Hey everyone! I thought I would share my first impressions on being a professional book reviewer. It’s been a month and I’ve already professionally reviewed two books.
I have to say, this is now the weirdest job ever. I’ve never had a job where I sit and read books all day. Oh wait, scratch that. I was an intern at Berkley for a hot minute back when I was in college. I did read a lot of quivering members and heaving bosoms that semester, but nothing I read that semester matched my first book to review.
I’m currently working out my process for reading and reviewing and learned a lot from the first two books I’ve read. I wanted to share my learnings with you.
Overall, it feels like I’m doing what I do everyday. I read a book and then I write my thoughts on it. However, for my job, the reviews need to be super short, include three main parts, and there’s a slew of stylistic stuff I have to keep in mind for the magazine I’m writing for.
The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that I need to keep notes. My editor requires citations of anything I mention from the book. This is to ensure what I’m saying isn’t coming out of my butt, but that means keeping tabs on critical moments in the story and even things like when a character’s introduced or the setting is explained. I didn’t do this for my first review and then ended up spending most of my day going through the book and finding those moments…again. Tedious to a degree I don’t even understand.
Don’t leave the book to the last minute
All my reviews are due at 9AM on Monday morning. That’s fine because the lead time before then is pretty long, so I have plenty of time to read the book, gather my thoughts, and write my review. However, I had a book to read the same weekend as my wedding anniversary and my husband and I spent the weekend celebrating. It was a great time, but not a lot spent reading. So I ended up bingeing the entire book over a Sunday, working until 12:30 that night to finish the review and then waking up at 6:00 AM the next morning to put the final touches on it. I think next time I’ll try and get reviews done before the weekend, so I can use the weekend to make some final touches.
Don’t doubt yourself
I think the biggest thing for me is my doubt. Do I have good taste? Did I do enough to explain the novel and share my thoughts? I was thinking about this on an existential level (because that’s how my brain works) and it’s kind of scary knowing librarians and booksellers are reading my reviews and determining whether to stock their shelves with this book. I mean, wow. That’s a lot of power. I guess my doubts come from whether or not my tastes are good. I think everyone can read a book and have a strong opinion on if they liked it. But personal taste is different in comparison to this job. I think I just need to get over it and recognize that people mostly agree with your opinions and you’re not alone. It’s tough though. I hate my brain sometimes.
Start getting more horror, romance, and sci-fi/fantasy into your reading life
It’s funny that this is a learn for me, but it is. These are my favorite genres, but somehow my months are spent reading a lot of general fiction. Like way more general fiction than I thought comes through my mailbox everyday and I spend most of my time reading them. But then the books I want to read from genres I love are always put on the back burner for another day. I think I’ll have to prioritize myself better or give up the ghost and stop requesting literary/general fiction every month.
But so far, this job has been fun and I have another review due in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to read it and share my thoughts with you too.