Wednesday 23 March 2022


Guide to Book Blogging: Writing a Review Policy

A photo of a tablet, proped up on a light grey, fluffy duvet, at an angle so the screen faces the botyom left of the photo. It's open to Once Upon a Bookcase's review policy. In front of the tablet, to the left of the photo, is a pale green, hardback notebook, and a pink pen.

Guide to Book Blogging: Writing a Review Policy

Following on from my last posts for Guide to Book Blogging series - Getting Started Part 1 Setting Up Your Blog and Part 2 Creating Content and Engagement - this is the next installment in the series; Writing a Review Policy.

So you've been blogging for a while now, have a variety of reviews and various discussion posts and other content, are receiving steady traffic and have decent stats across your blog and social media, you're almost ready to try testing the waters to see if publishers will consider sending you ARCs. But before you do that, you need a review policy.

What is a Review Policy?

A review policy is a set of guidelines that tells publishers and authors more about your blog and your reading, and what you're willing to consider for review, and what they can expect from your reviews. It saves them a little bit of time from emailing to offer something that you absolutely wouldn't read, and you responding to say no. It just helps publishers decide if your blog is the right fit for a book.

Review policies differ from blogger to blogger; for example, some are more niche blogs, sticking to one genre, others are more broad and love to read many genres, and their individual review policies will reflect that. As such, some have short review policies, while others' are long, with a lot of detail. Mine is one of the latter; it used to be much shorter, but I've found over the years that it's more helpful for the publishers to have a lot of info up front.

Before going any further, I want to point out that you do not have to accept every book you're offered. If a book is not your cup of tea, you can politely decline. You also don't have to review every book you received. Some bloggers choose not to post negative reviews, and sometimes you can't get through a whole book. That's fine. As long as you state in your review policy that you may not review every book you receive, and what you do when that is the case, it's all good.

Writing Your Review Policy

Get a notebook and pen, or open a new page on your blog and answer the following questions. This will give you the basis from which you can write your own policy.

Types of Books:
  • Are you open to being contacted regarding ARCs to review? Sometimes things happen, and you're not in a position to accept ARCs. A review policy can be updated and changed, so you should say at the very top whenever you are not currently accepting ARCs.
  • If you are, who are you happy to be contacted by? Publishers/publicists? What about authors? And small/indie presses?
  • Do you read self-published books?
  • What formats of book do you read? Physical, audio, eBook? Do you have a preference over format?
  • If yes for eBooks, what eReader do you have/what file format do you need? Do you have a NetGalley account*?
  • Do you read hardbacks as well as paperbacks, or only paperbacks?

Your Reading Interests/Preferences:
  • What age categories and genres are you willing to review?
  • Do you read non-fiction as well as fiction? If so, what interests you?
  • What other interests/preferences might also be helpful here? Think specific sub-genres, particular representation, etc. For example, I talk about how I'm particularly interested in LGBTQ+ YA, specifically sapphic books, as well as magic realism and non-western inspired high fantasy, along with example titles, and that I love fairy tale retellings.
  • Who are your favourite authors?
  • What will you not consider for review? Genres you don't like, etc.
  • Bar what you've mentioned in your previous answer, are you open to being offered ARCs of books within genres outside what you've listed you enjoy? Or only what you specifically mention?

What Do You Need?
  • What information do you require from the publicist/author to help you make a decision as to whether or not you will accept their title? Summary, release date, time-frame for reviews?

Your Process:
  • How much time do you need to read and review a book once you've received it?
  • Will you review every book you receive? What's your process for books you don't finish reading?
  • Will you review the book by release date/do you read to deadlines? (If you're a mood reader, which will effect this, make it clear.)
  • Do you write negative reviews? How about nor finishing a book? What do you then do? Email the publicist to let them know?
  • What do you include in your reviews? What information for the reader? Do you have a rating system? Link^ to where it's explained. Do you include spoilers, and if so, how do you prevent readers from stumbling upon them accidentally?
  • Do you have a reviewing schedule? Do you post a certain number of reviews each week? On specific days?
  • Where else will you review the book? Think book review sites, retail sites, and social media.
  • How will you inform the publicist/author that you have reviewed the book? Just by email? Will you tag the publisher/specific publicist/author in reviews on social media? (Just a note on tagging authors: do not do so if your review is negative, it's rude, and can be really hurtful. If it's a book from a publisher, just tag them. If the book came from an author - which happens occassionally, but not often - send them an email as you would normally.

Other Content You're Open To:
  • Are you interested in other content from publishers/authors? Interviews, guest posts, cover reveals, giveaways, etc.?
  • Will you consider taking part in blog tours?

From all of your answers, you can now start putting together your review policy, rewording your answers to create something cohesive. You don't have to include everything I've mentioned here, just what you think makes sense for you and your blog, and you can re-arrange the order, too. Be sure to include the country you live in - as some publishers only send books to those in their own country - and a way for publishers to get in contact with you, whether that's a form, your email address as a link, or a link to your contact page.

Take a look at my own review policy as an example, and here are a few others to look at: The Book Satchel's Review Policy, Perpetual Page Turner's Review Policy, Sarah Withers Blogs' Review Policy, and Jen Med's Book Reviews' Review Policy.

Is there anything here that isn't quite clear enough? Any other questions you might have? Let me know in the comments!

Next week's post will be on actually contacting publishers/publicists; how to find who to contact, what to include in your emails, ettiquette, and so on, so be sure to stop by next Wednesday!

*NetGalley is a website that booksellers, journalists, and reviewers can request eProofs. I'll be talking more about this in my next post.

^If you do use a rating system, I suggest explaining this on it's own page or on the sidebar, as it's something your blog readers should know as well as publishers, and blog readers may not visit your review policy.

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