Last time, I talked about knowing why you want to write book reviews. This time, I’m going to talk about who you’re writing them for.
All sorts of people read books, and they have all sorts of personal tastes. Some review styles will work for some people, but none will work for all people. That said, there are a few general categories of reader you can think about when imagining your target audience:
1. General readers— These are your everyday people who often read best-sellers and critically acclaimed novels, and books in Oprah’s Book Club. They often won’t know genre tropes and conventions, or specific sub-genres. Common genre story-lines might not appeal to them. Or they might find them fascinating and novel. Each reader will be different.
2. Genre readers— Convincing a reader to read a book in their favorite genre is different than convincing a general reader. On the one hand, they probably know most of the tropes, conventions, and names for those tropes and conventions. On the other hand, they’ve been reading in this genre for a long time. You have to convince them that this book is worth their time: unique, fresh twist; good writing.
3. Non-genre readers— One of the hardest audiences to write for might be those who don’t see the value in whatever type of book you’re reviewing. They would never read such trash. It’s all written by hacks, and full of cliches, or its only purposes is for pathetic people to escape their boring, everyday lives. Or, they may just not enjoy the kinds of stories they think your chosen genre(s) is full of. Even if they have no conscious prejudice, you still have to find an angle of attack that highlights what they value in a story. And that’s going to be different for every pair of “opposing” genres you encounter.
4. Librarians, especially if you write CB/MG/YA/NA— Libraries, public and school, order a huge number of books. They use online reviews to decide which books will bring the most benefit with their limited budget. There are many professional pipelines for reviews and books being targeted at librarians. But they do read many independent reviewers, as well. Especially for school librarians, it can be difficult to figure out what they’re looking for in a book. Of course they will buy books they themselves enjoy, but they are also looking for books they can recommend to their patrons. The best of them will know what groups that they serve are under-represented in terms of the books available to them in the library. They’ll be looking at reading level, profanity, sexual or violent scenes, etc.
5. Writers— As the online community of writers grows, they are becoming something of a target audience in their own right. In some ways they are like genre writers in that they’ll have a more than passing knowledge of genre conventions. But many of them also spend a lot of time learning markets, reading for research on top of for fun, and they often have limited time for reading. So it can be much harder to really sell a book to a writer than to a normal reader.
6. Young readers— Younger readers are increasingly online, and looking at book reviews to find what they want to read. Especially fans of “children’s book” categories such as Young Adult and Middle Grade. Depending on what categories and genres you review, you’re going to have different audiences, especially in terms of gender. And it’s important to know what’s trending in terms of story-line and genre, because trends are big in categories like YA, and a lot of people will go online to find something similar to whatever it is they just enjoyed.
Knowing your audience is going to let you know what formats might be appropriate for your review, what to emphasize, what to focus critique on.
Next time, I’m going to look at why readers are going to trust your reviews. Basically, what is your platform as a reviewer. It’s important for a book reviewer to have a platform, although, considering anyone can review something on Amazon, it might not be important in the way you’d think.