When you review books…
1.You learn about the craft of writing because you get to identify both the weaknesses and strengths of a book. You learn what works and what doesn’t, and eventually you become more apt in avoiding amateurish mistakes when you write your own books. You can do this because you’re able to look at someone else’s book objectively, something that it’s hard to do with your own writing. In this sense, reviewing can make you a better writer and a better judge of literature. This comes very handy if you belong to a critique group or serve as judge at contests.
2. Your writing becomes easier and better. Reviewing is writing, after all, and the more you write, the better it gets. Reviewing helps to hone your skills as a word builder.
3. Your thinking skills become sharper because you have to ponder and reflect on why you liked or disliked a book. This sometimes takes keen perception.
4. You become familiar with publishers and the type of books they publish. This is especially helpful if you review in the genre that you write in and if you’re looking for places to submit your work.
5. You become familiar with agents and the type of books they like to represent. How do you know this? Most authors thank their agents in the acknowledgements page.
6. You network with other authors who in the future might help you promote your book. Authors are very thankful to reviewers for taking the time to review their books, especially if the reviews are positive.
7. You develop an online presence, a platform. If you have an attractive blog where you post honest, intelligently written reviews, eventually you’ll build a good reputation as a serious reviewer and readers, publishers, authors and publicists will want to become your followers. Having lots of followers will instantly make you more attractive in the eyes of a publisher when you submit your book for consideration.
8. You develop an identity as an expert, especially if you review in the same genre you write in. For example, if you review only young adult novels, and you write reviews often enough, soon you’ll acquire a thorough knowledge of the genre and what’s new out there, and your reviews will become more insightful because you’ll be able to compare works by different authors who write in the same genre. It’s difficult to become an expert in all genres, but this is doable in one genre if you’re dedicated enough.
9. You may land a contract with a publisher. This happened recently to one of the reviewers at one of the sites I review for. Her reviews were so well and thoughtfully written, they caught the eye of a publisher. They asked if by any chance she had a manuscript around. Well, she did and the publisher ended up offering her a contract!
10. You can build yourself a pretty nice library if you’re one of those reviewers who read and review quickly. I know some reviewers who review several books a week.
11. You’ll discover authors you didn’t even know existed. Review blogs are especially attractive to small press authors and publishers because they usually have trouble getting reviewed by the big publications.
12. You build relationships with publicists who work at major publishing houses. Once they’ve come to trust you as a serious reviewer, you can request those books you’re most interested in.
13. You get to feed your addiction—for free!
14. You can build a resume with publishing credits. They will come very handy when you start sending out those queries to agents and publishers.
15. You can eventually get paid by submitting your reviews to those sites and publications that pay their contributors.
What about the downside of reviewing? Is there one?
For me, at times it has gotten to the point where it has become overwhelming and I’ve had to put aside my own writing in order to keep up with it. It’s important not to get carried away and request more books than we can realistically handle. So, if you’re an author, reviewing can take time away from your own writing and it can give you stress. And when reviewing becomes a chore, it isn’t fun anymore. It becomes a job for which you’re not being paid for (unless, obviously, you’re being monetarily compensated by a publication).
Also, it doesn’t pay well. Take it from James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Review. He states that “the only way to make money as a reviewer is to marry rich!”
After you’ve been reviewing six months to a year, and feel comfortable in your reviewer’s skin, I’d advise you to start approaching those sites and publications that pays for reviews. You can keep reviewing for free if you like, either for your own blogs and/or favorite review site(s), but it’s also nice to get paid for your work. I’m not talking here about charging authors and publishers for your reviews! I’m talking about getting paid by a publication and in a situation where you have no direct contact with the author or publisher of a book.