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If you love to read and dream of having your favorite authors send you their books for free before they’re even released to the public, you’re going to want to start a book blog. Starting a book blog isn’t that hard and doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ll give you tips for setting up your review blog and writing a book review.
Why You Should Start A Christian Book Review Blog
You may read some secular books that are very helpful, entertaining, and “clean” from a reader’s point of view, but consider making your book review blog Christian books only. Christian book review blogs help solve the biggest problem Christian authors have in promoting their books. I’ve seen many great books that just needed some love in the form of honest social proof to get them to take off as a ministry and profitable income for the author.
Likewise, the biggest problem for Christian readers is not finding books in the right price range anymore. Many of us have thousands of books on our e-readers, yet we still have no idea what we should read. Christian book review blogs solve that problem as well. Often, good Christian books get lumped into religious categories that include other religions and various other categories many of us don’t wish to read. There are also many non-Christian books that wiggle themselves into the Christian categories to target a smaller niche and earn the book a number one spot on the bestsellers list. There will always be a need for trustworthy Christian book reviewers.
How to Start A Book Blog For Free
Blogger is a great place to start a blog for free. In fact, this blog got its start as a Blogger blog over ten years ago. I’ve started many blogs on Blogger over the years because it’s fast, easy, and can be redirected to from a custom domain name if you’d like. If you’re good at learning new programs you might like WordPress. There are free and paid versions of WordPress blogs (with their own pros and cons) and it’s a super popular option so you’ll find many tutorials online. But before choosing a free blog platform, look at some of the paid options out there because they might be more affordable than you think.
Think of a catchy name for your blog and make sure it isn’t already taken. On Blogger you’d simply put in the name you want and Blogger will instantly let you know if it’s available. If you want a custom domain (yoursite.com) then you’ll want to go to a place that sells domains like GoDaddy.com.
Find a great graphic that matches the mood of your blog and don’t forget to optimize it. You can get graphics reasonably priced at stock sites like Depositphotos.com. I personally like to avoid the free stock photography sites because it’s too difficult to know if you’re infringing on someone else’s copyright to use them. You can also make your own graphics with open source programs like Inkscape and Photofiltre.
Always optimize your photos before adding them to your blog. This will make sure your page will still load quickly. I like to compress my JPG images with a site called tinyjpg.com and give them descriptive names.
Consider getting a free Facebook page, Twitter, or Instagram account to drive traffic to your blog. Some people are now using YouTube instead of a traditional blog to review books. You don’t need every social media account available and having them all may be more of a pain than a help so start simple with one or two. You can always add more later.
Create a review policy and a way for people to contact you. Which books will you review and which books will you turn down? Be specific about format, length, genre, and other things that could make a book an automatic yes (or no) when considering them for review. This will save a lot of time when it comes to answering emails from authors needing reviews, and there are a LOT of authors needing reviews from reputable bloggers.
Consider your theme. What will tie all your book reviews together? Are they all Christian? Science fiction? Short reads?
Write an “About Me” page so people can get a feel for your personality.
Decide if you’ll allow guest posting or if you’d like to join with another reviewer to give your site more timely content.
How to Write a Book Review for Your Blog
Writing a review for your blog is a little different than writing a review for Amazon. Why? Because you don’t have Amazon there to do some of the work for you, you must provide some of those basic details like the description, a cover image where appropriate, and the genre.
Never download a cover image without permission. If you’re working directly with the author they will probably provide a cover image for you. Make sure it’s compressed so you won’t slow your site down. If you want to use the Amazon image you’ll need a plugin on your site (or a way to enter the code) that will pull those images automatically. (Some blog platforms, like Squarespace, are set up this way from the start and make it really easy.)
This type of review needs a good description of the book. Keep it brief, but let people know what the book is about so they can decide if they want to know more about it.
Don’t forget to include things like page length, genre specifics, and other things you might find on a sales listing, but avoid adding prices because they change quickly and you don’t want angry readers if the price increases.
After you have the above basics, writing the review is similar to the step by step structure in my article about writing book reviews for Amazon and other book retailers only you can go into much more detail about your thoughts, likes, and dislikes. Here’s the basic method.
Give a description of what the book is about. If you’re working with the author or publisher they may give you a description to use, or you can write your own. Keep the reader in mind when giving a short summary of the book. Don’t include the ending or other surprises the author has in store (called spoilers) or people might not want to read the book.
State what you liked and what you didn’t. Each point that you liked or disliked could be its own paragraph with supporting sentences. Again, keep the reader in mind and try to give information to help the reader make a decision about reading the book.
Sum up your review in a paragraph. In this section you’ll want to describe who the book would be a perfect fit for, and give your final overall thoughts on the book.
Don’t forget to include a disclaimer if you received the book for free in exchange for a review and add in any interesting tidbits about the making of the book.
How to Become a Book Influencer
A book influencer is someone who encourages others to purchase a specific author’s books. If you’re a big fan of an author and constantly tell people why they should purchase that author’s books, you’re already an influencer. But if you team up with the author or publisher you may be entitled to free books and sometimes other book related items (called swag) that you can use to help promote the author’s books. Extra author swag and review copies you’re finished with can often be used as giveaways to help promote your blog.
Becoming a book influencer is usually pretty easy. Just review some of the author’s books and then let the author or publisher know how much you like their work and give them a link to your review. Ask them if they have a review team you can join so you can be first in line to review their next release. Not all authors will respond but some will be thrilled to hear from you and will add you to their list of trusted reviewers and influencers.
Tips for Running a Book Blog
Don’t sign up for so many review teams that you can’t keep up with the reviews in a timely fashion.
Always leave yourself plenty of time to keep your review promises because sometimes life gets in the way and you’ll need extra time.
Keep yourself organized by using an online calendar such as Google Calendar or make your own review calendar in a paper planner.
Other Things To Consider
When your website brings in enough traffic you can also think of monetizing your blog. It’s a good thing to think about even if you don’t plan on making money with your blog right away. Some free blogging platforms won’t allow you to easily run ads or use affiliate links. If you’d like to start cheap (or free) and move up to a better blogging platform in the future, be sure to purchase your domain name from a reputable site like GoDaddy.com. Their customer service is top notch and they can help you point your domain to another site such as a free blog. When you decide to move to a new blog platform you can just contact your domain provider and get them to redirect to your new blog without losing traffic. This can allow you to start your blog small and cheap and move up when, and if, you want.
If you’re an author and you want to also have a book review blog, consider only reviewing books in a totally unrelated genre. This helps to keep you from having a conflict of interest with your competition. Never agree to review exchanges where you review for someone who then writes a review for you. The most important thing about having a blog is not to betray the reader’s trust. The best way to do that is to avoid situations with conflict of interest.
Starting a book blog can be a fun hobby and can help you meet a lot of like-minded people. It can also score you some great books and other freebies. You’ll know you’re helping people find great books and are helping out your favorite authors. It’s a win-win-win.