I’ve often said that book bloggers are the “Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers” of the literary world – and I really believe it. Therefore, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to interview some of these wonderful bloggers and shed a little light on why they undertake this epic labors of love!

This week’s interview is with Coral Russell, who runs Alchemy of Scrawl. Coral is a fabulous blogger who does an incredible amount to support authors. She is also a founding member of the Book Bloggers’ Collaborative, plus the author of Amador Lockdown.

Every blogger interviewed will be asked to nominate a charity for the day. For every copy of In Leah’s Wake sold via this page between 8 a.m. (EST) on Friday and 8 a.m. (EST) on Saturday I will donate a $1 to the charity of the blogger’s choice! Keep an eye out for our huge September event – the Celebrating Bloggers Charity Blog Hop – which will be raising even more funds!

Coral’s chosen charity is Seva and you can read more about them after her interview. Complete the entry form at the bottom of the blog to register your purchase of In Leah’s Wake and be entered into a drawing to win a $200 Amazon voucher!

Coral, thank you so much for joining me, and for everything you do! Could you please tell us about yourself?

I’m Coral Russell and I try to do as little as possible.

Well, you seem constantly on the go, so I struggle to accept that!! Could you please tell us why you started the site and how you’ve built your following? You recently moved to a new blogger home – how’s that going?

I’ve been blogging for years on sites geared toward my gaming, family, and the unification of North and South Korea. When I found out that people were blogging about books I got all excited because I’m a life-long reader and always thought a job reading books would be fabulous. Book blogging is like that only without the getting paid part.

What do you enjoy most about reviewing books?

When I find a story or series that I just couldn’t put down and I get to tell people – Hey, I loved that book! You can share that with a whole lot more people than just my small circle of friends.

What do you enjoy most about blogging? Least?

Interacting with people and watching a post go viral. Least, the constraints of blogging imposed by blogging facilitators which is why I’ve been forced to my third move to self-hosting. If you know what you’re doing, I’m sure it’s wonderful!

You must get hundreds, if not thousands, of review requests every month. How do you handle all the requests?

If you want a lot of requests, my recommendation is to create a form and allow attachments. I had so many that became a problem because I was booked for a year and a half in months.

That’s a huge list! How do you decide which books to review?

Authors try to ‘pitch’ me their book and I appreciate but the truth is I try NOT to read prior reviews or information and just agree to try the book. I have very little I don’t like and if I don’t I’m willing to try it because you never know. It also lets me be pleasantly surprised on a regular basis.

You also host a BlogTalkRadio show. How did you get into that? Is talking about books a very different experience to writing about them?

I originally started the show to help English Language Learners but never got around to it. People started following my show and I thought, ‘Crap, I need to start a show since people are following me.’ By this time I was on the Indie Book revolution and thought it would be great to interview authors. At first I had to ask them because they were shy and then I had that form and took months worth of requests. Then I found two other crazy ladies to join me and that has been the most fun and probably terrifying for the authors.

Do you review self-published books? Why or why not?

Yes, because of the Indie Book revolution and the fact that these authors are really good, diverse and affordable! For someone who has spent lots of money buying books, this is a great time to be a reader.

Do you find a difference in the quality of traditionally and self-published books? If so, what are the major differences?

Not a big enough difference for me to be loyal to traditional publishing. Self-published has more diversity not only through genre bending but also cultural, ethnicity, and race in the characters, plot and settings. The personal connection that you can make directly with the author and know that you are helping someone is also rewarding.

Do you feel there is a stigma against self-published writers? If so, do you feel it’s deserved? Why or why not?

I hear about it but since my experience from book blogging is working with mainly self-published/small/Indie press I’m not sure what the fuss is all about. Sure there have been books that weren’t for me but that has happened with books I picked up from traditional publishing. Rarely, books are sent to me that haven’t followed a quality process, but it is NOT the norm and by next year I will have read almost 300 self-published books so I feel I’m becoming quite an expert.

For indie authors in particular, getting reviewed is one of the biggest challenges. Do you have any advice?

What I’ve noticed is demand is quickly overtaking supply. There are lots of new authors but only so many active book bloggers out there. No matter how fast a reader you are, you will be swamped quickly. I was going along nicely when I got sick and the rest of this year was thrown off for reviews. Plus, book bloggers are volunteers, interested in their favorite genres and for most, it is a hobby. That being said I will take a book blogger review over a Kirkus review any day because they are NOT paid to do it. I encourage readers to leave reviews even if they don’t start an actual blog. Even my daughter is getting involved but it’s another way to encourage and get kids interested in reading. It’s a great feeling that your opinion matters.

Are there things authors do that make you say, wait, don’t do that? OR maybe that turn you off altogether?

Yes, and I can only attribute that to naturally poor social skills. Shame on their parents! Otherwise, they are usually very nice and fun to work with.

You’re part of the Book Bloggers’ Collaborative. How does that work?

Lol I’m not sure. Sometimes these things just happen. But I asked some bloggers to hang out during an event and realized we were way crazier than the authors (and more fun if truth be told) and it just grew from there.

Do you think authors should try and work together to support one another in the same way?

Absolutely! And I’ve tried to do that but it hasn’t worked as well as I’d liked. I’m probably not doing it right though… There are a couple that I continue to work with so even if it is a small group, those sorts of collaborations make everything about this process fun.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Haven’t I wasted enough of your time?! It’s a great time to be a reader. Get involved in your favorite review site and chime in about your favorite books!

About Coral

Coral Russell runs the book blog Alchemy of Scrawl and is a founding member of the Book Bloggers’ Collaborative, as well as host of a regular BlogTalkRadio show.

Coral is also the author of Amador Lockdown and a contributing author for the anthology Playing with Fire.

Coral nominated the charity ‘Seva’

Seva is an international health organization working to build sustainable programs in underserved communities around the globe.

The name Seva (say-va) is the Sanskrit word for “selfless service.”

Seva was founded in 1978 by a group of medical professionals, counterculture activists, musicians, and compassionate individuals, all dedicated to the alleviation of suffering in the world. Most notably among them are public health expert Dr. Larry Brilliant, spiritual leader Ram Dass, and humanitarian activist Wavy Gravy.

Coral says: “Most charities spend a great deal of donations on management. When I found out the person who runs the Red Cross branch in a large city was paid a $300,000 salary, something is very wrong with my notion and theirs about charity. Seva’s definition fits my notion of what a charity should be and I wish more operated in this manner.”

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