Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Five Ways to Spiff Up Your Book Reviews

Welcome Bloggiesta-ers! I hope you are having a productive Bloggiesta. I know I have a lot to do. Thanks to Suey and Danielle for hosting this lovely event. And now to the mini-challenge.

As book bloggers, we tend to post a lot of reviews. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways to make my reviews stand out. So here are five simple ways to spiff up your reviews.

1. Add STARS.

If you give out star ratings in your reviews, it’s nice to have a visual representation. Here’s how to get stars into your reviews:

Blogspot/Wordpress – Unfortunately, there is not a perfect solution for non-self-hosted blogs. The simplest way to insert review stars is to use html codes for stars and star outlines in the html screen when you’re writing your post. Here are the codes:

★ = ★
☆ = ☆

So, if you’re using a five-star scale and are awarding four stars, you’d use the following code:

★★★★☆ = ★★★★☆

The disadvantage to this method is the limited typography and the lack of half-stars. Another method is to find an image you like, upload it to your gallery, and insert the appropriate number of the images into your post as needed. Some bloggers get really creative with the images they use, like Care’s slices of pie.

WordPress Self-Hosted – The best method is to use a plugin like the Star Rating for Reviews Plugin. Once the plugin is installed and activated, you can set certain parameters (like how many stars are in your scale and whether you use half-stars or not). Then, in your actual post, all you have to do is add in [rating:4] (or however many stars you are awarding to the book). It then appears like this: [rating:4].

2. Include IMAGES.

Use of cover images in book reviews falls under the fair use provisions of copyright laws, which means you can use them in your reviews without attribution. I find my images through the publisher, if possible. Once you find the cover you want, right click on it, save it to your computer, then upload to your gallery and to your post.

It’s also a safe bet that, in the blogosphere, if someone is hosting an event, meme, or challenge, you can use their button freely, without attribution. However, if someone contacts you and asks you to remove their image from your site, it’s usually best to do so.

For images other than cover images, copyright laws apply. So you can’t go about the internet grabbing images and sticking them in your posts without permission. One good way to find images is through Flickr. Flickr’s Creative Commons search allows you to find and use images for free (for certain uses), as long as you give the creator credit. The owners usually specify how the attribution should read in their profiles. Of course, if there is an image you’re just dying to use, you can always ask for permission to use it. The worst the owner can say is no, right?

For extra bonus points, check out this tutorial on adding captions to pictures, like the one above.

3. Foster COMMUNITY.

There are a number of ways to foster community, but one of the easiest ways is to include links to other reviews of the same book. Luckily, Fyrefly has done most of the work for you. She has created the Book Blog Search Engine. Over 1,800 book blogs are included in the search engine. So, all you have to do is type in the name of the book you’re reviewing and – voila! – other reviews on the same book pop up. You can then simply link to your search results, or you can pull them off and link to them individually on your blog, like I used to do. (One of my Bloggiesta resolutions is to start doing this again.)

4. Give CREDIT.

When you’re reviewing a book for a blog tour or because the author or publisher sent you the book, make sure you give them credit. Include logos and links where you can. Plus, it’s good form to let your readers know you got the book for free.

5. Go BIG.

Or go home. Include those little extras that help your reader find out more about the book. Include links to author websites, publisher pages, even Amazon or Barnes and Noble or your favorite indie bookstore. If the book is about a particular place, include an image (with proper permission and attribution, of course). Mention if the author is coming on tour to a bookstore near you. Suggest similar books. Link to or create discussion questions. The possibilities on this one are endless. But it’s these nice extra touches that will really set your reviews apart.


I’m giving away a copy of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing to one lucky entrant. It’ll ship from The Book Depository, so the giveaway is open to residents of all countries to which they ship. Or, if you win, have a Kindle or Nook, and prefer the ebook, I will happily accommodate.

To enter, simply add one of the above items to one of your reviews. Then come back here and post a link to the review in the comments, pointing out the new element. I’ll announce a winner next week.

Oh, and feel free to email me or comment here with any questions you may have. I’ll do my best to help!

117 Responses to Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Five Ways to Spiff Up Your Book Reviews

  1. Burgandy Ice says:

    Very nice!! Great list. Bloggiesta is fun… I’m workin’ on it. Makin’ progress and it wasn’t easy!!! Lol. Found you off Pinterest!! :-D

    • Jessica says:

      Really? You found me on Pinterest? I’d love to hear how. And I’m glad you’re having fun with Bloggiesta!

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  3. Diana says:
    Here’s a link to a post about the newest book in The Guardians of Childhood series by William Joyce. I’ve included a video of the upcoming movie based on the series as well as an interview video with William Joyce. I’ve also put in link to related websites and my past posts of William Joyce. My posts about books tend to be more information than review, but that’s something I want to work on–the review part, I don’t want to change adding so much fun information. Reviewing is kind of scary! You’ve got to have a lot of confidence in your opinions. Especially to have a rating system.

    • Jessica says:

      You do add a lot of information!

      I agree that reviewing can be scary. But, you’re among friends. We just want to hear what you thought about the book. :)

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  5. Great post! I had no idea about the Fyrefly blog! I was just adding links to other blogger’s reviews for my scheduled posts, but was going through Goodreads and it was a pain in the butt! I’m looking forward to seeing if there’s any changes with me doing that … it makes sense and it’s not a lot of extra work!

    I also always include a picture, no matter what the post! Even discussion posts have pictures, which I get online — and always remember to credit the source! Actually, for any picture I usually say where I’m getting it from, though I really should list somewhere that all my book covers come from Goodreads, as well as the synopsises (synopsi?) … I’m just not sure where to put it!

    I’ve just spend the last two weeks (and the past 3 days!) updating all of my reviews to a new format where I include links to the publisher’s page, links to the authors website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook page (or whichever ones are applicable), and a link to buy on Amazon. Since I’m not really in a big city where authors come, I haven’t had the chance to say when an author will be in town, except for one! I wish I could recommend other books, but I find I’m not quite there yet … but the new format I use is sooooo much different from the old one and I love it so much!

    Another thing I like to do is include an embedded video of the book trailer, if it’s available!

    Here’s one of my recent reviews:

    Thanks for the post!

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  8. Pragya says:

    Thank you for all the info. Didn’t know the html part about the star rating.

    My review-

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  10. Anya says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I want to add outlinks, but the blogs I read don’t generally have posts about the books I’m reviewing (or I can’t remember if they have had them…) and so that google search will help so much!

  11. Emily says:

    Great tips! Thanks :)

  12. Jessica says:

    Sure thing, Emily!

  13. Steph says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. So helpful!

  14. Renny says:

    Thanks! That’s what I needed! I was just wondering how to get the stars appear with reviews. First I put them there as a picture but it looked odd with the shading I have there so will try the WordPress plugin ;) Very helpful! ;)

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