I launched Rants Raves & Reviews in July 1997. It was the first website I ever designed. This was back before “blogging” was even a thing. I loved reading and I wanted to have a way of promoting the books I read that I thought deserved more publicity.
Over time, I changed to an e-zine (short for electronic magazine) format, rebranding the website as berniE-zine: Book Reviews & More. When my website hosting provider started offering the ability to incorporate a blog into the website, I redesigned the home page to do that, recognizing the important role book bloggers began to assume in the literary community.
I tried to be regular, posting monthly for many years, two or three reviews per month. Then I went quarterly. Then I had a baby and had little time to devote to reading, let alone to review the few books I did read. Finally, in 2012, I said goodbye to my subscribers and uploaded my final post. I have kept the reviews online as an archive, because I still believe the reviews have value.
Over the 15 years that I published berniE-zine, I read some books that have stayed with me through countless moves. I read some books that I immediately gave away after I finished reading them. I also learned many lessons, some of which I have likely forgotten. However, here are five very important lessons I learned from that experience:
1. Post reviews on a regular basis. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to post on a regular basis. Whether it’s one review every two weeks, or three reviews once per month, or one review per week, readers want to see consistency before they subscribe to your posts or newsletter. Publishers, too, want to see that you’re serious before they send review copies to you.
2. Don’t post your address online and invite authors/publishers to send you books to review. You will end up with way more books than you can review, books you have NO interest in reviewing, and lots of authors/publishers emailing you on a constant basis to ask when you will review the book they sent to you.
3. Don’t request a review copy unless you really know you’ll have time to review it. Authors and publishers can’t afford to send out tons of review copies. When they send one to you, respect their time and investment.
4. There are many gems out there that won’t get the attention they deserve. Your review may help, but probably not much against the tide of publicity awarded to NYT Bestsellers. I often felt like a tiny bee buzzing in the midst of a thunderstorm. Try to figure out a niche that is not currently being filled.
5. Someone will always complain that you don’t review enough books from this-or-that genre, or by self-published authors, or e-books, etc. Have a stated review policy or philosophy that explains why you review certain types of books. If your “About Me” page clearly states that you review children’s books, no one can complain that you don’t review enough romance novels.
Bernadette Geyer is a writer, editor, and translator in Berlin, Germany. She also leads online workshops on a variety of topics, including "How to Become a Freelance Book Reviewer" (starts Sept. 12, 2016). For tips on productivity, writing, social media, and business growth -- as well as information about all of her upcoming workshops -- sign up for her monthly news from the big pond.