Do You Read Reviews Before Writing Your Own?

February 26, 2020 Uncategorized 16

If I’m planning on reviewing a book soon, I’ll typically wait to read reviews from bloggers. This is because I want to make sure my reviews reflect my own thoughts only. I’ve also recently started reading reviews from news outlets and listening to author interviews. They feel like a different type of content than blogger reviews though and I’m debating whether to treat them the same. Here are my thoughts on reading reviews and interviews before writing a review myself. Then I’d love to hear whether you consume any book related content in the week or two before you write a review.

Reading Reviews Before or After Writing Your Own

Right now, I’m planning on continuing to avoid blogger reviews right before I write a review of my own. I think I may treat reviews from news outlets differently though. Here are what I see as important distinctions between the two types of reviews:

Reviews from bloggers

  • typically include thoughts on the experience of reading a book
  • they’re unique and the opinions of bloggers can definitely sway me
  • I can better comment on reviews after I’ve gotten my thoughts organized in my own review.

News outlet reviews

  • I can’t interact with these reviewers, so I don’t need to comment thoughtfully
  • typically include book description and shallow analysis only
  • don’t feel like they have a unique perspective, sharing an emotional reaction to the book
  • because of the two previous points, they don’t influence my opinions as much

For these reasons, I don’t think I’ll avoid book reviews from news outlets when I have a review coming up. I didn’t get a lot out of the ones I’ve read so far, but I think I should give them more of a chance. If you have any news outlets you’d recommend for analytical book reviews, I’d love to hear about them!

The Value of Author Interviews

Author interviews, on the other hand, have been a great source for learning more about a book. Here are a few things I’ve really enjoyed about them::

  • By listening to several podcast interviews, I got more familiar with the author’s arguments.
  • Even repetitive content across interviews was enjoyable, because I liked spending more time with the book and I’m more likely to remember things I hear twice
  • Hearing an author rephrase arguments from their book sometimes makes their points more clear to me.
  • Learning about the author’s motivations and how they wrote the book can be fascinating. I’d love to bring this information into my review.

I’ll probably be listening to author interviews before publishing review posts more often in the future. I think I could learn additional information to share in my review, without having my own opinions swayed by someone else’s take on the book.

What about you? Do you avoid book-related content when you have a review coming up? Are there any sources you read to help you write a better review?

16 Responses to “Do You Read Reviews Before Writing Your Own?”

  1. louloureads

    I often pick up books because of reviews, so whenever that is the case, I tend to go back and reread the original review – before I post my own, but after I’ve made my notes and got my opinion of the book fixed inside my head. Especially if it’s a blogger I know quite well, I like to respond to points they’ve made in their reviews – it helps to me feel like part of a discussion about the book. I think it helps that I read mostly backlist, so I am never in the position of reading a book that has been all over the bookternet and feeling like I have to come up with my own opinion of it.

    That said, other than rereading the original review, I don’t tend to seek out other reviews until after I’ve posted my review – I still want the analysis to be my own. I’m particularly careful about podcasts – I listen to a few podcasts that include book analysis (Sword and Laser, Tea or Books?, The Incomparable), and those often have a full hour or more of detailed book discussion. I definitely listen to them, but generally only after I’ve finished my review.

    • DoingDewey

      Your review process sounds wonderful! I love your idea of getting your thoughts down, but then visiting other reviews before posting your own. I also really love the way you turn blogging into more of a conversation by responding to reviews that inspired you to pick up a book. I will probably be copying both of these ideas in the future 🙂 I just need to do a better job of tracking which reviews get my to read a book!

      I think I might be willing to check out even more detailed analysis before posting my review, as long as I’ve written it first. I recently read Uncanny Valley and would have liked to have shared some of what I learned from author interviews in my main review. I’m not sure it was enough to be its own post, but that’s what I ended up doing, since I’d already posted my review.

  2. Briana @ Pages Unbound

    I will read reviews, mostly on Goodreads, before writing my own but only AFTER I have all my thoughts about the book outlined already, whether formally or just in my mind. If I haven’t really clarified what I think about the book before reading what other people think, I agree that reviews can be overly influential. I also don’t read anything directly before I write the review so I don’t inadvertently steal phrasing.
    Briana @ Pages Unbound recently posted…How Effective Is the Library Boycott of Macmillan E-Books?My Profile

    • DoingDewey

      You’re the second blogger who’s mentioned getting their thoughts together and then reading reviews. That sounds like a great strategy and I’ll probably be copying it 🙂 I think that will let me share information from other reviews intentionally and while giving credit, while making sure I won’t accidentally plagiarize someone else’s ideas.

  3. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Sometimes I do. When I’m curious to see what a bunch of people have thought about a book I usually head to Goodreads. Sometimes that helps me consolidate my own thoughts. But of course I try to maintain my own perspective, not being unduly influenced by others.

    Often my own reading or review of a book has been prompted when my interest was piqued by somebody else’s post in the first place. But usually it was some time ago and often I can’t even remember the source. By the time I get around to my own reading any influence on my opinion will be pretty minimal.

    I agree, author interviews can be so fascinating. What are your favorite sources?
    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…Back to the Classics: Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve only recently started seeking out author interviews, but so far, I like The Atlantic and the podcast What’s Next: TBD the best.

      So far, I’ve mostly checked out goodreads reviews after I post my own, but after hearing about how everyone else approaches this, I’m thinking I might check them out after I write my review and before I post it. I expect reading other people’s reviews would help me pull my own thoughts together too.

  4. Heather

    I usually read reviews, either from bloggers or news outlets or listen to an author interview and then I decide to read the book. If I’ve picked up the book on my own then I may read other reviews to formulate some of my thoughts especially if I’m highly emotional about the book! I want to know I’m not alone in my thoughts, etc.

    • DoingDewey

      That’s really interesting! I definitely will skim some goodreads reviews when debating whether to pick up a book I’ve found at the library, but it’s more common for me to pick up books because I’ve seen them on new release lists or because bloggers I follow have reviewed them. I don’t do much intentionally seeking out reviews or interviews before I decide whether to read a book. It’s even kind of new for me to be reading author interviews after I’ve read the book. I wonder if you pick up more books that you like because of doing more research before you read. Either way, I enjoyed hearing about your process, since it’s so different from mine 🙂

  5. Angela

    Pretty often I will skim reviews on Goodreads before and while I’m reading a book. It’s interesting to see what other people took away from the book, but I usually have a pretty good idea what I’m going to write in my review anyway.

    • DoingDewey

      Oh wow! I can’t imagine reading reviews while reading a book. Even when I have some idea of what I’m going to write, I think I’m too persuadable, haha. I think it’s great that you can do that though. It seems like it could feel like you were doing a buddy read all the time and make reading even more social.

  6. Shay

    It depends! Sometimes someone’s review is what gets me interested in a book (looking at you, Katie). Otherwise, I generally have at least a draft of my own review before I read interviews or other reviews. That way, the backbone of the review is grounded in my own thoughts and opinions, but I can also get a sense of what the broader conversation is around the book, and decide if I want to add anything to address it (assuming I haven’t covered that ground already). I feel like this approach sort of gives me the best of both worlds.
    Shay recently posted…A Pale Light in the BlackMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, thanks Shay! I did forget that sometimes I’ll pick up a book immediately because of someone’s review. I was thinking more about when I came across a review just as I was about to read a book anyway. Your approach does seem like the best of both worlds and based on your comment and several others, I think it’s the approach I’m going to adopt going forward 🙂

  7. Malka @ Paper Procrastinators

    I don’t like reading reviews before writing my own. I find I get influenced and end up using similar reasoning and wording to describe the book, when I do. And I want my review to be full of only *my* opinions. I don’t tend to read news outlet reviews in general, but I don’t mind reading those before reading a book. I usually wait until I’ve finished reading and reviewing a book to read author interviews. Sometimes I’ll cave with interviews, but really in general, I like going into a book with a clean slate.

    I think that if you need another person’s review or an author’s interview to enjoy or understand a book in the first place, then it’s not a well-written book. So I like seeing what I think without any preconceived ideas or opinions. However, once I’ve finished reading I don’t mind reading other reviews and author interviews as I find that they sometimes point out aspects of the book that I didn’t notice. But if I went into the book looking for those aspects, I don’t think I’d appreciate the book as much.
    Malka @ Paper Procrastinators recently posted…February Reading Wrap UpMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I feel the same way about not wanting to be influenced by other reviews! I think the personal perspective of blogger reviews is what really distinguishes them from reviews from news outlets and so I like to make that a big part of my review. I also like to go into a book not knowing very much about it.

      I think I agree with you that you shouldn’t have to have outside information going into a book to enjoy it. I’m still deciding if I might enjoy a book more with an author perspective first. I’m leaning towards reading author interviews afterwards. I think I’d enjoy the author interviews more once I have my own thoughts on a book and I’m not sure I’d enjoy the book more if I swapped the order.

  8. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I’ve looked at other reviews sometimes, though I usually have a framework of a review written by that point. But especially if I have strong opinions about a book, I sometimes like to see if people agree with me! I’ve even occasionally mentioned in a review something like, “Oh, I noticed that several reviewers mentioned XYZ, but I actually thought ABC.” 🙂
    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted…Google Searches Are Weird (AKA: You Found Me HOW?)My Profile

    • DoingDewey

      That’s a good idea! I like the idea of having my review being a little more in conversation with other reviews. I have occasionally done this before, especially when reviewing books about marginalized communities I’m not a part of, but I’d like to do this more in the future 🙂

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