Could you please tell us about yourself?
Hi! I’m Donna, but I am probably better know as Girl Who Reads. I live in a small town in Georgia with my four-legged furry family – 2 cats and 2 dogs. I studied Biology in college because I wanted to be a zookeeper when I grew up. I actually fulfilled that dream. While it was fun, it was not a long-term career choice for me.
Could you please describe a typical day?
I live a pretty boring life. I work full-time as an administrative associate for a large research lab at the University of Georgia. So Monday through Friday I sit in front of a computer. My evenings, after I walk the dogs and call my mother, are usually spent composing the next day’s blog post and catching up on review requests or social media. I try to fit in at least 30 minutes of reading a day, either at lunch or at night before bed. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I require at least 8 hours (prefer 9 hours) sleep so even 30 minutes of reading doesn’t always happen.
My weekends are spent working around the house or with family, particularly my niece and nephew. After church on Sundays, I film my (mostly) weekly video before settling in with a book for the afternoon.
I understand you’re familiar with a lot of different aspects of book publicity, both from a PR side and from a blogger perspective. Do you have any tips for authors?
My biggest advice for authors is think of their writing as a business. The product is your book, but what you need to do to build your brand or sell the product is the same as if your product is washing machines. If you aren’t sure what it takes to run a small business, talk to local merchants or look into classes offered at a continuing education program. It also means you will have to make some capital investment to get it off the ground. This might mean paying for editors or website design.
What do you enjoy most about reviewing books?
Discovering the next great read and finding new to me authors. I’ve always been a bit of a bandwagon reader (I read what everyone else is reading). I think it was so I would always have people to talk about the book with. Blogging gives me that same interaction, but now it is me who is suggesting the book.
On your blog, you have a ‘Tips on Thursday’ slot.’ How did you come up with this idea?
It started out as a conversation on Twitter with a few other bloggers. We were all newish at blogging and would get together to ask questions or talk about a new trick we learned. We would use the hashtag #bookbloghelp because often we would attract others to the conversation. About this same time, I signed up for ArmchairBEA. Each day a particular topic was given and one day it was Blogging about Blogging. That was the first appearance of a Tips post on my blog. After that it was an occasional feature on my blog as I learned something new (it’s a great way for me to find the info again for myself) or because a question came up in a conversation and required a bit more thought and space to answer.
I like helping people and I’m good at research, so this year I have decided to make it a weekly feature. I’m hoping to eventually make it a meme where other bloggers will give back to the community by sharing tips and tricks.
You must get hundreds, if not thousands, of review requests every month. How do you handle all the requests?
I am horrible at saying ‘No’. At least once a month, I tell myself I’m going to close my blog to new reviews, but then I think ‘what if I miss the next phenomenal read?’ I try to sort through review pitches when sitting in my living room that way I can see the growing stacks of review copies under my coffee table.
Actually, I have gotten better about saying no. I really try to consider when I think I can get to the book. Since I’m more of a general book blogger, I get pitches for all genres of fiction and some non-fiction. I usually can pretty quickly reject a few just based on not being my ‘thing.’ I look for originality in review pitches. If it sounds like a story I’ve read a hundred times, I’ll pass on it. I may also pass on a book because I just have too many in a certain genre.
In the beginning, I felt compelled to reply to each review pitch. That quickly became impractical. If it doesn’t look like the author took any time to pitch their book to me, I don’t tend to reply anymore. If the email say ‘I would like a review, here’s the link to my book at Amazon’, it is immediately deleted. If the author put forth effort and it isn’t something I would be interested in reading, I will reply though it may be a week or so later. I still say yes more often than I should (as the piles of books can attest).
What, for you, is the most important quality in a book?
Well developed characters. When I was part of an online writing group (as a reader not a writer, hence my moniker – Girl Who Reads). I discovered that if I really liked the characters I would be more forgiving of other aspects of the book. I read to experience new things, to live vicariously through someone else.
I understand you review both traditionally published and self-published books. Do you find more major differences are in the books themselves or in the way they are marketed or publicized?
The one nice thing about receiving so many pitches, I often forget how I came about a book (from a major publisher, indie press, or self-published author) by the time I read it. Most of the time, I don’t really notice a difference in the books themselves. It is usually in the marketing. One of the reason I do not waste my time on poorly written review requests is because I’ve learned there is a correlation between the quality of the pitch and the quality of the book (that doesn’t mean I love every book that had a great pitch).
Do you feel there is a stigma against self-published writers? If so, do you feel it’s deserved? Why or why not?
Yes, there is stigma attached to self-published. I think it is waning as authors take their work more seriously (see my advice to authors above). I have discovered some great self-published books, but at the same time there are ones that I don’t think you could pay me to read. If I stop reading a book because it isn’t well written or is poorly edited, it is almost always a self-published book.
For indie authors in particular, getting reviewed is one of the biggest challenges. Do you have any advice?
Don’t give up. If you have done your homework (read the review policy, looked over the blog to make sure it matches your book) and perfected your pitch and not getting responses, it is probably more of a time factor for the reviewer than a reflection on your work. I know every author wants a review from a Top 50 Book Blog, but smaller blogs can be just as effective. They can also be very loyal and able to promote your book more because their load isn’t as large. I remember when I had a New York Times bestselling author offer to write a guest post for my blog. I was thrilled that he and his publicist decided to give my little blog a chance.
Also, become an author who bloggers want to host. Bloggers put a lot of work into their blogs and they want authors to appreciate that effort. Leaving comments – even a ‘thanks for reading my book’ – mean a lot. Bloggers want to increase the traffic to their blogs. Promote the posts (whether it be the review or a guest post you did) to your fans by tweeting and posting the link on Facebook and/or your website. Authors who I know bring traffic to my site often get priority.
I understand you’re part of the Book Bloggers’ Collaborative now. Do you feel bloggers benefit from working together and supporting one another? Should more authors work together in the same way in your opinion?
I think authors are already banding together, whether it is a writing group they belong to in their local area or the many online groups that are available (Indie Book Collective, Independent Author Network, WoMen’s Literary Cafe, etc.). Very few people can be a 1 man show, so it is important to seek out others who have skills and knowledge that you may be lacking. Even the 1 man show has people behind the curtain providing support.
Bloggers have joined together for book tours and blog hops, but I think what we are doing with the Book Bloggers’ Collaborative is more than just a means to increase traffic or promote a book/author. We encourage one another and provide assistance, both technical and creative. For those who started blogging for the community aspect definitely should search out a group to join.
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
Thank you for hosting me.
Thank you, Donna!
Donna is an extroverted introvert who has discovered book blogging to be the perfect compliment to her personality. She shyly raves about books and authors on her blog Girl Who Reads. Donna is also a regular contributor of book news to her local Patch.com. As one who is just as happy to support others in pursuing their dreams as in pursuing hers, she is currently working on a book adaptation of her Tips on Thursday feature.
Girl Who Reads
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