Today on Layered Pages I’d like to welcome, a friend and fellow book blogger, Holly, to talk with me about blogging. She has some mighty interesting things to say on the subject!
Holly, what is your blog’s name and address?
When did you start a book blog and why?
I started my book blog in October of 2007.
I had a couple of friends who had blogs and I enjoyed reading them. I love to write and I’d missed having opportunities to write. So, one day in August of 2007, I just created a personal blog. Our extended family is literally worldwide so it was also a way to share our daily lives and pictures with them.
I have always loved reading and I realized that I would often read a book and later, not remember what I thought of it. So, the book blog grew out of my desire to remember what books I read and what I’d thought about them.
The reviewing part came about accidentally. As I posted my reviews, I met other reviewers through commenting and I discovered the world of review copies and ARCs. It exploded from there.
What are the kind of posts do you feature?
Mostly reviews. Occasionally a preview or highlight. Sometimes a giveaway. This year I’ve gotten to know some other book bloggers better and because of our associations, I’ve found more ideas for posts, including some monthly and weekly collaborations. It’s been a ton of fun and I’ve so enjoyed getting to know these terrific women. I’ve also added way too many books to my reading list because of them!
How often do you blog?
My goal is 3 times a week. My actual reading dropped last year because of some health issues so I haven’t been doing as many reviews. My goal is one review each week (usually on a Monday). Something bookish and funny, usually on a Wednesday. I do a weekly Cover Crush on Thursdays and a semi-regular, more personal Weekend Reflection post on Saturdays. Sometimes I meet all those goals, sometimes I don’t, occasionally I exceed them.
What are some of the positive feedback you have received?
Over the years, it’s been mostly positive. I’ve met some amazing people through blogging. Authors, publicists, fellow book bloggers. Friendships and associations are the best parts of blogging.
On average, how many books do you review a year?
Last year it was 39. My high since I started tracking was 163 in 2010. I don’t set any specific reading goals. I have learned that I enjoy reading more when I don’t have deadlines, even if it means reading fewer books.
What is your favorite genre?
I love historical fiction and Christian fiction. I want stories that resonate with characters that grow together as well as individually. I need an emotional connection. I seem drawn to books set in England during World War 2!
What is your less favorite?
Traditional romance novels. I don’t like the “bodice rippers” or books that seem to be simply excuses to write detailed sex scenes. Those aren’t romantic to me.
I don’t love horror/crime novels either, which is weird because I could watch a show like Bones, but I couldn’t stomach reading the novels the show is based on.
How do you feel about negative reviews?
I have a rant about negative reviews. Hopefully this will spare you that!
Negative reviews are normal. I think that honesty is important. When I read a review, I want to know what someone really thinks about a book. I don’t want a sanitized version of the jacket synopsis.
I don’t relish writing negative reviews, I don’t think anyone does. But a negative review doesn’t need to be an attack on an author. I have a disclaimer that says I don’t promise a positive review, but I promise an honest review and that while I will say what I don’t like about the book, I won’t attack the author.
It can’t be easy, as an author, to see negative reviews of something you’ve put your heart and soul into. Every writer has an idea in their mind of what they want their books to say and how they want them received. Every reader has expectations about books, whether from what is clearly printed on the back of the book, their own experiences or other reviews. To have every reader love and adore the book like they do is incredibly unrealistic for any author.
Sorry. Was that ranting?
When considering a book to review what do you look for?
If I see a book that only has 5 stars, I question it because my first assumption is that all of those reviews must be from the author’s family and friends.
When I am looking at reviews to see if I want to read a particular book, I actually look at the 2 and 4 star reviews because I think they are the most honest. I want to know how the reader felt. I appreciate knowing ahead of time if there is explicit sex or profanity because that will affect my decision to read it.
The cover plays a big part because it is usually the first thing I see and a striking cover will tempt me to read the synopsis. Recommendations from friends carry a lot of weight too.
List three book covers you love.
Covers are so important. Three more recent covers I’ve loved are:
How do you feel about authors using social media to speak out or badly of reviewers who did not give the author’s book a glowing review?
It’s wrong. There is no reason in anything to be mean. Readers can review a book negatively without criticizing or bashing an author and authors need to be appreciative that people are reading their books, because even a negative review is publicity and there have been times that a negative review has caused me to look further into a particular book or author.
It serves no purpose to speak badly of anyone, reader or author, on social media. When I see authors go after reviewers who write negative reviews, whether on Amazon or Goodreads, it affects my impressions of them and will almost guarantee that I never read any of their books. In the same vein, a reviewer who is unnecessarily harsh and critical of an author can put that reviewer in a bad light as well.
Have you had any negative experience with blogging?
I have had two specific experiences where authors took offense at negative reviews even when they claim to have respected my opinion. Each time they tried to tell me why my opinion was wrong. In the first one, it was the first negative review I’d written and I did go back and softened a couple of sentences because I realized in hindsight they were unnecessarily harsh, but I didn’t change my review. It did teach me a lesson and it’s where I realized that one can and should be kind even when writing a negative review.
In the second experience, the author and/or friends created blogger profiles simply to comment on my post and tell me my opinions about the book were wrong. Because I try very hard to be fair in my reviews that experience really put a damper on my desire to review for awhile.
Do you read more than one book at a time?
Occasionally. I’ve learned that I often need to be in a particular mood to read certain books. I might set one aside unfinished and pick up a different one. Sometimes I just switch back and forth. Most of the time though, I read one until it’s finished.
Do you read self-published books? If so which ones have you read this year so far?
Early on in reviewing, I accepted nearly every book that came my way. Many of those were self-published and many of those were not well written. I used to get a lot of free books from Amazon and most of those ended up being self-published. Too many of those were also not well written or even edited. I applaud and commend people for writing and publishing themselves. But, I wish more would go through an editing process with a professional. Every book needs editing and proofing. Every book.
Because of those experiences, I stepped away from self-published books. If a cover looked self-published, I didn’t even consider it. Becoming acquainted with indieBRAG has changed that for me. I’m learning that there are some fantastic self-published books and it’s important to get them out there and known.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a blog?
Blogging takes time and passion.
Be thoughtful in your posts. Proofread and edit them. It takes time to build relationships with publicists and eventually receive free books. Places like Netgalley often require you to have an established blog presence. Review books you’ve already read and own, or find them at your library at first to build your blog.
Utilize places like Goodreads as well as Facebook and Twitter. If you like authors, follow them. Do some book-related memes. Weekly memes like Booking Through Thursday or Mailbox Monday has helped me get to know other bloggers and increase my readership. I’ve even participated in linky parties that help to get visibility for posts.
Get to know other bloggers. Read their posts, comment on their posts, and share their posts on social media. They will share yours. That is huge and building those relationships leads to so much more fulfilling blog experiences.
Awesome questions Stephanie! Thanks for the opportunity to chat. Loved it!
Thank you, Holly! Enjoyed our chat very much!