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How to Show Book Reviews in WordPress

Do you want to add book reviews to your WordPress site, or start a new book review site? If so, I’ve got a plugin for you today that will make your job much easier. It’s called Recencio Book Reviews.

The plugin will help you organize and format reviews. It adds a custom post type so your reviews can be standalone posts. But you can also include reviews in regular posts and pages using shortcodes.

It creates a number of predefined taxonomies (a fancy name for tags and categories). So taxonomies for a book author, genre, series, and publisher are there for you. But, you can also create your own. That’s a great feature because taxonomies can be used to group reviews in any way you’d like.

One of its strongest stealth features is that it creates validated JSON metadata “Book” and “Review” schema markup. That sounds complicated, but it just means your reviews will use a form of structured data that Google likes.

And that’s good for SEO.

Recencio Book Reviews comes with five custom widgets to create things like top ten lists and tag clouds. It will automatically fetch book details when you provide an ISBN number. You can convert existing posts to reviews (or vice versa). It will also generate book purchase links using an affiliate code.

Once you dig into it, you’ll wonder what it can’t do. If you’ve been searching for an awesome WordPress book review plugin, you’ve found it.

Are you convinced yet? Okay, let’s get started.

Installing the Recencio Book Reviews Plugin

Log in to your WordPress admin panel.

In the left column navigation, mouse over the “Plugins” link and click the “Add New” link.

mouse over the "Plugins" link and click the "Add New" link

In the “Search plugins…” box, enter “Recencio Book Reviews.”

search for the WordPress Recencio Book Reviews plugin

Once you have located the plugin, click the “Install Now” button.

click to install the WordPress Recencio Book Reviews plugin

Click the “Activate” button.

click to activate the WordPress Recencio Book Reviews plugin

Configuring Recencio Book Reviews

In the left column navigation, mouse over the “Reviews” link and click the “Settings” link.

click the "Settings" link

The plugin will start working as soon as it’s installed. So you can add your first review without doing any configuration.

As you can see, there are a lot of configuration options available. We can’t cover them all in this article, but I do want to go over a few to get started.

General

Let’s begin with the “General” tab. If you use the WordPress Gutenberg editor, you’ll want to check the “Gutenberg support” box. If you don’t do that, when you add a review, the plugin will use the “classic” WordPress editor.

check the "Gutenberg support" box

Be sure to click the “Save Changes” button any time you make configuration changes.

click the "Save Changes" button

Taxonomies

If you already have tags and categories set up in WordPress, you may want to make a change here.

By default, your existing tags and categories will show up when adding reviews. If you don’t want to see them when working on book reviews, go to the “Builtin Taxonomies” section and uncheck the “Enable the builtin ‘category’ and ‘tags’ taxonomies” box.

uncheck builtin categories and tags

Then, click the “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page.

Templates

Now click the “Templates” tab. This is where you choose the layout of the review pages. You may not want to make a change here since we haven’t added a review yet. But this is where you’ll go if you want to change the look of your review pages.

the "Templates" tab

Advanced

Moving to the “Advanced” tab, this is where you enter APIs. An API is basically a key that gives you permission to pull data from another website.

You don’t have to add an API, but you should! The plugin’s ability to automatically fetch book data will save you a lot of time when adding a review.

Getting API keys from Google can be complicated if you’ve never done it before, so we’ll connect to Goodreads to show how the process works.

You’ll need to set up a Goodreads account (if you don’t have one) to get an API key.

Log in to Goodreads, and use the form to get the API key.

There are only two required fields in the API form, “Application name” and “Company name.” Complete those fields, check the terms of service box and click the “Apply for a Developer Key” button.

Goodreads API form

After submitting the form, you should be taken to a page that shows the key and secret that we need for the plugin.

Copy the “key” and “secret.”

Goodreads API key and secret

Now back in the plugin configuration section, open up the “Advanced” tab again.

Scroll down to the “Goodreads® Settings” section and paste the key and secret that you copied into the “Goodreads® API Key,” and “Goodreads® API Secret” fields.

Goodreads API key and secret

Then scroll down and click the “Save Changes” button.

Let’s do one more thing to make our book detail “fetching” more complete.

In the left column navigation, mouse over the “Reviews” link and click the “Extensions” link.

click the "Extensions" link

Click the “Enable” button for the “Fetch Book Cover” extension.

click the "Enable" button for the "Fetch Book Cover" extension

Now, when you use Goodreads to fetch data for a book, the cover will also be downloaded.

That’s all we’ll do for now in the way of configuration. Once you start using the plugin, you’ll probably want to dig deeper into the configuration options for further customization.

Adding a Book Review

In the left column navigation, mouse over the “Reviews” link and click the “New Review” link.

click the "New Review" link

Here’s where the ability to fetch book data is going to come in handy. Rather than manually entering the book details, the plugin can do it for us automatically using the book’s ISBN number.

If you don’t know the ISBN number for a book, you can usually find it on Google or Amazon. On Amazon, it is in the “Product details” section. You can use either ISBN-10 or ISBN-13. Copy one of the numbers.

ISBN in Amazon "Product details" section

Now paste the number into the “ISBN Number” field, then click the “Fetch” button.

enter ISBN and click "Fetch" button

A lot of information about the book will be added. Not only the title and cover image (if you enabled the cover image extension) but also a synopsis and a lot of general information.

book details fetched

book details fetched

book details fetched

Now to complete the review, we’re going to do a few things.

Enter the body of the review in the main text area:

enter review

Rate the book in the “5 Star Rating” section:

give a 5 star rating

Add links to the “Purchase Links” section:

purchase links

The reason I showed the purchase links is because that’s a good place to use any affiliate links you might have. The default purchase links are for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Booktopia, and Nook.

You can add other bookselling sites in Settings > Components > Book Purchase Links > Store/Shop.

Please see the “Affiliate Disclosure” section below if you use affiliate links.

When you’re finished, click the “Publish” button.

click the "Publish" button

Displaying the Reviews

Whether you’re building a review site from scratch or adding a “best books” section to your WordPress site, there are display options that you’ll find useful.

When you publish a review, a page is created. So for our demo, we see:

standalone review page

(Remember, that layout can be changed in the “Settings” section.)

But what if we want to add a review to an existing page or post? You can do it with shortcodes.

The plugin doesn’t display a shortcode anywhere that we can cut and paste, so we’ll have to do it manually.

To add the review that we just created to a new or existing page, the first thing we need to do is find the post ID for the review. To do that, open the review in the editor and look at the URL.

post id in url

For our review the URL is:

…/wp-admin/post.php?post=1716&action=edit

The “post=” value in the URL is the post ID. So our post ID is 1716.

The shortcode to display a review in a page or post is “rcno-reviews id=” so our finished shortcode looks like this:

[rcno-reviews id=1716]

Enter that shortcode into a page:

add shortcode to page

And the review appears on the page, right where we added the shortcode.

review on page

Other helpful shortcodes are [rcno-sortable-grid], which creates a sortable grid display of all your reviews:

review grid

And [rcno-reviews-index], which creates a text list of your reviews.

What Happens if You Uninstall the Recencio Book Reviews Plugin?

If you uninstall the plugin, pages and posts that used the plugin will be affected. Issues include the following:

  • Pages created by the plugin will be deleted. Which means all of your reviews will disappear!
  • The plugin shortcodes will stop working, so the shortcodes themselves will be displayed anywhere they were used.

Affiliate Disclosure

If you use affiliate links that pay a commission, you are subject to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) affiliate disclosure guidelines. The guidelines state that anyone who receives a commission, payment, free products, or discounts in exchange for endorsing a product in any online medium is required to inform their site visitors that they are being compensated for the links.

The disclosure can be in your own words, a line or two letting visitors know that you receive commissions if they click links on your site. The statement has to be clear and easy to find. The message has to stand out in a way that is noticeable, and the reader shouldn’t have to scroll to the bottom of the page or click a link to see it.

To learn more about the guidelines, see the FTC list of answers to common questions.

The Tip of the Proverbial Iceberg

We’ve only covered the very basic steps in this article. There are many facets to Recencio Book Reviews. And I’m happy to say that none of them are hidden away in a paid version of the plugin.

Nothing against paid plugins, mind you. Plugin developers have to eat, so support them! But free plugins like this one are often so severely crippled they’re almost useless. That’s not the case here. Documentation is nonexistent, but the developer does answer questions on the plugin support page.

If you want to start a book review blog, this plugin should be number one on your list.

Do you use any kind of review plugins, either for books, music, movies, games, or something else? Do you use any plugins that make use of APIs for other sites? Let me know in the comments!

Author: Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips is a web hosting industry veteran, helping people make the most of their web presence since 1995.

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