So this might be a little too “inside baseball” (I don’t know what that phrase means) and maybe none of you actually care what it’s like to be a book blogger. But I was always curious about this before I started writing about books, so here it is. My gift to you. Sorry I didn’t wrap it, and also sorry it’s just a blog post instead of that Sur La Table giftcard you asked for.
If you don’t know, I write a weekly book column for HelloGiggles called Young Adult Education. I don’t really consider myself a book reviewer, because I only write about books that I like. My column runs once a week, and honestly I’m not going to waste my limited time and space talking about junk I don’t absolutely love. So I like to call myself a book recommender. Here’s what my book recommending duties are really like:
1. I get free books!
This is one of the most exciting parts of writing about books online. People send me books! Like, several books a week, usually! This is awesome. It’s great to come home to a package full of BOOKS. I usually don’t know they’re coming, which makes it even more exciting. But since I didn’t request these books, that leads to my next point…
2. I often don’t like or want to read these books.
I only write about YA for HelloGiggles, but people sometimes send me things that are not YA. This is nice, I guess, but it’s sort of a waste of everyone’s time and money. And even though anyone who’s taken even a quick glance at my column can see the types of books I write about (usually contemporary YA, often romances), I get tons of paranormal, dystopian, fantasy books. I have absolutely nothing against these books, and I’m sure some of them are great! But I have limited time, in my life and in my column, and that’s not what I choose to read most of the time. I try to vary what I read, so every once in awhile I’ll get the chance to check out one of these books, but usually? No. It’s not gonna happen. And sometimes people send me two copies of the same book, which really bums me out. Wasted paper! Wasted time! Wasted money! Since these books are often ARCs (advance review copies, which are books sent out to reviewers before the ACTUAL books are printed), I can’t resell them or even really give them to too many people. Which just leads to…
3. I feel guilty a lot.
I just do. I know I only have so much time in each day, and it’s not like I’m even getting paid for this, but I still feel bad when I get a book I don’t read.
4. I get to talk to authors!
If you’d told elementary school me that Sharon Creech would one day leave a comment on my blog, I would’ve freaked out. I mean, I still freaked out when that happened. Typically, when I write about someone’s book, I share the link on Twitter so they can see it. Most people love compliments, and since I only say good things, I don’t feel weird about sharing my articles with the writers. And guess what? They’re usually nice and friendly! I think this might be unique to the YA community, though. I’m pretty sure Jonathan Franzen would not be as friendly if you reached out to him.
5. I get an inside look at how books are marketed.
Okay, you can call me naive, but I never understood how bookstore placement worked. Like, I thought the books that are featured in the Barnes and Noble email newsletter were just there because someone at Barnes and Noble liked them. And I thought books were just on display at bookstores because they were popular. I didn’t realize that everything in the book industry is ruled by marketing (and money). Which is fine! I’m not saying that’s wrong. Well, okay, I do think that in an ideal world we’d just live in a readers’ paradise where staff recommendations are worth their weight in gold. But I get that publishing is a business, and it’s run like one. I will say, though, that I’m instantly suspicious of and turned off by any book with a huge publicity campaign. For example, when I heard about The Fifth Wave and it was clear that it was being pushed hard, I did not want to read it. But then I did read it, and I loved it, so I try not to hold publicity against a book. I always want to root for the underdog, though. I can’t help it.
6. I feel a lot of responsibility.
I take my book-recommending duties pretty seriously. I love knowing that sometimes people pick up books because they trust my opinion, and I don’t want to steer them wrong! But even more than that, I really want to highlight books that might go unnoticed. I do feel responsibility to use what little influence I have to showcase really stellar books and shine some light on great authors.
7. I have no idea if I’m reaching anyone sometimes.
One in awhile, I’ll get an email or a tweet from a reader who lets me know she read and loved something I’ve recommended, or sometimes a reader will just say they like my column. This is so great, and it makes me feel awesome. But most of the time? Insert that cricket sound effect that plays for comedic effect when no one’s paying attention. Basically, I have no idea if I’m just writing for my own enjoyment half the time. Which is fine, because I totally would write for my own enjoyment even if no one was reading! But I like to know I’m reaching people.
8. Interacting with readers is the best.
The absolutely best part of writing about books for HelloGiggles is interacting with the cool girls and women who read the site. And while I definitely love talking to women my age who read YA, it means so much to hear from a girl who’s actually in high school or just starting college. I love to think that some of these books might help them through rough stuff, or just make their days better. That’s the experience I’ve had with a lot of YA, and I want to share that with as many girls as I can.
I’m sure other, more prolific/serious book bloggers have significantly different experiences, but that’s mine! If you have any questions, want to talk books, or have a book you’d like me to write about, I’m all ears (not literally…that would be weird). Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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