After our initial piece chronicling the experiences of authors with the bloggers who review their books (Blog Power, January 2012), we thought it only fair to get the other side of the story…
Leah Eggleston Krygowski spoke with several bloggers who were happy to share their experiences of reviewing and interviewing the authors we all love. What has been their general impression of working with authors? How accommodating have the authors been when contacted for review copies of their books or to give interviews? Have they ever had to deal with an author who was, shall we say, less than pleasant to work with? They also shed some light on how they got started blogging and why they blog specifically about chick lit.
So without further delay, here is the other side of the story.
Chick Lit Central – Melissa Amster and Amy Bromberg
I’ve been a chick lit blogger for almost two years. I’ve loved reading chick lit novels, ever since I read Bridget Jones’s Diary in 1998 and discovered the wonderful world of Marian Keyes about a year later. I also love discussing these novels with other women and found the best forum is through blogging. I was inspired by some amazing chick lit bloggers, such as Manic Mommy, Novel Escapes and Chick Lit is Not Dead. I love being able to celebrate chick lit novelists and their stories and to help keep the genre going strong!
I generally love working with authors. Everyone has been so friendly and down-to-earth. There are some authors in particular who will go above and beyond just working with us on a post. One of them now e-mails me all the time and even revels in the pictures and videos of my family that I post on my Facebook page. She also invited me to come to her home when we were expecting Hurricane Irene last year. She lives a bit far from me, but I appreciated the offer.
Some authors have taken the time to look at my very short fiction pieces on my personal blog and share their opinion. Another author did a huge book giveaway for us after we featured her in one of our International Chick Lit Month posts last year.
We’ve met a lot of amazing authors and have gotten to work closely with authors we’ve admired for a long time! I was thrilled to get to interview one of my favorite authors last year. Especially, since she hadn’t been online the year prior. She was so incredibly nice too!
When I had my baby last year, there were quite a bunch of authors who posted congratulatory messages on my Facebook page. My sister was in awe to see that another of my favorite authors posted a message. (She likes her books too.)
I’ve met a few authors in person and they¹ve been wonderful to chat with. It’s hard to get to book signings, but when I go, it is so worthwhile! It’s amazing to form such personal connections with people of whom I think so highly. I’d love to be able to write a book, but I lack the motivation. So I admire authors for the ability to come up with something wonderful and captivate their readers while doing so.
As far as the negative aspects go, I don’t like when an author or their publicist can¹t even be bothered to reply to an inquiry I’ve sent about appearing on the blog. A polite “no” is better than nothing at all. There’s also the factor of authors turning down an opportunity to appear at our blog by saying they aren¹t doing any interviews, and then I find out later that they did interviews for other blogs. I’d rather be told that they have a full schedule of promised interviews than just be given a blanket statement.
I also don’t like when authors or publishers try to pressure me to read their books ahead of all the other books I’m reading, or constantly inquire about when I’ll be reading their book. We have a review policy that states that we don’t guarantee a timely review. Maybe we’ll add on more associates going forward, but we’re trying to find other ways to feature books in the meantime. There are six of us and a billion books out there. For the most part, authors have been wonderful to work with and I cherish the relationships that have been forged between us. I hope to continue to stay connected with these authors and look forward to meeting many new authors, as well.
As usual I agree with pretty much everything Melissa said. I’ve reached out to a bunch of authors we have worked with, asking if they can share with me any tips for pursuing a career in the publishing industry. They were all very helpful by e-mailing me information, and some even spoke to me on the phone. Some of them even e-mailed me a few job opportunities that they found out about. I felt that was going above and beyond just replying to an e-mail, and also being generous with their time.
I have one negative aspect to share. A short while ago we posted a book review and the author reached out to me expressing how unhappy she was with the review, and how she felt her relationship was ruined with us. The reviewer did not like a couple parts of the book, and she shared this in her review. A reader’s opinion, not the synopsis of a story, makes a review into what it truly should be a review. Authors MUST realize that no one likes every book, just like no two people are alike, or not everyone likes fish. They cannot expect every review to be five stars. Does everyone like Lady Gaga? NO. Does a movie get a fabulous review from each and every media source? NO.
All in all it has been an amazing experience working with such a vast array of authors.
Chick Lit Chloe – Chloe Spooner
I have to say I have been really lucky with the authors that I’ve worked with since I started blogging a few years ago now. It’s only recently I’ve gone out on my own, and I’ve found myself conducting a lot more author interviews and having author articles written for my site which is fantastic. I usually set up interviews through an author’s publisher, although sometimes I’ll just mention it on Twitter and everyone has been more than willing to answer some of my questions! My best experience with authors had to be my Christmas specials for 2011, I ran a feature called My Favourite Christmas… and had an overwhelming response with over 40 authors kindly taking the time to write me some wonderful pieces about their own Christmases, often with photos too, and I can’t tell you how grateful (and shocked!) I was to have such a great take-up.
I’m quite lucky as well in that I’ve not really had any negative experiences with authors so far. I’m perhaps chattier with some more than others because we converse a lot more on Twitter and on Facebook with each other rather than just through publishers, and I think it’s really important authors do that because it’s just nice and makes them seem more approachable somehow.
Some authors even go the extra mile for you and arrange competitions with their publishers for me to run, and it’s things like that which make you want to work with that person again and again, simply because they’ve gone out of their way to help you and show their appreciation for what you’ve done for them by way of reviewing their novel. There’s nothing nicer than when you post a review you’ve spent at least an hour writing, and you get a lovely tweet or message saying thank you, and that they’ve loved your review – things like that can make authors stand out above the rest for me.
I began reviewing in 2009 on another reviews site, simply for the love of reading and wanting to spread the word about the great books I was getting through, but started up on my own in October 2011, and it’s been the best thing I’ve done! I’ve had the opportunity to review some wonderful books, interview some fantastic authors and have great relationships with all the major publishers too, something which is really important to me. And why chick lit? Because I love it. There’s something lovely in sitting down after a busy day at home with my son, warm and cosy with a well written, enjoyable story that more often than not has a “happily ever after”. Chick Lit is too often bashed for being “fluffy” or “bland” but as someone who has read hundreds and hundreds of chick lit novels, I can tell you it’s not. Judging by the amount of visitors I get, responses on Facebook and Twitter, and the sheer amount of chick lit blogs out there, chick lit is certainly more popular now than ever. And as they say – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Chick Lit is Not Dead – Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
With the third anniversary of Chick Lit is Not Dead, we decided to count the number of authors we’ve had as guests on our site.
Turns out, we’ve had just over 150. And out of those 150+, we’ve never had so much as a dramatic episode. We wish we could give you something juicy like an author demanded we edit and re-edit her post until it was good enough or an author threw a hissy fit over the photo we chose to print, but they’ve always been accommodating, and the interactions have always been positive. And this counts their publicists too – where you’d really think we’d have some dirt. From the biggest names to the up-and-comers, no one seems to have forgotten where he or she came from, always appreciating their appearance on our site as being helpful to the sales of their books.
We started Chick Lit is Not Dead because we wanted to create a platform – a go-to site for women (and men) looking for good books. When we were shopping our first book, I’ll Have Who She’s Having, we heard time and time again that chick lit was dead. We didn’t believe that. We didn’t believe that a genre could be extinct – ever. We felt that chick lit was more of an idea – an approach to writing – that would evolve and change with society. One day the heroine might be single and crying in her martini glass over trying to find Mr. Right. And the next day, she might be a divorced, single mom crying in her triple espresso about trying to make ends meet. We felt the bottom line was that people just wanted to read good books. And we make it our mission to help them discover them!
Chick Lit Plus – Samantha March
When I first started Chick Lit Plus in 2009, I remember being shocked at how nice the authors were. I was a brand-new blogger, barely had any reviews posted, and started querying a few authors to see if they would be interested in letting me run an interview with them. I couldn’t believe the response authors were responding right away and were enthusiastic at the idea. Just months into blogging, I was getting requests from authors, agents, and publishers, and I absolutely love being a book blogger.
For the most part, I develop some amazing relationships with authors. I feel that the book community is such a close one, especially that of chick lit.
When I was first deciding on what kind of book blog I wanted to run, I knew the answer had to be chick lit. I had recently started reading the genre, and adored the strong main characters, the snappy dialogue and humorous moments, and the great covers that just made me want to pick up the book.
Through my years of blogging, I have been so lucky in getting to read and review for authors even being a beta reader, advance reviewer, and even editor for some. Starting Chick Lit Plus was really my best idea.
It’s not always easy being a book blogger though. I had a really crushing experience a few months back when an author took to her website and completely slammed me (by name), another blogger (by name) and basically all book bloggers. Her comments said that book bloggers are “unprofessional” and even said that we probably can’t write “more than a grocery list”. While I hadn’t enjoyed this author’s book, I felt I gave a very fair review and even said I was looking forward to reading her next book which I had already promoted on my blog. I literally felt sick to my stomach that someone could do that to a person who only tries to help for free. The majority of book bloggers make very minimal money on blogs, and that is usually through the help of an affiliate site such as Amazon. I don’t charge for book reviews. I feel lucky that I was able to turn my hobby into something so fun, and that people actually send me their books to read. It takes a lot of time and effort to run a blog. I have a full-time job, am a published author myself, run CLP Blog Tours, and have to keep Chick Lit Plus up to date. This means reading, writing reviews, reading, interviewing authors, reading, writing articles for my blog, reading, reading, and then staying up to date on all the author news out there. It’s exhausting, and not financially rewarding.
For someone to attack me at a personal level really hurt. But you know what happened? Book bloggers and authors came out in droves to put this author in her place. The support was unbelievable. I look back at that incident now and just feel sad for that author. Her post has since been deleted, but we all know you can never delete anything off the internet.
Besides that ugly incident, I sometimes can get an author that must think I have all the time in the world to read their book. I have gotten requests to post a book review within five days of receiving the email. Yikes. It can take me two-three months with my backlog of to-read books. This is actually part of the reason why I started CLP Blog Tours. I understood from the book blogger perspective what it can take to say yes to a review, and thought I could put that knowledge and my connections with other bloggers to good use.
I like to think that is pretty high up there on my list of good ideas 🙂
Overall, being a book blogger is an incredible experience and I think I am really lucky to be a part of it. The relationships I have developed over these two years helped me publish my own book, something I’m not sure would have been possible without the support. The community of bloggers, authors, even agents and publicists is a close-knit one, and one I truly value.
Novelicious – Kirsty Greenwood
I started Novelicious three years ago because another chick lit site had recently closed down and I wanted to fill the gap it had left. Back in 2009, publishers rarely gave out review copies to non-journalists so I reviewed my own books, old and new, and spouted off into the empty ether about how much of a chick lit geek I was. In 2011 Novelicious really took off. Now we have a team of seven writers, have met some of our favourite authors, go to book launches and award ceremonies, get to write about any books we like (and get them for free!) and have daily natters to all the other chick lit geeks out there in the world – it’s ace.
In my opinion Book Bloggers and Authors are a match made in literary heaven; they write books and we want to tell our friends about those books. They want to get in front of the right audience and we want bookish content for our website. It works.
The authors we feature on the site are gorgeous. They’re always happy to help out with competitions, provide articles and guest posts, and natter on Twitter. Some of them comment on reviews, tell their fans about us and really get involved in the community. I’ve found authors to be extremely generous with their time and advice, especially towards wannabe writers, which Novelicious places a strong slant on. Book bloggers can be a bit fan-girlish – authors are kind of our version of Hollywood celebrities – so the excitement of chatting with and helping to promote them never dampens. And when we love them, we really love them. We’ll sing from the rooftops about how good a book is and do our best to get everyone we know to buy it.
I don’t like it when authors slag off bad reviews in a public forum like Twitter. As much as bloggers love authors and publishers, the fact is that we are not blogging for them. We’re blogging for our readers – the women who are looking for new books to read and want opinions and reviews that they can trust, before they part with their hard-earned cash. If a reader is disappointed with a book, they should be allowed to rant about it. They paid for it! Books have always prompted critique and discussion, and if that comes in the form of a ranty review, then so be it. It would be a horrible if everybody was scared of stating an opinion on art just in case it offends the creator. That’d be no fun. Of course, an author has every right to express disappointment at a negative review. Of course they do. But when they poke fun at or get angry with the reviewer and encourage their own fans to get angry at the reviewer, I do judge them and am less likely to read their future works. I hope to be an author myself someday. If I get there, maybe I’ll think differently about that one!
I think that in a climate such as this when book sales are down, book blogging is more important than ever. As long as authors keep writing good books, we’re going to keep writing about them. And stroking them. The books, not the authors. Maybe.