Sunday, January 22, 2012

We Heart Book Bloggers!

Win cool prizes- Book Bloggers- answer any of our questions, or tell us your experiences in the comments to be entered. Everyone else- tell us about awesome experiences you've had with the book blogging community to enter your book blogging friends to win cool prizes! (contest open until I get back from SCBWI- which will be Tuesday January 31. 

Okay, so if you've been on the internet much over the last few weeks, you may have seen some drama brewing over at Goodreads and spilling over onto Twitter. It made me think about the differences between the internet book community (specifically the growth of Goodreads and Twitter) over the last few years- or at least between 2008 when my first book came out, and 2012, as I wait, impatiently, for Masque of the Red Death to be released. I blogged about it on my own mostly-neglected blog.

With the growth of internet reading communities have come entire communities of book reviewers or book bloggers. How completely and totally awesome to have so many people reading so many books! They promote books! They promote discussion of books! They exude passion for books, and they do it just because they love reading!

Today we're going to take some time to appreciate the book blogging community. Help us out by answering questions in our comments, and you'll be in the drawing for (4) $5 Starbucks gift cards,

We're also giving away a $20 gift certificate to the Indy bookstore of your choice (if you don't have a local bookstore that I can purchase a card from online, then we'll pick my local independent bookstore).

Okay, so as an author (and an English teacher) I'm thrilled that the book blogging community exists, but I'm not always sure how to respond to reviewers, and I thought I'd ask some questions that sort of float around in my head. (I showed these questions to a few other authors and they all were like, I need to know the answers to these questions, too!) So obviously these questions occur to other authors, and it isn't just me being neurotic.

An odd relationship exists between authors and reviewers. On one hand, book bloggers are fans. On another, they are critics. In life, we tend to respond differently to fans than we do to critics.
Is it cool for us to make comments and tell them we appreciate them, or does it seem like kissing up, or trying to get better reviews? Do we come off as stalkers as we relentlessly google our names and the names of our books? When we don't comment do we seem aloof? Are there bloggers who would rather just be left alone to write their opinions, without feeling the eyes of the author, staring over their shoulder *stares over everyone's shoulder* Oh wait, um yeah, I don't stare over shoulders...or internet stalk...but I usually check my Goodreads account each morning, and I not only check for interactions on Twitter, I google Masque Red Death...because it's interesting to see how many people are talking about Poe, and sort of awesome on days when more people are talking about me than Poe.  :) (author of the Original story Masque of the Red Death, not that I really ever need to write that, I just like to!).

So, I asked five questions, and talked three book bloggers into answering them - Sara Gundell at Novel Novice

Momo O'Callaghan at Boys Over Books


"We read to know that we are not alone." — C.S. Lewis

Oh and Adding in
Kathy Coe from
 (due to my procrastination in asking people to participate, not hers! she's using my book cover as her twitter/goodreads profile picture, so she's one of my favorite people right now!) 

These were my questions- 

1. As a book blogger, how much interaction do you want to have with authors? When are author comments appreciated and when are they intrusive? 
2. To be specific-  do author comments (positive ones, of course) ever bother you in these instances- When you post reviews on Goodreads? Status updates on Goodreads? When you tweet about a book? When you blog about excitement for an upcoming book? When you publish the actual review on your blog?
 3. Have you had any particularly positive or particularly negative (without naming names :))  interactions with authors?
4. Does friendship, or even positive interaction, with an author ever make you question your review? Or think twice about what you are going to say

5. Obviously you love reading, but it seems book bloggers devote a lot of time to reading and reviewing, and obviously that adds a lot to the online reading community. What rewards do you get from maintaining your blog and reviewing books regularly? 

And, now the answers! 

1. As a book blogger, how much interaction do you want to have with authors? When are author comments appreciated and when are they intrusive? 

Sara- Honestly, I love interacting with authors. In some cases, I've become friends (or friendly with, at least) the authors I've interacted with. But regardless, part of what I love about blogging is promoting books and getting the word out to potential readers -- so it's really fun for me to be able to coordinate my effort with the author. Or at least, after the fact, to have the author recognize the work I've put into my blog posts and say, "Hey, that's cool!" I fangirled last year, when Meg Cabot wrote on her website about the educational features I'd put together for her book Abandon. I don't make any money from my blogging, so it's purely a labor of love -- but seeing that kind of recognition (especially from such a well-known author) is really rewarding. I get the warm fuzzies. (I also get the warm fuzzies even when I get such responses from lesser-known or debut authors, too!) 

On that note, I should mention this: I hate posting negative reviews. It's my firm belief that EVERY book has merit. My goals as a book blogger are to promote books, reading and literacy. I want more people (teens, especially) to read -- and I strongly believe that the key to getting kids reading, is helping them find the right book for them. That's why I hate the negativity that gets directed at the Twilight series these days. I don't care if you think it's a good book or not -- it got a crapload of people reading!!! And now those Twilight fans are reading MORE books! So when I review a book, I might be critical of it -- but I also always look for its good qualities, too. I want to be fair, and not turn off a reader simply because I personally didn't like a book. In a similar vein, there have been a few rare cases where I refused to post a review at all because I had nothing nice to say about a book. I know there's a lot of discourse in the book blogging community about negative reviews, and whether or not to post them, etc. For me, I don't post them not because I'm worried about pissing off authors or publishers -- but because I don't want to turn off readers. Sure, I might have hated a book ... but it could still be that book for a reluctant reader out there. So I won't say anything bad about it publicly. 

I also make it a point when tweeting links to my reviews, to only "@" reply an author if the review is 100% positive. If I'm critical of it in any way, I don't "@" reply the author. That's just mean,

Momo-  As a book blogger, I would like a lot of interaction with authors because I think bloggers do help spread the word about books so being active with the authors would be helpful. Author comments are generally appreciated on any sort of blog posts, in my opinion. Their feedback and opinion means just as much as the next blogger. Like I said, I think author comments are welcomed on any sort of blog post discussion so I don't think their comments could become intrusive.

Kathy- Interaction with authors is something I really enjoy. It's always a little thrill to see that an author has taken the time to retweet a review that I wrote, or comment on something I've done. As I do this in my spare time, it's nice to see the work I put into something recognized and appreciated. 

As a lover of books I love getting the word out there and sharing that passion - it's a bonus when I can involve the author as well. It's also nice to get to know a little bit about the person who wrote the latest novel we're fangirling over. 

2. To be specific-  do author comments (positive ones, of course) ever bother you in these instances- When you post reviews on Goodreads? Status updates on Goodreads? When you tweet about a book? When you blog about excitement for an upcoming book? When you publish the actual review on your blog?

Sara- I've already made it pretty clear that I find authors posting negative/defensive comments on reviews to be in poor taste. 

That said, I love getting positive comments from authors on my blog, or in response to tweets. (Technically, I have a Goodreads account for Novel Novice, but other than occasionally reposting my reviews from the blog, I don't spend a lot of time there.) As I mentioned earlier, I put a lot of work into my site -- so it's always nice getting good feedback, and blog comments are some of the best out there. When an author stops by to say, "Thanks for reviewing my book" or "I'm glad you enjoyed it" or "Thanks for featuring my book on your such & such a list," it's a very rewarding feeling. 

Momo-  I don't think author comments ever bother me in any of those instances because when I get excited about wanting to read a book or if I'm in the middle of reading a book that I'm really enjoying, I would like for the author to know how I'm feeling about it, especially if it's something that I really like and it's positive feedback that I'm sending back.

Kathy-- No, I have never felt that an author commenting was a bad thing. I like having the author know that I am excited about their book, or that their book blew me away. As a balance to this I don't think it's appropriate for us to send negative reviews and comments directly to the author, and in the same respect authors should not comment on negative reviews/comments either. It's sort of a two way street. 

3. Have you had any particularly positive or particularly negative (without naming names :))  interactions with authors?

Sara- Yes and yes, mostly positive. Almost entirely positive, actually. But again, I strive to present a professional, positive book blog -- so the response has been in kind. 

One of the most rewarding experiences I've had working with an author was for our August 2010 Book of the Month, which was for Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel. Cassie is no small-time author, but she spent plenty of time emailing with me, brainstorming ideas, making sure I had all the materials I needed (her publisher was excellent about this as well -- but Cassie went out of he way to double- and triple- check), and she contributed tons of content to our features -- writing two guest posts and providing us with lists of materials to include. And she made sure to retweet all our links and get the word out to her followers. To this day, Cassie is one of my favorite authors to work with. It's always a rewarding and positive experience -- and I'm constantly in awe of how she manages to do so much, what with her intense writing schedule and her crazy number of fans. This is by no means the only example of positive author interactions I've had, but it continues to be one of the most rewarding -- because even after our month-long feature was over, Cassie and I have continued to collaborate. 

Momo- - I have had many positive interactions with authors; if I've read a really good book that I've enjoyed and loved 100%, I let the author know how I feel and from there I continue to help spread the word about the author's books and I continue to support the author.

Kathy-- I have only positive interactions with authors. They've all been so wonderful and supportive. It amazes me what a wonderful community the YA community really is.

4. Does friendship, or even positive interaction, with an author ever make you question your review? Or think twice about what you are going to say

Sara- No, because my friends -- even the ones who are authors -- know I'm honest in my reviews, no matter what. I do, however, try to be very transparent about this on my blog. For example, I'm good friends with Suzanne Young. I've raved on my blog about her book A Need So Beautiful -- but I also stated that I was friends with Suzanne in the same blog posts. But, I also adored Suzanne's book, and I would adore it even if Suzanne were the bitchiest person on the planet. And Suzanne knows if she ever writes something I don't like, I'll tell her. 

Momo- For me, being a huge fan of an author's book leads to lots of conversations with the author on twitter and facebook which results in a friendship so yes, that does make me question my review and what I'm going to say. If I'm friends with the author on twitter or the likes, and I end up not enjoying the book, it becomes harder on how to write my review because I don't want to hurt my friend's feelings. It goes the same way for writing positive reviews - if I'm close friends with an author on twitter or if we engage in conversation a lot, m aybe sometimes my reviews might be a bit biased.

Kathy- No, I think you have to remain honest, and write your reviews based on that. Your outside relationships shouldn't impact your feelings towards the review. I really try to keep it all separate. 

5. Obviously you love reading, but it seems book bloggers devote a lot of time to reading and reviewing, and obviously that adds a lot to the online reading community. What rewards do you get from maintaining your blog and reviewing books regularly? 

Sara- Books and reading are my passion -- and since I don't get to work in the publishing industry, this is a way for me to express that passion. Beyond that, as I mentioned, I'm also passionate about promoting literacy, and Novel Novice gives me an outlet to further that cause. So, there's a lot of satisfaction built into the process itself. But also as I mentioned, I get a kick out of working with authors and their publishers to come up with creative ways to promote their books on my site, and getting positive feedback and comments on the site from both readers and authors alike is the best treat. 

An organic by-product of my blogging has also been building a network of new friendships, as well. Most of the people I know "in real life" aren't big readers, or they don't read YA -- but through blogging, I've become friends with other bloggers and passionate readers, and in some cases, with the authors themselves. That's not what I set out to accomplish when I launched Novel Novice -- but it's been one of my favorite surprise rewards! 

Momo  -The rewards I receive from maintaining my blog and reviewing books regularly is just getting that satisfying feeling that someone enjoyed a book as much as myself and when I can actually get someone excited enough to go out and purchase a copy of a book, it makes all I do totally worth it because the excitement in reading books is being able to share it with others.

Kathy- The biggest rewards that I get is the new friends I've met in the book blogger community. I don't really know a lot of people "in real life" that read as much as I do. It's nice to talk to someone that totally gets my passion and feels the same. It's nice to talk to someone who has read my favourite book and we discuss it for hours. There is also nothing better than turning someone in to a fan of your current favourite read. 

The whole sense of belonging to this little community is a pretty awesome feeling.


Okay, so authors, add your questions and comments! Tell us about reviewers who are great! Bloggers, add your responses, and let us know where you blog so we can follow you! We will  enter you in our drawing, which is only a tiny way to show how much we appreciate what you do every day (and buy some good reviews...wait...did I say that out loud?) And thanks so much for Sara and Momo for answering my questions in like minutes from when I sent them! (I might've procrastinated a little this week, on my blogging--might've been working on a certain sequel). :D 


SupaGurlbooks said...

As a book blogger / reviewer here are my answers! BTW both NN and BOB are both excellent peeps and have awesome blogs!

1. I always want as much interaction as I can get with an Author :) I Love when an author comments on a tweet or the blog on a review. No I don't think they are intrusive *at least that hasn't been my experience*

2. No! comments from authors NEVER bother me. It makes me all kinds of happy when they take the time to do something like that.

3. I have had loads of positive interactions with authors! I was an advocate for the YA Heroine Tourney and loved the character, I contacted the author and she was so awesome at helping me out with everything. We now are good friends who talk reg. about everything. Not the only positive exp. just the one that stands out the most!

4. No, I can honestly say that even if it's my friend or an amazing Author if something isn't working for me I let them know. I also point that out in my review...but also point out all the stuff I loved too! It's all about getting people to READ MORE!!

5. I get the reward of reading so many amazing books and then getting my friends and even kids still in school who "don't like to read so much" into those books! I love going into my kids school and the kids going what are you reading now? is it good.. guess what I read... It's like music to my ears!

Thanks so much for this :)
supagurlheather @ gmail . com

Katie McGarry said...

Thank you Momo, Sara, and Kathy! As a debut author, I'll admit, everything can seem intimidating. Thanks for sharing!

Kurt Hampe said...

Interesting question about posting negative reviews. I've had this same conversation with an author who promotes through review blogs.

I enjoy debating the good and bad points of a story, and don't mind saying that aspects of a book don't appeal to me, but I wouldn't want to post a wholly negative review to the public Internet.

Colette Ballard said...

Great Q & A's Bethany! I think it is incredibly cool of book bloggers to take the time to write up reviews simply for the love of books!!

Kim Van Sickler said...

Over at Swagger Writers we love fellow bloggers too. We are happy to pass on The Liebster Award to your group blog. Congrats! Now you get to pass on the love.

ephrielle said...

For the most part I feel like my reviews are being sucked into a black hole. And I think that really does effect how much heart I put into future reviews. When an author simply recognizes that I have made a review where to spread it or praise it I feel so unbelievably happy. It is much like when doing an assignment at school. The praise of a teacher has the potential power to guide your future. I am forever grateful for those teachers who cared enough to critique me. I was only able to grow and reach higher in my potential from their guiding care. This may be a bit worshipful but I put authors on the same pedestal. They are using words and stories to drop my defenses and pull at my emotions like a puppet. I am left defenseless before their mastery and as such it is reflected in my reviews. When I review I don't have the author in mind so much because their work no longer feels like a work of fiction but reality. The story and characters become real and it is that which I review. Did they have the power to bring me from the depths of hell and misery into complete and utter bliss? I want to remember these and so I review to journal them. But since people are so touchy about spoilers it sometimes feels like a restraint that hobbles my words.
I would love to foster friendships with authors since I feel they are the type of people I would like to look up to. They worked hard to realize a dream and knowing them can help me as well. Honestly, authors are like the popular kids from high school to me. It seems like they would never take notice of me. Which, is what I like about Twitter. You can see from their posts that they aren't all the different. Just because they published some stellar book doesn't mean they are above us little bloggers at the bottom of the pond. I do put my heart on the line when I read a book and I really appreciate an author that understands. And that is easily felt when they show simple appreciation for my reading their book.
I feel that blogging has helped me to stay interested in books after I have read a few disheartening novels. Having access to the blogging community reminds me through its constant posts that while that book may not have been a perfect fit for me their are plenty hammering for my time still.
Thank you for posting this. It was interesting to read.
Hope, Love, and Happy Endings

Ms. Yingling said...

Very interesting post! I always get a little thrill when an author comments. I try to tailor my reviews to what works and what doesn't for my particular demographic, and try to make even reviews for books I disliked positive in some ways, but I have had a couple of authors vehemently disagree with me. Since I try very hard not to be mean, this is upsetting to me, but I'm sure that the authors were upset by my comments. While I agree that every book has merit, every book also could be improved a little, and I always appreciate constructive criticism about my own writing.