May 9, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts on Reviews

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Hey all! It's Mother's Day and I hope to have a lazy one but you never can tell. I once spent the day at the ER with my sick kid. Oh and it was snowing too. Hopefully, we won't have any of that this year.

I was lurking around Twitter one night when Marg posted a link to this blog post on online reviews vs traditional reviews. She makes some good points* although I don't care for the idea of bulleted reviews. I've done something similar occasionally but I wouldn't make a habit of it.

What was interesting was a discussion that she linked to, a discussion on the forum of the Book Bloggers' Ning. It was surprising to see that many dedicated readers prefer short reviews. Some of the comments were actually quite harsh about long reviews calling them 'droning' or 'rambling.' I must be a freak because I prefer a long review, especially if I've read the book already. I want to read what others thought of it and if other people noticed the things I did. Long reviews can be done well and still be entertaining. Just look at the romance blog Smart Bitches, one of the most successful book blogs around. Most of their reviews are on the long side.

I will never be accused of being concise. I have written some loooong reviews; I admit it. Has it hurt me as a book blogger? I don't know. I don't have thousands of subscribers and I do get a little sad when my posts receive no comments but I am what I am. And that's okay. Some books just require me to write long reviews. They've crowded my mind for the time it took for me to read them and I need to get my thoughts down. Since there is rarely anyone in real life to listen to me drone on, I turn to the blog. That's why the blog is here in the first place! It's my place to ramble.

The way I look at it is that this blog isn't a billboard for books, it's more like my reading journal. I read what I want and post whatever way I want. If next month I want to remember how I felt about Their Eyes Were Watching God (ridiculously long review) or The Custom of the Country ("Oh my God, so long eyeballs will bleed!" review), I can call it up.  If people don't like that, let me point them gently to last week's post.


So yeah, I'm rambling again. I guess what I'm saying is there is room for every kind of review- long or short and we shouldn't let the preferences of others dictate how we want to do things on our own blogs.

*Notice how I used bold to highlight various points on this post. ;)


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41 comments :

  1. I also think of my blog as more of a reading journal, but even if I didn't, I'm not sure if I'd make an effort to be concise. Most of my favourite bloggers write long reviews, and we all need to stop feeling guilty about it :P I'm interested in lengthy discussions - nothing wrong with short ones, but there's definitely an audience for both. I don't think being lengthy has hurt me as a blogger, and I can think of other blogs much more popular than mine (The Book Smugglers or A Striped Armchair, for example) that also post long reviews.

    I hope this doesn't sound mean, but I can help but roll my eyes when I see yet another one of those "how to" posts. Can we all please quit trying to tell other people how to blog? If you don't like a certain style or blogging technique, the solution is quite simple: don't read the blogs that do that. The end :P

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  2. Great post. Each time I write a post I stop and remember why I started my blog in the first place. For me! I'll do it the way that I want to and if people don't like it they don't have to read it.

    There are a lot of the "how to" posts floating around and I tend to ignore them.

    For what its worth, I like long posts if the writer is actually making points. Some tend to ramble on without going anywhere. Those are the ones that I just click through. (Not yours!) You have a great blog here and I wouldn't change a thing.

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  3. I don't feel guilty about it but I was surprised by the responses to the forum discussion. Not that that's going to change how I do things.

    I love when you've read I book I have. I enjoy reading how you saw the same book. I read every word!

    I think I've come to the point where I'm comfortable with how I do things and how other people do things doesn't faze me any. I'd hate to see everyone doing things the same way.

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  4. Teresa- Aw thanks! Yes, there seems to be a plethora of those posts lately.

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  5. I didn't mean to imply that you in particularly felt guilty, Chris - sorry, I just worded that poorly! But I know that in past I've let posts/discussions of this kind make me feel bad. And whenever someone asks me about the length of my posts, I tend to be mildly apologetic and explain that I just can't be concise even if I try. Which is true, but doesn't really matter because I don't particularly feel that I *should* try :P So the comment was more general than directed to you in particular. I've come to a place where I'm comfortable with how I blog too, but it makes me sad to think that perhaps new bloggers will be led to believe that there are rules they have to stick to, Or Else :\

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  6. I was led to you a tweet from Nymeth. I posted on reviews this morning, too! Some people can write a good long review that is worth reading. Others can kill even a short review. It's all in the talent, not the length. If I like you, like what you have to say, then I'll stick with you long or short.

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  7. Amen and amen! I tend to be on the wordy side, but I always have so much to say! And, at the end of the day, I'm writing about the books I love because I WANT to write about the books I love. I just feel like I HAVE to get it all out there.

    Plus, I prefer to read the longer reviews; it feels like the writer actually READ the book and I prefer their thoughts to someone just summarizing.

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  8. Nymeth- That's what I worry about when I read those posts, that someone out there is going to stress over the right or wrong way of doing things when they shouldn't.

    Sometimes when I make a shorter post I look at it and think, "It's too short. I need more words." lol!

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  9. Campbele- That's true and sometimes it's in the eye of the beholder.

    Heather- I feel that way too. I need to get it all down before I forget.

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  10. Well, I'm totally biased about this because no one has ever accused me of being concise, either, but I prefer long-form reviews as well. You can really analyze a 300 page book in two paragraphs, you know? At least, you can't do it to the level that I want to see.

    That doesn't mean I don't appreciate blogs with shorter form reviews, but I don't see any reason that short reviews should be praised just for being short. If you can make 'em pack a punch, then sure.

    Bottom line: your blog is your blog, and you should review the way you want to. The right readers will find it, and life will be good.

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  11. Rebecca- Some people have a knack for summing up their thoughts concisely. I'm not one of them.

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  12. There's room for both types of reviews, obviously, but I definitely find more fodder for discussion in the longer reviews. Ultimately, I really want to know what worked and what didn't, and I don't care how long it takes you to talk about that. The funny thing is I've seen one sentence reviews that are as motivating for me to pick up a book as a long review. With that said, in general I don't think a good review, or even a good recommendation, can happen in one paragraph.

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  13. Trish- That's what I want in a review too- what worked, what didn't. Why should I buy this book?

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  14. There definitely is room in the blogosphere for all kinds of reviews and I honestly don't even read those discussions any more. I mean, it's fine to have a discussion but it inevitably turns unpleasant with one side bashing another. What's the point? And I also, like you, prefer longer reviews. Short ones almost make me feel that the person didn't even really put any effort into writing it and more or less just paraphrased the publisher's synopsis with a sentence or two of their own. In the end though, it all depends on the quality of a review. There are long ones that I just can't get through because they are a little boring with no apparent point to them and there are short ones that have spare, precise and brilliant thoughts. I write a little longish ones and will continue to do so even if majority of bloggers may prefer short ones.
    And you keep doing what you're doing too because it works. Even if I don't always leave a comment, I enjoy reading your reviews and posts.

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  15. I prefer long reviews, too! I wonder if this is a self-selecting group of people commenting, though, as we all write long-ish reviews and thus probably prefer them ourselves and follow blogs that post longer reviews.

    I don't know if my longer reviews have hurt me as a blogger. I think there is enough blog space for everyone, and while I don't have thousands of followers, I really like the conversation I have with those people who follow me and whom I follow.

    That said, I don't know if I would start a blog now. There seems to be so much conflicting information and advice, and I'd probably not know what was right or wrong!

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  16. Great post! I love long reviews. Sometimes short is better, sometimes long is better, when it comes to me writing reviews but I think it is up to each blogger to decide what works best for them for that individual book! And I love being able to look back and see how I felt about a certain book. Or after reading a book checking google reader to see who has read that book and see what they thought of this bit and that bit. Long reviews are the best for that :)

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  17. The writer of the article seemed to equate "long" with "long-winded". Okay, maybe a "how-to" post should advise people that writing sloppily probably isn't the way to attract readers, but I think you're right, Chris, that we each need to decide what we're writing a blog for and then go with what feels right. I like blogs where people talk about why they like a particular book, and you can't do that quickly. And I really like reviews that engender discussion, and I don't see many short reviews doing that. When I started blogging I looked at a couple of how-to posts to get an idea of what was expected, because I hadn't read many blogs at that time, and then quickly went my own sweet way.

    I don't think my blog is exactly a reading journal, because I'm not systematic enough - though I do use it to record eveything I read, I don't comment on anything like all of it. But it fulfils my need to talk about and share books and provides enough of an audience to keep me going, and that means saying more than "liked this/didn't like that". So I guess that a review for me takes exactly as many words as I feel the need to write!

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  18. I agree, of course, that you have to do what's right for you. I haven't gone to read the posts you linked to yet (will do that in a minute), but a good review has nothing to do with length or formatting. It has to do with what it takes to get your point across.

    I think my reviews are medium length, but I've done short reviews of books I read before I started blogging, and I've done longer reviews that contain photographs and links and/or videos. I don't *think* I've lost readers based on length of reviews.

    Anyway, I don't think I've added anything at all to the conversation, so I'll wander away now.

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  19. What a great post Chris :) I so totally agree with you here. I tend to write shorter reviews because I just haven't mastered the long review...but I so wish I could write longer reviews..I absolutely love them!!! But I agree that there's room for both and it is a PERSONAL decision! Like you, I blog for me ultimately..it's my own reading journal. And yes, it's nice when other people read ;) It makes me happy...but if they don't, at least my thoughts are still there for me!

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  20. I liked your post about long or short book reviews. I'm new to blogging, but I'm of the school, it's my blog and I'll do it the way I want and if someone doesn't like it well that's them. It's like t.v. if you don't like something there are other channels and there is an off button.

    Page
    http://asthepageturns-page.blogspot.com

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  21. I might be biased because I guess I really don't know how to write a short review, but I enjoy longer reviews more because I especially like reading about the person's ersonal experience or thoughts on a book and it's hard to write about those in a shorter review.

    This was a great post and even though I often doubt whether my reviews are concise enough (I really don't think so) or "professional" enough (don't think so either), like you I like being able to just post what I like on my blog without having to think of what certain people might be expecting from a book blog. (Although I have to admit that I sometimes worry).

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  22. I too am of the school of loving long reviews. I find it's easier to connect with people in those reviews.

    I've also been to that ning forum. Definitely not a fan at all of bookblogs.ning, especially when I had this crazy self-pubbed author rip me to shreds on my wall when I had replied to her comment on a forum about longer books. She stated something about how long books just aren't successful or good or something like that, and well, I had a reply for that. Idk, I think I wouldn't mind the place so much if they cleaned it up, got rid of people who are there to just sell their book and made it center back around bloggers.

    In all honesty, I love your long reviews. I ardently admire Nymeth, Aarti, the Book Smugglers because their reviews make me think and also lust after whatever book it is that they are reviewing. I've also found new blogs to follow through their reviews just by clicking on the profiles of the insightful commentors, since as someone mentioned the people who love long reviews tend to write them.

    While I think mine are medium sized, I find myself influenced by these bloggers and thinking, well, what if I try to examine these angles and discuss this part of the book.

    Sorry for going so off topic but this is a fascinating post!!

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  23. Interesting post about review-lengths. I don't think I have given this that much thought, although I often agonize that other bloggers, and I mean ALL other bloggers in the whole wide world/web write much better than I do. But I write my reviews in the lenght I feel up to that particular day, short, long, organized, rambling etc.

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  24. Wow, lots of thoughtful comments!

    Lilly- I've seen those kind of discussions on other forums and they often get ugly. There is one group who likes things one way and another who don't. And you're right- people end up with hurt feelings.

    Aarti- You might be right. It's a matter of like seeking right. When I started blogging, there weren't as many 'opinions' on how things should be done. I hope that doesn't discourage new bloggers.

    Amy- I do the same thing- Google for other reviews.

    Cat- I agree. You need as many words as necessary to say what needs saying.

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  25. Aarti- Oops- That was like seeking like. (Distracted!)

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  26. Beth- Like I said to Cat, you need as many words as you think you need. I also don't think the length is what makes a successful post. What bugged me about the discussion was the idea that no one reads longer post-which I don't think is true.

    Chris- You just need to ramble more. ;) It's definitely up to the blogger how to do things.

    Page- That's the right attitude!

    Iris- Once you find the right style for you, stick with it! I like reading people's own experiences in a post. It adds a personal touch.

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  27. April- The poor Ning. It was such a good idea- a gathering spot for book bloggers but the spam has gotten out of control. It's unfortunate. I like reading people's thoughts on the books I read. It really does add food for thought. PS- Long books: I think The Passage by Justin Cronin- at 750 pgs- is going to be a huge hit!

    Louise- I feel that way too! Seems like so many bloggers have a better way of expressing themselves than I do.

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  28. You know, I may be totally wrong about this, but I think the plethora of "how to" posts spreading around the blogosphere has more to do with gaining readers than actually dispensing useful advice that long-time book bloggers are interested in. I also happen to know that search engines enjoy how to posts, and part of me wonders if there isn't something just a little mercenary in trying to get lots of traffic and look smart to new bloggers. But maybe that's just the new marketing professional in me talking, because now I know what to do and I see others doing it.

    As for me, I think books lend themselves to longer reviews, and I often wish I had the brain power to write the insightful, in depth reviews I love to read from others. Sometimes I get there, sometimes I don't. I love thinking about books more in depth and getting a lot out of them. What I try to remember is that this is my blog. It's not my job and no one really cares how long my review is except me. If readers are put off by my lack of bullet points, they'll leave, and that's okay, because my blog is precisely the way *I* want it.

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  29. I often get questions as to why I write so much about each book I read. The way my format is set up, each book gets at least 2 posts. For me, reading is about the process, so I will document it as I read the book. The format works for me, but I know it throws a lot of people off, and I can't really help that.

    I do have to say that I love long reviews. I have a hard time summing up what I read, and I could ramble on for days, so I always appreciate when a blogger takes their time reviewing something, and gives lots of details.

    If I wanted a two paragraph review, I would go to Goodreads or a site that sells the novel. I want reactions and input and details.

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  30. Some books--or rather, the reader's reaction to them--merit a long review, some don't. I do have to say I agree with the people in the discussion who say they wished bloggers wouldn't spend most of their time summarizing the plot. I can get plot points all over the place; I want to know what the reader thought of the book.

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  31. Meghan- That's an interesting way of looking at it! And yes, no one cares about how long my review is except me.

    Allie- That sounds like a unique way of doing it. I can't recall many people reviewing that way.

    Amy- I do have a hard time summarizing the plot. I think, "How would I explain this book to someone?" Sometimes it takes me a few paragraphs to get there.

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  32. I don't think there's any magical formula for a great review. I think different styles of reviews work for different people.

    I hope you had a great Mother's Day!

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  33. I'm not sure I'm adding anything new to the discussion since I'm arriving so late, but I do think it's a matter of how you say what you want to say about a book. Personally, I usually need a lot of words to do that :-). I usually prefer to read longer reviews as well, because it CAN be hard to convey very much of substance in a short review.

    I'm always open to ways to improve my blog, but honestly, I'm not likely to follow advice that won't work for me - and a "how-to" post advising short reviews falls into that category.

    Great discussion, Chris!

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  34. Happy Mother's Day, Chris! And this is a great post. My reviews run the gamut - sometimes they're long and wordy, other times they're short - just depends on the mood I'm in. It doesn't have anything to do with whether I love the book or not, either - more whether I feel chatty or not. :)

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  35. Glad that you found post interesting fodder Chris. I think that the original intent of the post is an opportunity for someone to find a style of review that works for them, and that they are in effect doing their thinking out loud, if you know what I mean.

    I do think that there are elements that we can take and look at to see if we can find something that works for them. These days I write so few actual reviews that I find it difficult so could be some handy tips for me for sure!

    I do tend towards longwinded though, as evidenced by this comment!

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  36. Kathy- Exactly. There is no right or wrong.

    Florinda- I think that's how to take how-to posts: take the info that you think would work for you and leave the rest.

    Carrie- Mood has a lot to do with it for me too. Some days I'm more chatty than others.

    Marg- Thanks for posting it! I found the discussion she link to more fodder than the post. There were such strong feelings for or against long reviews. I did think she had some interesting points in her post.

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  37. I like long reviews too, especially if I have read the book before. But even a long review can be conscisely written (I think) and thats what I like.

    On the "How To" posts thing - I must be the weird one because I love them. I really like reading other people's views and ideas. Some tips I find useful and some I don't. My blog is my place to do what I want, but it's nice to get fresh ideas and shake things up sometimes :-)

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  38. Becky- I think it really depends on the blogger's approach. This one was interesting but the ones that bug me are the list of don'ts. Tell me do's not just don'ts.

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  39. I sometimes feel that I only do a book justice with a longer review - when I begin writing about it good book it seems impossible to cut it short. But perhaps it just takes more talent to write a short review - similar to the talent it takes to write a short story.

    Great post, btw!

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  40. I agree with you! My blog is my book diary. Furthermore, I had almost no readers during my first year and I was fine.

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  41. Super late--sorry.

    I think the question people need to ask themselves is why they are blogging. For a while I got a little caught up in audience and what I should and shouldn't be doing and my feelings of inadequacy (among other things) pushed me into a blogging break of six months. I finally called it quits at the book blog because I felt like book blogging had become almost a game or competition where you either fit in or didn't. And this is MY fault for feeling this way but I never felt completely free as a book blogger. "Are my reviews too short/long, not thoughtful enough, rambling, am I posting this on a Saturday where I won't get as many hits as on a Monday, if I posted already today do I have to wait X days to post again, did I link to the right people, are my links "anchored." Ugh.

    Anyway, my point is, blog for the reasons why you want to blog (speaking "you" generally)--if you're true to yourself, people will see that. Or not, in the grand scheme does it matter?

    Ooops--rambling Trish as usual!

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