Two weeks ago I wrote a post about what readers look for in litblog reviews. There were some wonderful responses with a reasonable consensus, so I thought it would be worth reporting on that. Here goes …
Style and format
Most people prefer a “personal and quirky” (to use Stefanie’s description) style to a more formal academic one. They want to hear the blogger’s “voice”. Some suggested that the style can vary with the type of book reviewed.
Readers want analysis – that is, reasons, literary or otherwise, for the blogger’s opinions – over what Catherine, Laura and others described as unsupported gushiness, cursoriness and venom. DKS at Pykk said she was looking for “discussion” about books rather than reviews per se, and Stu welcomes comparison with other works.
Short reviews are preferred, though a couple of commenters like longer ones. And everyone wants essay-style rather than dot-points.
Few commented on tags, categories and labels, though one did say “author” and “country” tags were useful. This makes me think that tags (or whatever, depending on the blog platform) may help people find a blog but, once there, readers tend not to use them to navigate around the blog. Then again, perhaps I asked too many questions and this one didn’t really engage the commenters.
In addition to my questions, other ideas were offered, including the need for white space to make reading easier on the eye.
As for the Oxford comma? It was a pretty resounding no – except to avoid ambiguity.
Most of my questions were to do with content and so to keep it short I am going to use dot points. Shock! Horror! But, rules are made to be broken, aren’t they!
- Plot summary and spoilers. There was an overwhelming “yes” for a plot summary – as long as it’s not too long – and “no” for spoilers (though one or two don’t mind spoilers, particularly with a warning).
- Background information about the author, etc. Again, most people like the inclusion of some background. But there were qualifications. People only want information that adds context to the work being discussed, otherwise a link to another site (such as Wikipedia or an author site) is the way to go.
- Quotes. Quotes are generally liked too, but not too many or too long, and accompanied by a reason for their inclusion.
- Images. Not many seem to care about this but Kim did make a point about including picture credits. Ah, a woman after my own heart.
- Awards won. Again, this was not a hotly contested issue. Some found awards information useful, some didn’t care, and one didn’t want it.
- Well-known versus lesser-known or hard-to-get books. There wasn’t a lot of discussion on this topic, either, but those who did, such as Karen Lee and Judith, said they read blogs to discover new-to-them works. They didn’t seem to mind whether those books might turn out hard to get. After all, there are always libraries and on-line second-hand booksellers to help with this, aren’t there?
- Reading challenges. Only one response to this, and it was a no. This suggests to me that challenges are fine for bloggers to take part in, but they are not important to those who read blogs.
- Publication details: The few who responded on this were generally in favour but didn’t see it as essential.
- Links to other reviews: Again, there was minimal response to this question.
- Information about where to buy the reviewed book: There was minimal response here too, and the two who did respond said “no”.
Some other ideas were offered about content. Justine said she particularly wants to know whether a trusted blogger recommends the book being reviewed. Delia and Tracey like to know why the blogger chose that book to read. And John talked of developing a critical culture part of which involves, he said, relating the reviewed book to other books and identifying its place in the wider culture.
SO, thanks everyone for responding to my post with such enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. You’ve given me much to think about …
Note: I haven’t named every commenter in my response here, but please know that every comment was read and did contribute to this follow-up post.