This question has been running in my head for a long time now. As I post and consume bookish content, I have a lot of thoughts. But this is the one that stands out the most, along with related questions.
Are book reviews enough for book blogs? What do people like to see? What posts work better in the long run? What content helps form more relationships?
I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for several months. Also, everyone talks about reviews getting less traction compared to other posts, but few talk about why. I want to talk about that as well.
So grab a drink and sit down with me for a bit to discuss this.
I’ve been reviewing and blogging for well over five years now. While I’ve never had a pure book blog (I never stuck to a niche), my content has always been majorly bookish. And my blog is categorized as a book blog by most people.*
Hence, please don’t come at me like “you’re not a pure book blogger so you can’t discuss this properly”. I agree that I may not be the best person to talk about every facet of book blogging, but this post is just me sharing my opinions. It is based on what I think when I post and what I look for when I visit other book blogs. If you’d like to, feel free to write a post on this with your thoughts.
This is in no way a guide or a reference. This is just a chill post where I say things and provide the comment section so that we can have a discussion.
*I actually go through a crisis every month where I feel like an impostor and question this blog entirely, whether I need to stick to bookish content, if I’m even worthy of being in book blogger spaces, etc. but that discussion is for another day.
from a blogger’s perspective
Honestly, I question this because of stats.
While I’m generally okay with my statistics and try not to give them too much attention, I definitely look at them and find patterns. I’m a nerd, okay? One of my favourite monthly activities is to look at my blog’s statistics and make a report. I write down all the numbers along with my thoughts on what helped and what didn’t.
I started questioning book reviews two to three years back when I noticed (on my old blog) that my book reviews got way less traction compared to other posts*. I was considering stopping posting book reviews entirely. Also, I love comments and talking to people over mutual interests. Reviews were not encouraging much discussion.
I paused reviews for a month or so and was focusing on other posts when I realized that my old book reviews were getting tiny bits of traction consistently. It was not a high number to be noticed enough when compared to my other content, but it was consistent. Over the months, they grew due to search engines and ended up being my most popular posts one year after I posted them. Book reviews are evergreen content.
BUT. Though they received more views, they still had very less comments. And while I look at views, I consider comments as engagement. Book reviews still fell short on that.
So, what should we focus on? For a book blog to “do well”, what do you look at more? Long-term growth and view count or higher short-term engagement?
*If you’re a new blogger and you don’t know this, book reviews are known to receive less attention compared to other posts. I got a bunch of comments on an older post where I mentioned this from new bloggers saying they didn’t know this and worried about their content. Well, here you go. It’s not just you.
from a reader’s perspective
I will be very honest with y’all here: I don’t read many book review posts.
I try. I promise you, I do. But a lot of the time, I just don’t want to read book reviews. I’d rather read discussion posts on the books, book rec lists, or ANYTHING else. The only times that I read all book reviews by a blogger is if I really like their reviewing style.
Book reviews are just not as appealing and interesting to me. They are not chatty and don’t feel like a conversation with the blogger. There are very few people whose reviews I like.
On the other hand, I absolutely love other types of content and will read them all. Reading blogs after work or in the morning is a relaxing activity for me. Other blog posts where the blogger chats (which is almost all other types of posts) are what I want.
Another reason that I don’t read book reviews is that I don’t want to get spoiled or influenced before I read the books. I’m influenced quite easily. The hype and general opinions on social media make an impression on me. Reviews are worse. Either I know too much before going in, or I expect the wrong things because what I notice in a book is different compared to others.
Reading a ton of reviews before picking up a book reduces my enjoyment of the book. So I prefer to read one or two reviews from trusted bloggers (whose review styles are fun or who have similar tastes as me) and go into the book without knowing too much.
I like to read different reviewing styles as well. Instead of regular reviews, I like reading “reasons to read” or discussions on the books. Basically, the formats where the bloggers chat more with the reader. They are less formal.
Another time that I go for other posts is when I visit new blogs. Whether I follow a blog is totally dependent on whether I vibe with the blogger or if I like their voice. It is not easy to discern that through reviews. So I go to any other types of posts and see a couple of them. Sometimes, I don’t read any reviews.
If a blog only posts reviews, I’m much less inclined to subscribe. It doesn’t give me much opportunity to converse with the blogger or know them. I like to know the people behind the blog. Not just the books.
as a blogger and reader…
I’m very conflicted about book reviews. I understand why my reviews don’t receive as much love, especially because of my reading preferences, but it still doesn’t feel good!
On one hand, I love reading chatty book reviews and unique formats. On the other hand, I can’t execute them myself! No matter how much I want to make reviews less formal and more generic, I cannot. It is a BOOK review. Of course, I have to mostly talk about the book. It’s not easy to make them appealing.
This leads to me not wanting to post a ton of reviews myself. As of now, I only review books that I have a lot to say about. Yes, this means that most of my reads are not reviewed. But I don’t mind that.
I KNOW that reading ARCs and going with the hype is not a requirement for being a part of the community. But it’s a little hard to be able to converse about books when I’ve not read the same books. Everyone’s talking about The Jasmine Throne now and I’m in a corner with my random reads which I don’t even review.
Last month, I decided that I wanted to post more book reviews. I felt left out because I was not posting book reviews like everyone else. I was having another crisis with respect to my place in the community, so I reviewed a little more. The engagement noticeably reduced.
And immediately, I felt out of touch with y’all. With my blog readers. There were lesser comments and lesser discussions. Less chatting. Comments on book reviews also tend to be about the books. It’s not about the people behind the usernames.
So from now on, I’m going to post book reviews only when I have a lot to say about a book. I’m going to post book reviews for me, simply to let my thoughts out. It might not be fun or interesting like what I like to read. But it’s okay.
so, are book reviews enough for book blogs?
For me, they are not.
From both a blogger and a reader’s perspective, reviews are not enough for me. I am dissatisfied on both sides.
Reviews don’t bring in as much engagement and don’t encourage conversation in the comments. Writing book reviews is also not fun for me. I love writing chatty posts like this discussion or my monthly wrap-ups. I love writing how-tos and lists.
These posts take me multiple days to write because I have a lot to say and I need to proofread and cut down before publishing. Book reviews take me days because I have to think about what to say at all.
So as a blogger, reviews are not enough for my blog. Both for satisfaction and engagement.
As a reader, book reviews are not appealing to me. They don’t give me enough of the blogger’s personality and whether I can see myself being friends with them.
If I visit a new blog and they have no posts other than reviews, it puts me off. If someone I follow posts only reviews for a long time, I may not engage with their content as much.
And as I said before, reading reviews reduced my enjoyment of the books themselves. Hence, it’s a no from me.
should bloggers stop posting book reviews completely?
I still read reviews myself and like to write them sometimes. There are tons of blog readers who love to see reviews. If you want to post reviews, you should!
The only reason for this post is to share my thoughts and to explain in case any bloggers are wondering why their book reviews don’t receive as much attention. A lot of bloggers accept it as a fact but no reader has come forward to say why they don’t read book reviews, so I decided to do it.
But don’t consider me as a blueprint reader. I’m one in many. Others have very different opinions and preferences.
Don’t stop posting reviews on my account or anyone else’s account. Do what you want to do, post what you want to post! Your content shouldn’t be completely directed by stats. Especially if blogging is your hobby.
The only thing you should be considering is whether YOU like to write book reviews. If you do, go ahead and write all of them! If you don’t, you’re not obligated to write them. Your blog, your content, your rules.
alternative blog post suggestions
Because I’m me and I try to be helpful wherever I can, I have to include some solutions to the problems that I mentioned.
Here are some blog post ideas through which you can gain more engagement while also directing traction towards book reviews. You can include links to full reviews in these while also keeping it chatty and fun.
- Wrap-ups: This can be monthly wrap-ups, seasonal wrap-ups, or just reading wrap-ups every so often. Write a short bit on every book you’ve read. This is easier for readers to read as well because they can see all your thoughts without going through a bunch of posts.
- Recommendation lists: I absolutely love reading rec lists because I get a bunch of book recommendations while not being told too much about each book.
- Themed book lists: these are so fun to read! Pick a trope or some general things and make a list on them. For example, Nick’s post on Bakers in Romance Books.
There are many more ways to make engaging posts to talk about books while not being restricted to book reviews. Try different types of posts and see what works for you!