Free Content for Your Blog or Newsletter: Write a Book Review

Guest Blogger: Cynthia Morris
When I teach the Blog Triage class with Alyson, many of our artist-students include books among topics they want to write about. [update: this class is no longer available]
Books do many things for us, but writing about books can help us both personally and professionally. Here are four reasons to consider reviewing books for your blog or newsletter.

Cat with books
Alyson's cat, Tofu, looks over a selection of business books to review.

4 Reasons to Write a Book Review

1. Increased Credibility
Recommending a book or any other resource helps position you as an expert, or at least someone with something to say, on the topic.
With so many resources available now, people who recommend or curate the possibilities become more valuable and credible.
2. Increased Engagement
Books go a long way to connect with your audience. When people scan my list of recommended books or Goodreads profile, they get a pretty good idea of who I am and what I care about. It almost immediately brings someone in my target market closer to me, a stranger, simply because she’s interested in or likes the books I recommend.
A lot of my interaction with my readers is about the books and resources I recommend. Think of a book as a social object.  It gives us something to connect over without talking about ourselves.
3. Knowledge Grows
In The Eighth Habit, Stephen Covey tells us that when we recount something recently learned, we solidify the knowledge in ourselves.
Sharing information enhances all involved, including the author.
4. More Visibility
There are a lot of places to post reviews, which allows you to pop up in searches more.
I post my video reviews on my blog, YouTube, Goodreads, Facebook and Amazon. That’s a lot of places to be found!
Okay, so you’re a book lover and you’re convinced that reviews are a good idea for your business. Let’s look at types of books to consider.

Types of Books Artists Might Want to Review and Why

As a former bookseller, I feel an obligation to share my favorite books with people. I love talking about books. As a writer and writer’s coach, doing so fits nicely into my publishing agenda.
But I am careful to share only things that are very relevant to my audience. Such books for my readers include novels and books on being more creative or productive.
My bottom line question to myself is always: Will this book make my readers’ lives better?
Think of your audience. What do they want to know more about? Types of books you may consider sharing:

  • Novels with artists portrayed. If you write about the lifestyle of artists on your blog, this would be a great type of book to review. It’s also interesting to see how reading the story of an artist can impact your art.
  • Novels that include your subject matter as a primary theme. For example, if your art is inspired by Paris, you might take a look at Chasing Sylvia Beach, my new novel about a young bookseller who finds herself on the doorstep of her literary heroine – 70 years in the past.
  • Business books for artists. Do you write about the business of art? This type of reading shows that you are serious about your career and savvy enough to run it as a business. Buyers might like seeing that you know what you’re doing, or better yet, demonstrating that you’re doing it.With instructional books like I’d Rather Be In The Studio, you can engage your audience by creating a challenge from the book that you do alongside your readers. Offer a prize and accountability, a great way to bring people back to your blog and generate a sense of community.
  • How-to art books in your medium. If you like to discuss the process of your art making, how-to books can be helpful to your readers.Chances are good that you’ve devoured every how-to book in your medium, and you’ve perhaps even written your own. This makes you a curator of a specific type of book, and your expert opinion on which is best is very valuable.Post a list of your favorite how-to books. Tell why they’re the best. What’s the absolute must-have how-to in your studio?

In part two of Book Reviews, one week from today, I’ll share strategies for how to write an effective book review.
What books do you already recommend? What might you add to the mix that can strengthen your brand?

Cynthia MorrisAbout Our Guest Blogger

Cynthia Morris has been coaching writers at Original Impulse for as long as she’s been writing her novel. Set in Paris 1937, Chasing Sylvia Beach is now available for your summer reading. Find out more.

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17 thoughts on “Free Content for Your Blog or Newsletter: Write a Book Review”

  1. Seurat: A Biography by John Rewald was the very first book I read after all my university education & renting my first professional art studio space…I had already sold my first work, so this was the book that decided my early path as a pro…It was an old paperback but it explained how Seurat saw each colour as many colours…So purple was really a dot of blue, a dot of red, a dot of yellow, a dot of white, a dot of black…I spent my first couple of years wearing surgical gloves & gently dotting canvases with my fingertips…I was typing in paint…For colour theory, Seurat is key…

  2. I love this story, Sari! Have you written about this on your blog? It sounds like this book had a huge influence on your art. I am very interested in the things that cross our paths and change our lives.
    Thanks for sharing the story here.

  3. About a year ago, through one of the LinkedIn art groups, I found a woman in India who paints with her fingers…I read her press & it turns out she was doing the pointillism thing slightly before me…All these years I had thought I was so original…It appears that streams of thought flow to Canada last…So I haven’t written about it because I decided I wasn’t that original…Now I understand why I have moved so much in my career…Like a shark, if you are an artist, & stop moving, you die…

    1. Well, Sari, this is true: there are always going to be others doing similar work to ours. I think the challenge is to act upon our creative instincts in ways that help us build what we want. In that way we can’t help but be authentic, if not perfectly original. Your work is great, so you don’t really have to worry!

    2. Thanks Cynthia…I have reinvented myself so many times, I’m pretty sure coming up to 20 years in 2013 as a “pro” that I have escaped the crowd by now…
      “The higher the fewer” was repeated in that great Star Trek episode to the young boy Clingon, Alexander, Worf’s son… “it’s lonely at the top” is sung by Randy Newman…
      To be fair, that girl from India & another in Southern California, were the only ones I found who were painting with their hands back then…I’ll take the bronze happily…

    1. Thanks, Molly! I know the feeling. This is one of the things Alyson and I help with in our Blog Triage class. I have found it very helpful to share things I love – like books – to make it relevant and useful. And not always about me!
      Glad this resonated with you!

  4. Attaching your name to any insightful commentary online is always good to build your reputation, especially since there are so many low quality information out there. But I actually find, instead of reviewing to recommend books/etc., people enjoy reading reviews AFTER they read the material themselves to see what other people thought of it. To see if they understood or missed any of its points. So if you want your review to gain traction, don’t summarize much, add a fresh perspective, elaborate on its arguments.

    1. Sapphire,
      I couldn’t agree more. I do not like summarizing reviews. I can get that from the book’s cover or the sales page online.
      I stopped reading movie reviews years ago. I found that the reviewers point of view got in the way of me seeing the film through my own perspective. I like going back afterward and reading the review as a conversation starter instead of a judgement of the film’s worth. Same is true for books.
      Thanks for commenting!

  5. Cynthia, what an amazing idea that has merit! Thank you for facilitating those wheels in my head to turn and the creative juices flowing [I am drowning at the moment..ooops]. But most of all you have appealed to my logic [yes, I feel like Spock most of the time]. I most certainly will follow your advice. I deeply appreciate you sharing this wonderful idea and I am grateful to Alyson for posting this on her page.

  6. Great article Cynthia! Wonderful suggestion for my new blog. I can’t tell you how many artist books I’ve read during the past year to learn about oil pastels and painting in general. Most were well written with helpful hints and tips – all have played a part in where I am today.
    In particular is Alyson’s book, I’d Rather Be In The Studio. As a new artist, this was exactly the resource I was looking for.
    Great idea Cynthia, I will definitely start a book review on my blog. Thanks, Mary

    1. Thanks, Mary! I’m glad this was helpful for you.
      When we share something we’ve just learned with others, it’s a great way to root the learning in our own minds.
      Watch for tomorrow’s guest post where I share specific ways to write good reviews.
      Have fun writing your reviews!

  7. this is a great idea! thanks so much and i appreciate you authentic insights . they are very unique and interesting! ;0)

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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