Confessions of a Book Blogger with Heather Campbell

Stay calm and support book bloggers

I’d like to welcome, Heather Campbell today to take part in, Confessions of a Book Blogger.

What is your blog’s name and address?

The Maiden’s Court

When did you start a book blog and why?

 My first post was May 6th 2009 – so I have a 7-year anniversary coming up here shortly!  I was a part of a few different author message boards back then and followed 2 or 3 book blogs.  I was in my final semester of my senior year at college and had a little time on my hands. I always was a reader and quite honestly my boyfriend (now husband) was getting tired of listening to me talk about the Tudors all the time, so I thought a blog would be a fun way to chat with other book nerds about the things I was reading anyway.

What are the kind of posts do you feature?

The bulk of my posts are reviews of historical fiction and biographical non-fiction.  I feature author interviews and guest posts, typically when participating in blog tours or as part of the indieBRAG interview team. Additionally, I love exploring history, cooking, and old movies which I have managed to integrate in my blog as well. I have 4 signature series that I regularly feature:

  • Caught on Tape – which features one historical character and typically 5 or so films that they appear in.  Sometimes these films subsequently see a review on my site.
  • Two Sides to Every Story – which is a combination series of my own posts and author guest posts that look at two different sides of a controversial subject or character.
  • Weekend Cooking – this is a series that is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  I have turned it into a historical cooking theme and will feature historical recipes or cookbooks that I have tried out.
  • Historical Virtual Tours – this is a series that features virtual tours of historic sites – some that I have visited complete with my own photos and commentary, and other times places I wish to visit with input from friends or the sites website, etc.

How often do you blog?

Typically, I aim for at least 3 posts a week. I was on a little bit of a consistency struggle in the latter half of 2015, so I’m working on getting back on track. Some weeks there can be more, but I shoot for 3.

What are some of the positive feedback you have received? 

That’s a difficult question to quantify. I had many readers that have stuck with me through the years and frequently comment or engage in other forms of social media – and to me that is one of the best types of positive feedback; they wouldn’t stick around if they didn’t like it!  I have also received kind words and thanks from authors that I have featured over the years – even a Christmas card or two. Oh and one fun experience thanks to a virtual tour I did for a historical site – they reached out to me and said if we came back they would give us some behind the scenes tour stuff that not everyone sees.

On average, how many books do you review a year? 

I typically review around 40 books a year.  I read anywhere between 50 and 70 a year, so that is a significant portion. Those that don’t get reviewed on the site are typically those I have read that are outside my blog genre specifications.

What is your favorite genre?

Historical fiction hands down – specifically straight historical fiction and historical romance.

What is your less favorite? 

Within the historical fiction genre, I’m not a big fan of historical mysteries. I love regular mysteries, but I frequently have found them lacking in HF. Otherwise, I don’t *get* literary fiction and am not a huge fan of the Classics or books written prior to 1900 – it’s a style thing.

How do you feel about negative reviews? 

I think negative reviews are valuable to the reader and the writer.  I have no problem writing a negative review if it is warranted. I write reviews on my blog for my readers.  When I started the blog it was because I wanted to be able to discuss what I read with other readers, and that is still how I operate today. I have certain bloggers who I have grown to trust their feedback and reviews as they haven’t steered me wrong. I wouldn’t want my readers to question my credibility if I only posted books that I found awesome or gave a skewed review of. But I think negative reviews can often be balanced by positive elements. I always link to other reviews by bloggers in my review and often look for a different opinion from mine in order to give people other sources of reviews that might be different from my perspective. I don’t think a review should ever criticize the author, someone worked hard for that book and it is their baby, but honest feedback is valuable and I’m very upfront about that.

When considering a book to review what do you look for?

I almost always review anything I have read in the historical fiction or non-fiction/biography genre – whether I signed up to review the book or picked it up off my personal TBR.  Like many, I have a core set of authors whose works I have loved that I would immediately sign up for any tour/review opportunity.  For books/authors I am not familiar with, I look for a blurb that sounds exciting or with interesting characters. I love books set in more unique settings or with lesser known historical figures.

List three book covers you love.

Somerset by Leila Meacham

 

The Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees

The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

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 think with social media – regardless of the topic – people are going to speak their minds.  And I am sure that it can be frustrating to see the product of so many hours and so much passion being bashed by someone online. Honestly, the best thing to do is ignore it.  Or if you need to vent about it, vent offline with a family member or friend.  Don’t put it online – someone will see it and share it. I have seen authors who have spoken badly about bloggers show up on blogger lists of “Authors Behaving Badly” and I know there are people who I won’t buy because of their behavior. Basically, you are your product and in this digital age, your product will be judged based on interaction with you.  Put your best face forward and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Have you had any negative experience with blogging? 

Nothing that I can really call to mind. Sometimes certain authors or publishers can be a little pushy, but nothing more than that.

Do you read more than one book at a time? 

I typically like to be reading no more than 1 physical book/e-book and 1 audio book at the same time. This is because it is easier to keep the books separate in my mind and often the audio book is non-fiction while the physical book will be fiction.  However, there are certainly times that isn’t feasible…like right now, I am in the middle of 8!!!  A result of certain review dates coming up and delays in copies arriving, being sick, and stuff for school coming up.

Do you read self-published books? If so which ones have you read this year so far? 

 I do read self-published books, but I am typically a little more selective and do more research before picking it up. I will frequently read excerpts/samples of self-pub, whereas I don’t do that with traditional publishing. I’m looking for it to be formatted well and edited before I commit to reading it.

I don’t think I have read any so far this year. I have read a few that are from small/niche publishers, such as An Angel Called Gallagher by M.K. McClintock (this is the 4th book in her series and I think her early books *might* have been self-pub) and The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a blog?

I think people hesitate starting a blog because they don’t think they will be good at it and they worry about getting followers. My advice is don’t worry about anyone else, blog for you. You should always write something you would want to read and be genuine. Followers will come, probably slowly, but it will happen.  You have to come off as being you, people can tell when it is being forced. This will keep down the stress of being something you are not and reduce the potential for burnout. If you are stressing about blogging, you are doing it wrong!  Any time I find myself feeling pressured or out of sorts, I go back to the original concept behind my blog.  I remember that I started my blog for myself and never expected it to have a huge following or that I could receive books for free or engage with authors. I did it because I loved books and just wanted to talk with others like me.

Thank you, Heather!

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