NetGalley, a service to promote and publicize forthcoming titles to readers of influence, launched #reviewathon this month and this encouraged me to pause and observe why I review books.

NetGalley is an incredible platform that is designed to promote authors and their writing. Their promise is “We Help Books Succeed”, ie: “We help readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences.”  Having a passion for reading, I think it’s a very reasonable ‘contract’: the selection of the latest works from the topics/subjects you really enjoy in exchange for an honest review.

Selecting the books is both challenging and exciting. It reinforces how important the visual (cover) and the write-up (the summary) are. They communicate the essence of the book and its ability to draw me in (or not). On completion of the book, revisiting this introduction either reinforces how well this was achieved or leaves me with a sense that it was misleading and may have contributed to my lack of enjoyment.

Reviewing has taught me a great deal about the difference amongst types of writing styles, and how each connects with the reader. It is a great example of “who is this for” and how well does the book match this “who”. How it appeals and whether I want more from the author are two questions that I pose, and then answer, in my mind’s eye. I look to apply what I learn in my writing for the various brands we represent. My writing cannot reflect who I am but rather the Brand Story we are looking to build; both visually and through our writing. There are many parallels between this review approach and how we approach our marketing communications. It’s not just about liking and disliking but getting your head around the value of the investment.

Reviewing non-fiction versus fiction is quite different, again providing an example of how one size does not fit all. For non-fiction, a strong opinion on

  • the authenticity of the content,
  • the referencing,
  • the credibility,
  • the ability to motivate the reader to make a change,
  • the ability to add to the body of knowledge

are metrics for the assessment. For fiction,

  • the depth of characters,
  • the flow,
  • the plausibility of the plot,
  • the satisfaction in the outcome

are important. In the one, sharing details can help clarify while I am most careful not to include spoilers in the other.

Knowing that I am going to review the book encourages me to read attentively, giving my full attention to the content, knowing that I will be providing an opinion. For the same reason, it has also made me more discerning. I try very hard to not ask for books I don’t think will add to my knowledge base (non-fiction) or that I will enjoy relaxing to and reading (fiction). It encourages me to be more careful in my assessment of a book, as the objective is to assist the authors, they aren’t looking for a bad review. This approach allows me to help NetGalley deliver on their promise, helps the authors I love succeed whilst educating and entertaining me, it’s a real Win-Win-Win! Join the conversation and learn more about books, authors and reviews by following the hashtag #reviewathon.

Next week we’ll be sharing how reviews, in general, are an essential part of marketing.