Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Salon: Blog Post Length

Sunday Salon
On one of my Google Reader suggested blogs to follow, a blogger said that, after reading a post on book review length, she really feels that she should make an effort to keep her reviews short and to the point.

This is her perogative, of course, but it got me thinking.  Why, if you prefer and naturally write longer reviews, would you then force yourself to write short ones because some other people prefer them that way?  Who exactly is this book blog for?  You, the blogger, or other people, the readers?

I think that's a question a lot of bloggers face as their blogs get more exposure.  It's not just about readers who prefer certain lengths of reviews, but also about publishers or publicists or authors who want you to read their books, and write about them and post reviews.

I started my blog for the primary purpose of tracking my reading.  I wanted to remember what I read, but not just as a way to keep count.  I also really wanted to know, later on, my reactions to a book- why I liked or disliked it, and how my tastes evolved over time.  I personally can't do that with a short review.  I am the sort of person who reads books, takes note of pages with quotes she really likes, and then copies those quotes into her LibraryThing account.  I enjoy reading short reviews, yes- they're quick and easy to get through.  But at the same time, I really enjoy the long ones.  I feel like through those, you can get more of a sense of the blogger, of her tastes and preferences, and have a discussion from there.  I admit that sometimes I scan parts of the review, but I generally read enough to get a jist.  I am not offended if people therefore skip my SUPER-long reviews (like my post on the Granta Chicago issue), or skim them.  Do whatever works for you.

I didn't realize, when I started blogging, just how big the community is.  Maybe if I had known when I started how much I'd be interacting with others, I'd make my reviews shorter.  But I started the blog for the reason I describe above and I don't think I'm likely to change my method any time soon.  So I apologize for those of you who like the short reviews, but mine are going to stay longish!

I am happy that my blog appeals to those who come and read it (truly, truly happy and grateful to you all), but even if it didn't, I think I'd continue in the same vein I write it now.  I enjoy it that way and I don't want to change it just because other people may prefer me to write in a different way.  I wouldn't change my personality because someone didn't like it, so why would I change my blog, which is in a way an extension of my personality?

Which brings me to my question- why did you start blogging?  Has your reason to blog changed over time?  Do you ever feel pressured to change your writing style or presentation?

Also, random question- when you post for the first time on a blog, do you introduce yourself?  Or say how you found it?  I usually never do (often because I troll a blog so long before actually commenting that I forget the author doesn't know me).  And I just want to make sure that doesn't make me seem uber-creepy.

And lastly, I wanted all of you in blogosphere to know:  My name is pronounced AAH-rah-thee.  (Thee, like the first syllable of theory, not the Old English word).  Usually not pronounced with three syllables, but that's technically how it is supposed to be said.  And with a rolling R, if you want to be very traditional.  And yes, yes- that is an H.  It's there in the pronunciation but not in the spelling.  Tricky, I know!


  1. Never would have guessed on the pronunciation!!!

    I think your blog should be for you yourself; in my opinion, there are so many readers out there with diverse tastes, that you will find your "audience" whether you write short or long reviews.

  2. I think it's more important that you write the way YOU like - if you try to conform to someone's expectation, it will become more like a chore, and who wants blogging to be a chore? Personally, I like your reviews, and don't want you to change them.

    Thanks for the lesson on pronouncing your name - I'll start doing it right now. =)

  3. I started my blog for the same reasons you did and so I do continue to write mostly for myself. Some of my reviews are short; some are longer but what it really comes down to is how much of an impression the book made on me. Sometimes its not much and so the review is pretty short!

  4. My blog posts are usually long. That's the way they've always been, and I have never liked the advice to keep them short. I try not to go overboard on length, but actually the posts that are shorter tend to be the ones that less people comment on.

    I would never have guessed at how you pronounce your name. I probably couldn't say it correctly without hearing it quite a few times either, sorry! :)

  5. Wow. Hello secret blogging twin, it's a little scary how much of what you say here applies so exactly to the way I think and feel about blogging. I started so I could keep track of what I read, and because I wasn't really reading for fun anymore. I wanted to change that, reading having been such an integral part of my life until I started university. So I challenged myself to read a book a week. Then I discovered that I think a lot more critically about the things I read when I wrote reviews of them. As part of my job at the library, I have to be able to recommend the right books to the right people, and "I LOVED IT OMG" doesn't tend to cut it. When doing reader's advisory, one has to take into account the different facets of a book and match those to the reader's taste. But reading critically doesn't come naturally to me, so I have to consciously exercise that part of my reading brain.

    Something I have noticed is that my reviews tend to be longer when I don't like a book, or didn't like it as well as I expected, because I really want to get to the heart of why.

    Also, as evinced by this comment, I am not at all concise. I try, I really do. :P

    Lastly: like you, I tend to lurk on blogs before commenting on them, and so rarely introduce myself when I comment the first time because I often can't remember whether I have commented before!

  6. The way I see it is you start your blog for you. If people like how you write they will keep coming back, they won't ask you to change. There are some who will like short ones and some who like long ones.

    Mine are a bit of a mix, depending on what I have to say about the book.

  7. Anonymous12/06/2009

    I just jump in on the comments, too. Usually because I can never remember if I've commented before!

  8. Like you I started blogging for me. I wanted to keep track of what I read and what I thought about the books I read. Then I discovered the book blogging world and the purpose has grown, but it is still for me.

    I thought it funny to read your entry because I feel bad because my reviews are often short. I can be wordy when I talk but it doesn't seem to transfer to paper. I read all these other long thoughtful reviews and I feel stupid for writing really short ones. Maybe I shouldn't?

    As to your other question, like you I lurk for ages and forget that although I "know" the person they don't know me so I don't introduce myself either :)

  9. What a wonderful post! I thought about starting a blog for a long time before I actually did. I wanted to share the books I read and loved with a wider community and, because I'm not in a "live" book group, take part in discussions about books and reading.

    I stumbled around with my posts for a while, feeling pressure to write longer, more detailed reviews or to review every book I read. Finally I settled in on my own style, comfortable with the fact that readers would comment or not if they liked what I wrote.

    I leave comments when I am excited or intrigued by a post, without introducing myself. I don't think that's creepy but maybe others do?

  10. I am one of those people who enjoy short reviews but part of the reason for this is that the long reviews I see are long on summary and short on commentary. I love reading peoples thoughts and reactions to what they are reading but often bloggers get so muddled down by plot points they dont get enough for them in there.

    I started blogging on live journal because one day a friend said, try this, it's cooil. I didnt even know I was starting a blog. It sat there for a while then became a place to share goals and the rant about my personal life. I started reading a few literary blogs and got inspired by them. It wasn't until I started learning about reading challenges that I really shifted into a book blog. I moved off lj ro blogger. I am always thinking about what potential readers might want from my blog. I am always changing it up and trying new thIngs or ignoring it all together. But in the end if you don't enjoy doing it you tend to stop. So keep blogging about what you love!

  11. Rhapsody, Elizabeth, Amanda - Yes, I figured most people wouldn't know how to do the correct pronunciation! That's ok, as many people who have heard me say it, still mispronounce it. Don't even let me get into my LAST name!

    Daphne & Zee- I agree with you. Sometimes book reviews are shorter than others and at times I feel bad about that because it feels like maybe the book didn't make as much of an impact on me. But some books are simpler than others and thus only require a shorter review, I think. That doesn't mean they're not as good.

    Kiirstin- I have NEVER before had a secret blogging twin! I'm so glad you are mine :-)

    Softdrink, Zee & Gavin- I don't think it's creepy, either, as I do it all the time. Glad to know we are all in the same boat!

    Chris- I think your review lengths are really good! If we review the same/similar-sounding books, I often think you do a much more eloquent review than I did.

    Gavin- I'm glad you are comfortable with the way you write your blog now. It's hard now, I think, to start a blog without feeling a lot of pressure to market it and do what everyone thinks is a successful method. But if you're reviewing books you want to review, and are comfortable with it- I think you're going to have a successful blog.

    Megan- Thank you for a different perspective! I agree that many of my long reviews are probably muddled. I often go back to old posts and cringe a little and then edit. I also started on LJ and then moved to Blogger- not so much for the challenges but because, er, everyone else was doing it.

    Whew, hope I responded to everyone so far. Thanks for such thoughtful responses!

  12. My blog posts are as long or as short as needed to say everything I want to say! Usually, though, the more time that I allow to elapse between reading a book and reviewing it, the shorter the review is.

    Why did I start blogging? Well, I began with a LiveJournal along with some friends so we could keep up with each other. One of the things I tried to do there was journal books that I read. (I tried to do it in a physical journal, but, frankly, my handwriting sucks and so I decided to use the computer. And, if I did that, I might as well share.) Anyhoo, I found that I wasn't keeping up, and decided that having a dedicated blog would provide me with more incentive to do so. It seems to have worked, though I admit to falling behind. I do have a small stack of books waiting to be reviewed. I do not limit my blog to reviews, however. It's also for "occasional discussion of literary and other book-related events", such as author readings, rants about bookstore closings, book conferences, and the like.

    I don't find that I normally introduce myself on a first comment, but do occasionally say something like, "I read about your blog on X's blog", because I think people do like to know how you found them. I know I do.

  13. I think your reviews should be whatever length you want them to be, it's your darn blog! I feel like people can skip to the 'I liked it' or 'didn't like it' part anyway if they are in a hurry.

    As for my own post length, for some reason I feel the need to justify books I don't like more than those I do. Maybe it's the ol' Catholic guilt and never really wanting to hurt anyone's feelings.

    I don't introduce myself the first time I comment and nobody does on mine either - it must be because the comments connect you back to their blog.

    This was a great post, btw! Lots of food for thought!

  14. I started blogging for me. Like you, I want to be able to go back and look at what I read and what I liked about it and what I disliked about it. And sometimes that means it's going to be a long review, and sometimes that means it's going to be a short review.
    The fact is that I kept up with my blog for 2 months without a single follower. I didn't realize other book blogs existed; I was just doing it because I felt the need to write about what I had read.
    At the same time, I can see the other point of view. You write because you want to share your thoughts with other people; and if the people you want to share with are turned off with long reviews, you might have a dilemma.
    It's really an interesting question. . .to blog for yourself or to blog for others?

  15. As everyone is saying: blogging has to be for the blogger. What if no one out there is reading? Of course, we hope they are! When I post I realize that I feel like TONS of people are reading it even though I don't have that many followers. I forget that everyone I follow doesn't follow me :-)

  16. I'm a big BIG fan of long and detailed reviews, full of explanations and personal thoughts and whatever else the blogger can think of. Give me length! Give me reasons WHY you like or dislike something! As much as the social side of blogging is important to me, it makes me sad when people feel pressured to keep their posts short or to use ratings or whatever, just because some people say they won't read blogs that don't fit that criteria. I blog to connected with others, sure, but I can't truly to that if I don't write things that *I*'m happy and comfortable with.

  17. Also, I forgot to answer your comments question: I normally just comment. But it actually takes a lot for me to comment on a blog for the first time (unless the person commented on mine first). I'm pretty shy, and I've been known to lurk for months before I gather the courage to comment :P

  18. Lilithcat- That is very thoughtful of you. I often wonder where people find my blog. But sometimes I don't remember how I find other people's blogs... Unless I comment immediately upon finding them.

    Amused- Thank you! I think I have the same guilt over negative reviews as you! Actually, I used to be much harsher in my negative reviews. And I *hope* that I have gotten better in them now. I can be catty, but sometimes I need to remind myself that the book is an author's beloved baby.

    Brizmus- I agree! A question I can't answer. I say I blog for myself, but would I even be asking the question at all if I didn't care what other people thought? Probably not.

    hcmurdoch- I personally have to studiously ignore the number of people that might be reading my blog as it would give me serious anxiety to know how many people were out there taking my thoughts into consideration!

    Nymeth- I like YOUR long reviews, so I'm glad you enjoy reading them, too! I am with you on not knowing how one can have a social connection with someone based on as short an entry as possible. But different strokes for different folks, I suppose. Maybe we're of the old guard ;-)

  19. The blogs I read on a regular basis are becasue I enjoy them; pure and simple. If I'm in a hurry and a long post comes up (on google reader) I usually just save it for when I have more time to read.

    I think the longer we blog, the more polished we become in writing -- I do cringe when I read some of my earlier posts! At the beginning I didn't blog about books as much as I do now; and I didn't know there was a "community" out there, either.

    Thanks for the tip on how to pronounce your name! Glad you shared that with us!

  20. Okay, I've been mispronouncing your name too myself (LOL) so thanks.

    I started writing shorter reviews because I had so many to catch up on, on the majority of those who commented said they preferred shorted reviews -- i was surprised.

    I LOVE comments, but mostly write what I feel like, when I feel like as I started the blog to track my reading traits.

  21. Many of these same questions have come up for me! (

    Looking at other book blogs has made me think more deeply about why I write the way I do, since there are so many different styles out there. I think there's a lot of satisfaction in writing for oneself (and if other people like it, so much the better!)

  22. I totally agree with you. I started mine as just a place for me to put thoughts down and blab. Then it turned into me talking more and more about the books I was reading. I never really thought anyone would read them :)

    I agree. Do what you want, it's your blog. People started reading your blog for a reason so don't change!

  23. i like both types of review lengths. my tendency is to read short ones for an overall gist and then read long ones after I've read the book to compare how I felt about the book.

  24. I started my blog for many of the same reasons you did. I have been reading for a long time, but didn't have a way to really document my thoughts ir the quality of what I was reading, so the blog seemed like a great way to do that. I love that people read what I write and find it very enriching to know that I am doing something that other people appreciate, but lately I have felt like sometimes people may prefer it if I would write shorter reviews. The problem with that is that I often have a lot of thoughts about the books I read and my posts are akin to a conversation (albeit one-sided) about a particular book, not just a few sentences about general thoughts. I agree with you and I feel the same about changing my style. This is me and what I am most comfortable doing and if I couldn't do it the way that makes me happy, than there really is little point to doing it at all. I am a person who really relishes all the things about reading, and I really want my reviews to express the fact that I did spend a long time with the book and that these are the things that struck me about it. I also think that longer reviews do reflect the personality of the author much more abundantly than shorter reviews do and I'm happy with that too. So don't change your style. I, for one, appreciate what you do, and I am always interested in hearing all your thoughts about what you read. Great topic as well, by the way!

  25. The blogging world is massive and so there are readers out there for everyone. Some like short reviews, some like long so I think it is important to write the type of blog that you enjoy reading.

    I like reading short reviews if I haven't read the book and longer ones if I have, so that would be impossible for one person to achieve (unless they write two reviews for each book!)

  26. Great post. I started blogging completely independently of the bookish community. It was to blow off steam, keep me occupied, keep me writing everyday, and eventually it morphed into book blogging. I kept up with the e-zine Estella's Revenge for a long time that brought in extra exposure (surprising, indeed), but I gave that up a while back due to massive life changes. As far as my personal book blog: everything has stayed pretty much the same. I still blog mostly for myself, and I'm delighted that others find it worth reading. :D

  27. This is interesting -- I agree with many above, that, when it comes to blogs, whatever the individual writer thinks is the best. Write for yourself, and people will follow or not as the mood takes them…

    I am the sort of person who reads books, takes note of pages with quotes she really likes

    Quite right too – I’m glad it’s not just me!!!

    (After I’d first seen it, I wrote, not necessarily very edifyingly, let’s be honest the better part of a thousand words on the film version of Watchmen, which were summed up, by one of my splendid commentators, in exactly four.)

    The key point, as many have said, though, is write as much or as little as you want in each case. People will either come back and keep reading or not, and either is fair enough....

    (Personally, though I have a followers thingy-widget on my blog, (since anyone who casts their thoughts to the intertubes must have at least a certain amount of ego) I’ve never tried to find out exactly how many “hits” I’ve ever had. [If I ever knew, and if it were ever more than single figures, I’d be terrified! :-)]

    This (sort of) ties in to whether or not to introduce yourself when first commenting on a blog. I try to remember to, but probably forget half the time, for (time) reasons of reading much more than I comment on, as you suggest...

    When it comes to your own blog, for what it’s worth, personally I think you’ve got it spot on…Carry on as you are, please!


  28. Just stopping by to agree with you and other commenters - give me length, size matters when it comes to book reviewing ;) I want detailed reviews that show off eactly what the reviewer does and doesn't like. There's a time and a place for brevity in reviewing (namely emilyreads haiku reviews) but often I find I scan shorter reviews, rather than longer ones.

    I started for the same reason you did, after reading book blogs for several years and some of my favs form that time write massive reviews, that not only talk about that one book, but also look at the reviewer's expereinces with other examples of the book's genre etc. What better way to get to know someone than by finding out all about their book taste in their reviews?

  29. Anonymous12/12/2009

    It's a beautiful name. I've been learning all the Indian names of the children in my classroom for the past decade, and it's taken me awhile to learn how to pronounce Aishwarya, Saif, Kriti, Aditya, Akhil. I'm getting better, but I liked hearing the proper way to say yours! (Now I have the challenge of remembering to pronounce "v" as an American; I've caught myself saying "wegetables" and "wacation". ;)

    Oh, and I did read all of your post, which had interesting thoughts, but I can't say much about them except I like to write fairly short posts, myself.

  30. I write short reviews and often have felt like they should be longer. But I just don't have a lot to say about some books. But I think that's very me as well....I've always been under word count when I was in school and on the short side when writing essays. I understand my reviews aren't really critical reviews but I hope that some people like them.

    also, I veer away from long reviews not because they are long, but b/c I fear there will be too many spoilers for the book.

  31. I'll read any well-written review, although if I'm busy I'll skim some parts of long ones, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them. For my own review writing, it really depends on my mood, how tired/awake I am, what other distractions (like my baby) are around, and finally just how much I really have to say about the book.


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