I’ve noticed that many bloggers write posts for their blogiversary, and I wanted to do the same. However, I had no idea how to determine when my blogiversary was. Like many in my generation, my first foray into blogging was as an angsty teen (and I was a heathen, I might add!) through the medium of Xanga (if you had a Xanga, comment and tell me about it!). Well, about halfway through undergrad I got saved. And I continued to blog on and off in essentially the same way. But I never blogged very regularly – sometimes I’d write a few posts a months, and sometimes I’d blog pretty regularly for a few months and then not post at all for many months.
That all changed exactly one year ago – the day on which I posted my first book review. In this past year, I’ve posted 60 book reviews and published 154 posts in total. And so, I’ve decided to commemorate September 21 as my blogiversary. Since my blogging in this past year has been mainly driven by book reviews, it’s also a perfect time to reflect on the “life” of book reviewing.
A year ago I had no idea that publishers send bloggers free books to simply review them on their blogs. My introduction to the world of reviewing for free books was actually through an email from Westminster Books announcing that Crossway had given them advanced electronic copies of Kevin DeYoung’s then forthcoming book, Crazy Busy, to pass on to some who would be willing to review it. Having no idea that bloggers can get free (print) review books, I thought I had received a windfall of a good fortune (I mean, providence. of course.). A few weeks later, Zondervan Academic announced a blog tour for Michael Bird’s then forthcoming Evangelical Theology and I was chosen. I couldn’t believe it – a big, print, systematic theology book.
Through these two experiences I connected to a few “big time” reviewers and discovered that this was a thing – that there were bloggers who could get pretty much any book they wanted for free (at the end of this post I’ll link to some helpful posts for those who want to get started in book reviewing, or current reviewers who would like to write better reviews). Well, being the bibliophile that I am, this was one of the most exciting revelations of my life and I jumped right on the reviewing boat. It took a few months to build my “cred” a bit – initially I mainly joined blog tours, signed up for official blogging programs, and suffered some digital review copies. I didn’t even try direct requests because I knew they’d get rejected without a decent history of reviews and subscribers/traffic.
And so, my pickins were slim – and this is almost always the case when you first get started. Though most of the books I reviewed in the early days were good books, a lot of them I would not have reviewed if it wasn’t for the fact that I was jumping on every review book I could get – like I said, when you first start out you usually don’t have a lot of options, and you need to build up your review history and blog stats. But within just a few months, I hit a turning point – 1) I started sending direct requests to publishers for books I really wanted and was actually getting some of them; and 2) I found myself with way more books than I could comfortably handle in a timely manner. And so, I got pickier about what books I requested and accepted for review. Whereas I started out pretty much reviewing every book I could get for free, I now only review books I really want to read – if it’s a book I wouldn’t purchase or at least try to procure from the library, I’m not going to review it.
This policy has worked well thus far, but I’ll have to get even pickier soon. I’ve averaged 5 reviews a month in this my first year, but I’m going to taper off big time as I get ready for formal education. While I initially started reviewing to get free books (which is pretty much why we all start, but it’s still not a good idea), I came to appreciate it for the way it forces me to read slower, think harder, and interact more with what I read. But it still doesn’t change the fact that reviewing takes time and is not always easy if you want to review well. But besides the personal benefits mentioned above, another reason why I will continue writing book reviews is that I find great satisfaction when my reviews help those who are considering whether to read/buy a book.
While I will continue to blog book reviews, I anticipate that this next year will see less reviews and hopefully more interactions with books and more original content.
Resources for Reviewing (these are from some of my favorite bloggers that regularly write book reviews. When I’m trying to decide whether to read a book, I always look to see whether these guys have reviewed it.)
- “Obtaining Review Books” by Nick Norelli. I call Nick the “Grandaddy of book reviewing,” and I always refer people to this post when they ask me how they can get review books.
- “How to Write a Great Book Review” by Aaron Armstrong. Aaron’s Canadian. His reviews and articles are a great example of common grace :P
- “Reviewing the Life of Book Reviewing” by Nate Claiborne. This is a series Nate just started, and with the way it’s planned, it’s going to be very comprehensive and very helpful, covering in detail how to obtain review books, how to read, interact, and write good reviews, as well as lessons Nate has learned throughout his years of prolific reviewing.