Creating content for your author platform can be really difficult. Blogs/vlogs need to be updated regularly, and coming up with topics to write about isn’t always easy. For a long time I didn’t want to write about the craft of writing because I didn’t think I was adding valuable content by doing so (you can read my article about my change of heart on that front). In lieu of doing that, I opted to write reviews.
I wrote reviews of many things, from TV series to short films, but my primary content for this site was book reviews for a long time. I decided to move away from reviewing, at least as any kind of regular content, for four major reasons:
1.) Bad Reviews Could Hurt You
As in any artistic field (or any field really), you don’t want to get on someone’s bad side. Writing a bad review of someone’s work could do just that. If you’re a reviewer that isn’t a problem because people expect you to be objective and share your thoughts. The only real help authors expect from reviewers is the reviews themselves, good or bad.
But if you’re an author, you might piss off another author who could help you somewhere down the line. If they remember something negative you posted about them or their work, they might be less willing to help you promote your own work or give you advice that could help you with your craft or marketing. Ultimately I don’t think some piece of content for your platform is worth potentially alienating future allies.
Book reviews take time to write. There are many more effective ways that you could be spending your time than writing reviews. For instance, you could be writing articles that more directly promote your platform, or you could even just be working on your fiction writing. It’s better to focus on creating content that can be used to promote your own work or draw in followers who share your interests rather than content that is so starkly different.
3.) Diminished Enjoyment
This ties into the above point of time a bit, but personally I don’t enjoy having to read (even a fun book) under a deadline. You need to have content on your site regularly, at least once a week, and so I was forcing myself to read books quickly in order to be able to write reviews. I’m not a particularly fast reader, and some books in the sci-fi and fantasy genres are very large, so these imposed deadlines often stressed me out and made the whole process of reading much less enjoyable.
4.) Platform Clarity
This may be the most important of all the reasons, and it’s that (I’m assuming) you want to be known as an author rather than as a reviewer. If you spend all of your time writing and promoting your reviews, that’s what you will become known for, and your identity as an author will take a backseat. This will be especially true if you haven’t published anything yet. On top of that, people will want you to review their work, which isn’t the sort of connection you want to be making with people as an author.
I think one really great way to integrate book reviews into your author platform that gets around the above issues is to focus on reviewing only books you like. This avoids offending anyone, won’t diminish your enjoyment of reading, and can also help promote your platform by showing your followers a personal side of yourself. You won’t be known as a book reviewer if you do this from time to time, which is another upside. If I write book reviews in the future, it will be using this approach.
My advice to anyone trying to assemble an author platform would be to either limit the number of book reviews you do so that they’re not regular content, or just avoid writing reviews altogether. And if you do want to write a review, try to only write reviews for things you really enjoy, particularly books you think other authors might benefit from reading. Just as I said negative reviews could hurt you, being positive and showing that you appreciate someone’s work and effort could help you. But I wouldn’t spend too much time focusing on it when you could be working on more meaningful things.
Do you agree with my analysis of book reviews as part of (or not part of) the author platform? Are you an author whose primary content involves writing book reviews? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or feel free to share them with my on social media.
Cristina R. Guarino wrote a great article about trying not to write negative reviews. Kristen Lamb wrote an article about approaching social media as an author in general, and of the three things she says an author should never do book reviewing is one.