are more likely to get paid to publish reviews on pre-released or very recently released work than on books that have been out on shelves a while.

Know the target audience you are writing the review for. If you are writing a review on a nonfiction book that contains pertinent information on child development for a parenting magazine you want to use language that is fresh and appealing to a busy parent and give them information about that book that will help them decide if it is worth their time and money. You won't write in the same style for a parenting magazine as you would for a teen magazine or an online review on Goodreads about the newest mystery thriller by your favorite author. Focusing on your audience will help you determine the length of the review, how technical you can get in language, and whether or not to include a detailed blurb on what the book you're reviewing is about. For instance, when I'm perusing reviews on a book that has caught my eye on Goodreads, I tend to skip over the ones that immediately start out giving me a regurgitation of the book blurb. If I'm interested in a book the book blurb is the first thing I read. On sites like Goodreads I don't need to have you tell me about it again at the beginning of your review. What I want to know is why you gave the book the number of stars you did, and why you loved the book or were disappointed in it.  

Be honest in your opinion but stay professional. The writing community is still a very small one on many levels. If you maliciously slander someone and manage to get that review published you are not only critiquing someone else you are also giving anyone who reads that review an impression of yourself as a writer as well. It is good to inform people about the weaknesses you might have found in a book whether fiction or nonfiction, but you can be honest about that without being nasty or mean-spirited. It is also important to keep in mind that your review is going to be read by people who may or may not have read the book. So you mustn't give away information that might spoil the book for them. Also, if you are doing the review in return for a free copy of the book you are helping that author promote their work and less people will be willing to buy a book you've given away the ending to. So avoid spoilers as much as possible.

Being a paid book reviewer is a good way to hone your skills as a freelance writer doing something you love--reading. You do have to be a voracious reader if you hope to make any appreciable income at it. You also have to be willing to accept rejection. Finding a home for you reviews requires just as much work and tenacity as any other kind of freelance writing. You have to query and query again to get published. But it is a viable market with plenty of opportunity for you to get paid to write in.

Here are some links to articles about writing book reviews and sites willing to pay for reviews with money or in free books:




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