Understanding how book bloggers operate will help you approach them in the right way and increase your chance of gaining traction for your self-published books on their websites. I'm therefore very pleased to interview today a prominent book blogger, Stephanie M Hopkins, to take us behind the scenes.
First, to set the scene, here are a few biographical details.
Stephanie M Hopkins conducts author interviews and helps promote the B.R.A.G. Medallion.
She participates in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, has reviewed books for the Historical Novel Society, is Co-Admin of English Historical Fiction Authors Group on Facebook, and is an avid reader of historical fiction, alternate history, non-fiction and history.
She currently has several writing projects under way. When she is not pursuing her love of a good read, chatting with authors and fellow readers (which is pretty much 24/7). S
tephanie also enjoys creating mix media art on canvas. She is into health, fitness and loves the outdoors. These days she has no idea what rest is!
You'll find Stephanie's book blog at www.layeredpages.com
Stephanie, how long have you been a book blogger and where do you post your reviews?
I have been a book blogger for almost four years now, and I post my reviews on my website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and sometimes Amazon, upon the author’s request.
Why do you do it and why do you find it rewarding?
I was inspired by Amy Bruno’s blog and I wanted to share with the world and to my fellow readers my love for books. And what a fabulous way to do it with blogging. Meeting authors and being able to connect with them has been most rewarding. Before social media I would have never thought I would be able to chat with authors. They had always seemed out of reach….. And having the chance to talk to many fellow readers about books we love through social media has been life changing.
What do you think that book bloggers bring to the game that reader reviews on online book retailer sites don't offer?
A whole lot more. Us bloggers are readers and most book bloggers I know are plugged into the publishing industry and know what is what, just as much or if not more than writers. We also give more of an audience to authors by promoting, interviews, reviews, guest post, book list we love and so on….readers want to hear from other readers, their thoughts and that is what a blogger does. Readers don’t always want to hear what retailers think or publishing companies. After all the bottom line for them is the mighty dollar. A good blogger gets real with fellow readers…….
Another thing….book bloggers are known to connect authors to readers and give a chance for readers to get to know them through the world of blogging….
What makes a good book blogger?
Tough question because I’m am always learning and growing from continual experience in the world of blogging. First and foremost, I think honestly and being real comes first in your work. Then there comes devotion and loving what you do.
Are book bloggers there to serve the reader, the author, or the publisher?
I believe that depends on the blogger and what their blogs mean to them. In most cases, all of the above. At least that is what it is for me….
What can an author do to persuade a book blogger to write about his or her books?
The author needs to offer the book to the blogger for free (print is better for reviewing), promote the bloggers site and develop a good working relationship with that blogger.
And what should they NOT do?! i.e. what is most likely to make you to turn down a hopeful author's request for a review?
When an author “friends” me on social media and immediately starts plugging their book without so much as an introduction or allowing me to know them a little, that is a big turn off for me. Also, getting an email with a message from the author with the book in an attached file wanting me to review for them without properly asking me is a turn off as well. Then there is respecting our guidelines and time. I think a lot of people believe that book bloggers have a lot of time on their hands and all we do is read, that is not always the case. Most of us have day jobs and families to take care of. Then there is our back log of books to review. I’m six months out reviewing…. *laughing*
What is the etiquette for an author after a blogger has reviewed his or her book?
To send a thank you message to the reviewer and then share the review on social media. That helps the blogger out as well. The more audience the blogger has, the better for the author.
When choosing which books to blog about, do you differentiate between trade published and self-published authors/books?
My website serves several purposes. But mostly I’m a supporter of self-publishing. I am a promoter and interviewer for indieBRAG. I do participate in blog tours that supports trade publishing as well. To answer really your question, when I’m posting about books that I read on my own time, it’s what I liked and feel worthy of attention no matter how it was published.
What is the biggest challenge to book bloggers? e.g. the huge volume of books out there, the attitude of authors, too much competition, etc.
The biggest challenge for me is time, pacing myself so I don’t get over whelmed because I want to continue to do what I love and that is blogging and reading. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and have a hard time meeting deadlines because I can’t seem to say, “no” at times. That is something I am working on.
Then there is the amount of books to read in time and not upsetting the author if you get behind when you promised a deadline. *laughing* I don’t worry about or think about competition, it’s not why I blog. Which I’m sure it’s the same for other bloggers.
What are your biggest turn-offs in a book? And your biggest thrills?
Predictability, not keeping the momentum, too much back story that gets in the way of the main story- line, bad layout (book cover), under developed characters…..there is so much!
Biggest thrill is a story is one that holds my attention and has me at the edge of my seat wanting to read what happens next! And of course plot twists thrills me every time.
You often interview authors – is this a pre-requisite of being a book blogger, or is it better not to get to know the author until after you've read and reviewed their books?
I don’t think it’s a pre-requisite. There are bloggers who don’t interview. I love interviewing authors whether I have read their book previously or not. But that falls in line with what I do for BRAG. We have so many authors and if I had more time in the day, I would read all their books. However, I trust the B.R.A.G. Medallion to know that what I promote on my site is quality.
I do have to admit that there have been a few times early on in my blogging career that I wish I had read the book first before agreeing to interview the author. But they were not BRAG Honorees, in case someone wonders what I mean….. 😉
For the most part, I’m pretty good with research and do quite a bit of it before interviewing authors…..that really helps me make the right choices in who I interview and where the direction of the interview goes.
Do you ever read the other reviews of a book you're planning to blog about, and if so, where do you look for them?
If I’m not reading/reviewing the book, that is….As for reviews I look at, I generally stick to reviews from other bloggers I respect and value their input.
Do you think authors should be able to buy book blog posts as a service or does it devalue the reviews if money changes hands?
Depends on what the blog offers or its purpose…..but paid reviews in my opinion devalue the author and books. Most people don’t trust paid reviews. I think there are enough well known book bloggers out there that will review for free so that you don’t need to seek for paid reviews.
What's your take on the “sockpuppetgate” crisis of a few years ago? In its wake, some authors vowed never to review another book again – should they?
Oh, dear. That was a tough time and I still see a little of that going on…..Personally I think authors who need pre- release reviews should go with readers and bloggers as much as they can. Average readers pay more attention to those reviews than what another author will say about a book. Because it just like getting friends to write reviews for your book-readers don’t really trust that.
But, I think it’s perfectly fine for authors to write reviews of books they have read as long as they are doing it for the readers and not because the author asked them too….. *ducking my head as I write this*
I have seen many authors who were honest, good people hurt by this and I have also seen authors with little integrity-who have not only hurt their own writing career but of the ones who were honest. It’s a tough situation all around.
As a book blogger, do you get involved with any of the other parts of the trade that can influence a book's success? e.g. retailers, journalists, festival organisers
I went to New York last year for the Self-Publishing Expo to represent the indieBRAG Honorees and will be going to HNS 2015-again to support indie and authors who I have promoted for.
I talk about books whenever I have an opportunity no matter where I am…..I have introduced so many readers to books they would have never known about or heard of if it wasn’t for what I do.
Do you think the rise of the book blogger and the internet has sidelined book reviews in traditional print media, making them less important than they once were?
Some people and authors think so but I believe people look to reviews on blogs of people they trust more than say, Amazon or goodreads where there is a serious problem of false/insulting reviews, trolling and spamming. Some of my biggest page views are from the reviews I write. So in my experience is that it has not sidelined us. We are important as ever, especially for indie.
Opinions about whether to post bad reviews are polarised – some readers take Thumpa's attitude (“If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all”) and others think they owe it to other readers to be negative about a book publicly if they think it's bad. What's your view?
If I cannot give a book three and a half stars or more, I won’t post a review. It’s my personal goal to post reviews of books I deem worthy of a reader’s time and hard earn money. However, I will give constructive criticism when needed. I see nothing wrong with that as long as you are not attacking the author or being insulting.
To be the devil's advocate for the moment, there's an old saying about the teaching profession: “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach”. Does a similar idea apply to book bloggers – that book bloggers would rather be writing books themselves than reviewing them?
Lol. As a matter of fact….I’m currently writing an alternate history story. So I’m not sure that saying applies to all book bloggers….maybe some. 😉 I will say that from my experience in blogging, reviewing, interviews and reading all the time has really help develop my own story telling skills and it has helped me know what I want in a story enough to be able to write it.
Another thing is sometimes I wish I accept fewer books to review so I can spend more time on my own WIP. But I’m not complaining. Eventually the book will be finished.
Any other advice that you would like to offer to ALLi's readership of indie authors?
For readers I would say to keep reading and exploring on social media for new reads! There are so many gems out there and social media is a great tool and to support sites like ALLi. They work hard to bring the authors to you.
For indie authors I would say, “Don’t give up, keep writing and reach out to your readership. It has been a wonderful experience to meet so many authors of books I love through social media. And I wouldn’t have discovered over half of the books I read if it weren’t for social media.
To engage further with Stephanie, please do visit her excellent website, www.layeredpages.com
Over To You
What's your experience been of book bloggers? Or if you are a book blogger, what tips can you share to help indie authors work effectively with you? Do share, via the comments!
“Stephanie Hopkins of @LayeredPages takes indie authors behind the scenes of book blogs via @IndieAuthorALLi https://selfpublishingadvice.org/book-blogs/”
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Thanks for giving an insight into your process, Stephanie. I think transitioning from blogging to writing your own work isn’t inevitable, but it’s the route I took and it’s fairly common. I agree that it gives you a good foundation in story telling skills.
I’m aware of a few blogger directories, but not all of them are current. The Book Blogger List is handy because it lists bloggers by genre, and seems to be up to date.
Thank you, Ros!
Very useful article, thank you Stephanie. I agree no one should pay 50$ for a book review. I have a question what were so far your favourite authors you write reviewx for and their genre?
Gosh, there are so many! lol. To name a few…..Helen Hollick, Anne Girard, Bette Lee Crosby, Stephanie Thornton, Anna Belfrage, Sandra Byrd, Stuart L. Laing, David Downing, Christy English, E.M. Powell, Mona Rodriquez, Rebecca Kanner, Patricia Bracewell, David Morrell, M.J. Rose, Deborah Swift, Maryanne O’Hara, Sarah Bruce Kelly, Teresa Neumann, Alison Morton, Philippa Gregory and the list continues on…..
Very useful info here. Though I am wondering how a book blogger ever has time for doing anything else than read and review, and picture them living in a house over-run with books, I shall be hunting one for my next novel. Or two …
btw, the very idea of paying for reviews feels wrong to me: am glad to know there are people anyone who review for the love of reading new things … 🙂
Clare, I wonder where I ever find the time! lol. I don’t get much sleep….but that is how much I love reading. 🙂
This was an excellent interview. I had no idea book bloggers existed (im one of those personal/lifestyle bloggers)
Im with an earlier comment. I hope yall find a way to list yourself 🙂
Thanks for such an honest and interesting interview!
Thank you Grace!
You would be amazed how many people who ask me what a book blogger is or what a blogger is in general…. lol.
Of all the middlemen between writers and readers, I think the ones who may always be essential are those who tell people (because they read so much themselves) which the good books are.
I can see agents and publishers becoming less important in a world that is trending toward indie – but readers are still going to want someone to tell them which dishes are good on the buffet – so thanks for what you do, and please keep doing it: an unbiased, unpaid review from a power reader (aka book blogger) is the best possible advertising.
Thank you, Alicia!
I have noticed in the last year or so of tradition publishers catching on to the importance of book bloggers….although I feel they don’t use them enough. Most traditional authors I know have had to go the extra mile and go out on their own and find book bloggers for interviews, reviews and such. They’re becoming publicist in their own right, it seems….and getting the same percentage as they always have.
Another reason why so many of tradition publishing authors are going indie….
Loved this interview Stephanie, I learnt a lot
How timely, I’ve been working on finding book bloggers to contact for my upcoming release. It’s so important to read and heed their review policies and guidelines; after all, it’s nothing personal, and if their guidelines make it clear your book isn’t a good fit, then no big. It just means you’re saving yourself from contacting the wrong person.
I’m glad to see Stephanie’s stance on how authors shouldn’t pay for reviews and the reviews can be considered not as good quality. During my research process, it’s been astounding how many “journals” or reviewers wanted $50 and up for a submission—not even a guaranteed review, just the possibility. Authors can definitely spend their money more wisely elsewhere.
@JJToner – I found this list to be really helpful:
Book reviewers on the Web | Robin Mizell: Treated & Released : http://robinmizell.wordpress.com/book-reviewers/
Yes, indeed Authors can spend their money more wisely elsewhere….I wouldn’t advice any author paying for reviews.
Wow! What a long list! Thanks, Anthony. JJ
Wonderful interview! Thank you Stephanie for sharing these great insights. Working with book bloggers has been a wonderful lift to the authors I work with and I absolutely believe that when it comes to quality book reviews, book blogs are the way to go.
Thank you, Alex!
I’m glad you agree that book blogs are the way to go. 🙂
Hi Stephanie. I had no idea that book bloggers existed as a distinct species. Is there a list of book bloggers anywhere? As of right now, my list contains just one entry 🙂 JJ
Now 2. I discovered Sara Johnson. 🙂 JJ
There is not a directory of book bloggers that I’m aware of. However a fellow book blogger and friend of mine is thinking of putting one together.