Sunday, January 25, 2015

Blogger Perspective: 16 Questions Authors are Afraid to Ask and the Answers They May Need to Know

I had been planning on doing a blog post this weekend to give my readers and update on what I've been working on. That plan got waylaid a bit when I came across a post by a book blogger I follow pretty regularly. It was a random post in which she said she wished there were more blogger interviews.

I agreed.

Now I should start off by saying, I have pestered this blogger on a number of occasions with questions about blogging, reviews and the writing community as a whole. She always starts off her response with "Do you want honesty?"

My answer is always, yes.

Crystal will then go on to give her honest opinions. They are not filtered, watered down or sugar coated to spare anyone's feelings. Which I greatly appreciate. I'm an author. I have my own viewpoint on things. When I ask Crystal a question, it is because I want to see things from her point of a blogger sees things from where they are sitting. 

This is why I have such huge respect for Crystal Marie, her blog Crystal's Many Reviewers and those who review for her blog. 

They give their fair, honest reviews -- regardless of star rating-- and stand behind it. I love book bloggers no matter how big or how small but for the above reasons, this one stands out to me.

Having said all that, when Crystal posted that there should be more blogger interviews, I jumped at the chance. I always have questions running through my mind to ask them. 

So here it is, my question and answer session with Crystal Marie of Crystal's Many Reviewers. I asked for her honest views on the below 16 questions and I respect her for and appreciate that she took the time to give them. 

How about we start with the basics. Who is Crystal Marie and what made you decide to start a book blog? 

Crystal Marie is just a person, plain and simple.  There really isn’t anything about me that makes me stand out from the crowd, unless the completely unnatural obsession with Spongebob makes me strange.  Which it probably does.  But I’m totally cool with that.  As for me starting my book blog, I totally blame my friend Jaq.  We had met online in a readers group after the two of us read a book series, and she started telling me how I need to write reviews and post them up to help the authors.  So I caved to peer pressure and started the blog. 

What do you believe is the purpose of book reviews?

I personally feel like the purpose of book reviews has changed so much in the past 2 years.  When I first started, the purpose was to help give readers an idea as to if they would enjoy the books they were looking into.  And now?  To me, it seems to have turned into a popularity contest with some of the authors.  And it’s gotten worse as time goes on.  

Why do you believe there is so much controversy over book reviews? 

Because people don’t know how to grow a thick skin.  Yes, you wrote a book and released it, but you need to realize that not everybody is going to love your book.  Shoot, if you look at Shakespeare or Jane Austen, even they have received 1 star reviews.  Nowadays the authors seem to feel like they deserve a 5 star review even if their book isn’t that great, in your opinion. 

Each book blog has different policies on posting negative reviews, which is their right. Why does your blog choose to post negative reviews? 

I don’t like the wording of “negative reviews” because no review is negative that comes from my blog.  Yes, we do post below 3 stars and that is because of my Daddy.  When I first started out, both my parents were crazy supportive of me and the blog, and Daddy explained to me that I would never be a “legitimate” review blog if I only shared 4 and 5 star reviews.   

Why we post them? Because why shouldn’t we?  As bad as that sounds, an author asked us for our PERSONAL HONEST OPINION and if we didn’t like the book, we should be able to say so.  Do we trash the books? No, but we say this is what we didn’t like.  For example, one of my reviewers 2 starred a book she read a few months ago.  She explains in the review that the reason why she rated it that way was because she felt the author didn’t do her research for the location that she set the book in, and for hurricanes.  Can my reviewer say she didn’t do the research? Yes, because she actually lived in that location and has been through hurricanes.  So there were inconsistencies and that ruined the story for her. 

Have you received back lash for posting negative reviews? If so, how do you handle it? 

Oh yes we have.  We have been told by other blogs that we are doing a disservice and that we aren’t doing our job by posting negative reviews.  We’ve had authors who have publically bashed us on their facebook pages, on their blogs, or just to their friends.  The way I handle it?  I just laugh.  Because seriously, it’s so minor of a thing to get them riled up, but they just keep going. 

There are many new authors out there who don't know where to start to contact blogs for book review requests, cover reveals etc. What advice do you have for them? 

The best way to contact a blog is to check out their facebook pages and message them there.  BUT also check their website as well.  For instance, I don’t like review requests coming through the facebook page, so I end up asking them to fill out the form.  For the most part though, it’s really easy to get in contact with a blogger. 

Is there a certain time-frame prior to a book release in which an author should contact blogs if they are interested in having them review their book? 

That is different for each blog.  For us?  As of Jan 25th, we are completely booked up on the blog until April 24th 

What are the most common reasons a book blog might pass on doing a book review of a particular book? 

It just depends.  Crystal’s Many Reviewers only has 1 real “rule” when it comes to books that we won’t review, and that is we won’t read any books that have anything to do with child molesting.  Now, each of my reviewers has their own rules as to what they will and will not read. 

But also, it might have something to do with the author themselves.  If the author has a history of freaking out and insulting authors, then no we won’t review for them.  If the author treats bloggers like crap, then no we won’t review for them.

There are some who believe blogs show preference to authors who have models on their covers or who have a larger fan base. Do you think there is truth to that? 
I have heard there are some blogs who will only promote certain authors because they feel like the author will give them something in return.  It’s almost like high school to where the bloggers will only be friends with authors who will help them get somewhere in the blogging world. 

Is there anything an author can do to increase the odds of blogs taking a chance on their book? 

Being nice to us and treat us like you’d want to be treated.  As bad as that sounds, it’s the truth.  There are plenty of authors out there who will “use” the “little” blogs to get a step up, but then once they hit a best sellers list?  They treat that blog like crap.  That has actually happened to us, and a few of our blogger friends, more than once unfortunately.   

I know there are some blogs who prefer to be contacted directly by the author rather than their PA, publisher or a blog tour company. There are also blogs who seem to work exclusively through blog tour companies. What are your thoughts on that and do you have a preference? 

I don’t have a preference.   

What are your thoughts on Blog Tour Companies? Do they make your life easier? Would you recommend authors use them? What are the pros and cons that you see? 

There is only one thing about blog tours that I don’t personally like, and that is how early they start blog tours.  For instance, we just got a blog tour invite today, (Jan 25th) and the tour start Feb 7th.  And no matter how much one of the reviewers would want to read that book, we just don’t have the space on the blog.  Do I recommend them?  There are a few (as in like 3) companies that if an author were to ask me who to use I would recommend from a bloggers standpoint.  But, I’ve also told authors that sometimes, it’s better to just ask blogs themselves if they would like to review. 

Are there any red flags authors should look for or questions they should be asking when they are considering submitting their book to a blog for review? 

Oh gosh yes there are red flags.  The number one thing that I look for when it comes to finding blogs for author friends of mine is how often they post actual reviews.  A review blog should at least post 1-2 times a week.  If they haven’t posted for months, that’s a red flag.
And the old standby, (this was the rule when I was first starting out) the blog had to be at least 6 months old.   

I know it is extremely time consuming to read each book, write up a review and post it on the blog, social media, Goodreads etc. Plus all the time and money that is put into giveaways, maintaining your blog and other promo you all do.  I also know there are those who do not show appreciation for all this hard work. Are there days where you question why you do it? Has it had an effect on your enjoyment of reading? 

Yes.  God yes I do wonder.  Even my Mama wonders sometimes, she keeps asking me why I don’t shut down the blog because it seems to be more stress than it’s worth.  But for some reason, I can’t shut it down.  Has it effected my enjoyment of reading?  It did for a while to be honest.  It felt like I was reading the exact same story over and over and over again, the only thing changing was the characters names. 
I for one am very appreciative of all that blogs do. Not only as an author but as a reader too. What are some ways authors and readers can give back to show their appreciation? 

I have some great followers on the blog, I really do.  I’ve had followers who have sent stamps to help with the giveaways, or who have donated eBook copies to giveaways.  They are amazing, and honestly we wouldn’t be where we are without them.  When it comes to authors, a simple thank you is great.  A comment on the review is great.  I can’t tell you how excited one of the reviewers get when they find out that the author commented on their review, even if it is just a thank you. 

Authors publish their books in the hopes they will be read. Bloggers post reviews to give readers their opinions on those books so readers have a little more to go on when making their reading selections. At the end of the day, it is about the readers. With that in mind, do you think there is anything authors and bloggers should be doing differently? 

GET RID OF THE DAMN DRAMA!!! (Am I allowed to swear?)  I mean seriously, it has turned into freaking high school again.  Authors – it isn’t about you, plain and simple.  Someone didn’t like your book and they explain in their 3 star review this was the problem they had with it? LEARN FROM IT!  Especially if it’s multiple people who say the same thing.  And seriously?  The stupid “Go mark this authors 5 star reviews down on their book because it’s doing better than mine is” crap?  Grow up.
Bloggers – get off your high horses.  Bloggers are no better than anyone else out there.  You’re, in a way, a role model for the book world. Readers come to YOU to get recommendations for books.  I can’t tell you how many blogs I have unfollowed because they were trash talking another author.  It’s just insane
 and childish. 

Once again, I'd like to thank Crystal for taking the time to answer my questions.  We all have differing opinions for just about everything. But I think if we all were to take a moment to look at things from a different perspective, we may see things in a different light and learn to respect each others opinions. Maybe then we might be able to do away with a lot of the negativity out there. 

Mad love to all of those at Crystal's Many Reviewers and all book blogs  who keep it honest and respectful. And to the authors out there who show your appreciation for all the hard work book bloggers do!

If you would like to follow Crystal's Many Reviewers,  the links are listed below.