I’d like to welcome fellow book blogger and good friend Annette Hart Kristynik to Layered Pages today to chat with me about her blog and her experiences being a book blogger. She is one of the hardest book reviewers out there I know and she does amazing work.
Annette, what is your blog’s name and address?
When did you start a book blog and why?
I was a member of Shelfari back in 2006 and heard people talking about blogs. After researching a bit on blogging, I decided to give it a try. In January of 2007, I created my first blog at WordPress. In the spring of 2007, I relocated to Blogger. At the time, Blogger was more user friendly.
I’ve had as many as three blogs at one time.
My first blog A Garden of Books is open but not active. This blog has book reviews of adult, children, and young adult books.
A Well-Watered Garden is a book review blog devoted to Christian nonfiction and fiction. I review more nonfiction.
Impressions In Ink is a book review blog devoted to all other types of books.
I began a book review blog as a way of expressing how I felt about the books I’d read and to catalog them. At the time, I had no idea authors and publishers contacted book bloggers to write reviews. But as my readership and audience grew, so did people contacting me to review their work.
What kind of posts do you feature?
Most blog posts at both blogs are book reviews. On occasion, I post YouTube videos of new books, interviews of authors, and book blasts. At A Well-Watered Garden, I also post Bible reading updates.
How often do you blog?
My goal is to post at least twice weekly on both blogs, but this year I’ve cut back in reading and reviewing.
What is some of the positive feedback you have received?
Over the years, I’ve often heard positive feedback from authors. A few of the comments were more than a brief thank you, they were lengthy letters of kindness and gratitude.
I have a large audience of readers from the Ukraine that visit my blog at A Well-Watered Garden. At first, I thought it was a fluke or spam, but it is actual readers from the Ukraine. My reading audience grew after becoming a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid.
On average, how many books do you review a year?
I’ve averaged between 160 and 180 books a year. My goal this year is 100.
What is your favorite genre?
This question is a difficult question as I love several types of books.
I love nonfiction. I especially love: World War II, World War I, Holocaust, biographies, British history, American history, Russian history, German history, French history, ecclesiastical history, and the American West.
I also love historical fiction. I love to learn about history and the lives of people who lived long before me, especially in storyform.
Other types of books I love are: Southern literature, mystery, classic literature, poetry, theology, detective, and spy novels.
What is your least favorite genre?
I do not enjoy reading science fiction. However, I have enjoyed reading dystopian stories, for example, The Handmaid’s Tale.
How do you feel about negative reviews?
A reviewer will at some point (no matter how good they are at choosing a book) come across a book that is going to be a negative review.
How to write the negative review is the hard part. My rules in writing a negative review are: don’t try to be clever, explain why I did not like the book, and be tactful.
On occasion, I have reviewed non-fiction books that have wrong information. I believe this is the most tedious to bring up in a review, but if I have found an error, I must write this in the review. When writing about the error, I hyperlink the source of where I found the correct information. And it’s good to double check sources.
When considering a book to review what do you look for?
I look for two things: a book that is of interest, or a book where I will gain knowledge of its subject.
List three book covers you love.
How do you feel about authors using social media to speak out badly of reviewers who did not give the author’s book a glowing review?
I ignore them. I think they have too much time on their hands and should get over themselves. Go write another book. Be gracious for goodness sake.
Have you had any negative experience with blogging?
Of course! Gosh yes. I’ve had odd comments on blog posts that want to have an argument. They are trolls. This is their hobby of sorts, to hide anonymously in Cyberville and pounce on unsuspecting people. I don’t engage in conversation with them and the comment is deleted.
Do you read more than one book at a time?
Yes. Something about my brain gets bored if I read only one book. I prefer several at one time.
Do you read self-published books? If so which ones have you read this year so far?
I do read self-published books. This year I’ve read: Ingrid by Lynnette Kraft, and The Lusitania Conspiracy by Ronald J. Walters, and Behind the Forgotten Front: A WWII Novel by Barbara Hawkins.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a blog?
I’ve thought of several points of advice.
- Firstly, blogging and book reviewing is not a “fly-by-night” hobby. It requires work. It requires perseverance. It is a daily education. It requires humility, because in loosing humility you stop learning.
- Be prepared to spend time researching what you’ve read. If the book you are reviewing is nonfiction or historical fiction, it is necessary to read at least a bit more online about the subject. You cannot write a favorable review if the book has incorrect information. Further, I have even contacted authors in the past to ask follow-up questions about their book.
- Work on the blogs eye-appealing look.
- Study other blogs, not to compare and feel sorry for one self, but to learn.
- Speaking of comparing don’t go there. We all can’t be the same that would be boring. Each of us have our own unique talents and gifts. Work with what you have, learn, build, don’t try to be someone you’re not.
- Don’t expect people to understand exactly what you do and why. In my case, I blog and write book reviews because I love books and reading. It is a free service provided to authors and publishers. Most people don’t understand why I’m not paid. I have explained over and over again, but they still think I’m crazy. I am crazy. I love books. Book reviewing is a pleasure.
- Lastly, book reviewing and blogging is a craft. It is an artform itself. Art may be an inborn talent, but it still needs to be practiced and nutured.