Fiction School

Fiction School
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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Advice for Writers Seeking Reviews: A Blogger's Persective

Melanie (aka Busy Bookblogger)
with her little sprite in zebra print.

Hello, everyone! Today I've got a guest post from Melanie, aka busy bookblogger. Her site, Reviews of Young Adult Literature, is one of the most articulate and practical ones out there, offering straight-forward reviews aimed primarily at librarians and teachers. Since I could see she has both experience and a teacher's ability to break things down with ease, I asked her to put together her tips for writers seeking reviews from book bloggers. Here's what she had to say...

A Force to Be Reckoned With:  The Power of Book Bloggers

When I started my Young Adult book review blog in 2008, I joined a community without even realizing it. I was a new teacher, just beginning to build an in-classroom library as part of the Alabama Reading Initiative that mandates this in my home state.  At that time, the Book Blogging community was made up of very few bloggers who spent a great deal of time and effort requesting ARCs from authors, agents, and publishers. Plus a few more that were just reviewing the books they purchased.

Fast forward to 2012, that very same community has expanded exponentially, is still gaining some serious momentum, and the Young Adult literary genre has exploded. Presently, many established book review bloggers get a steady flow of books from agents, authors, and publishers without even having to ask. Even those of us, like myself, who target a specific group—my particular book blog is aimed at middle and high school teachers and librarians—still get quite a few personal requests for reviews. As bloggers move from beggars to choosers, many of them now have reputable relationships with individual authors and literary agents—quite a shift from 2008.

In addition to growth in numbers, the book blogging community went from obscure to “a force to be reckoned with” as Ms. Gehrman so tactfully put it in an email to me. Quotes from book blogger reviews can be found on several young adult books. I can still remember the excitement/shock of seeing one of my own review blurbs on Jennifer Echols’ author website. When I came across the paperback edition of Robin Benway’s “Audrey, Wait!” with book blogger quotes on it, I nearly fell over in my local Barnes and Noble. I remember thinking, Hey, I KNOW these people. Well, sort of.

I have a theory that this shift in power—or maybe power is the wrong word, importance or significance maybe? Anyhow, my hypothesis is that this shift has lot to do with the recent reduction of traditional book reviews in newspapers and mainstream media. While many bloggers are just simply reviewing the books they read—regardless of how they got them, those reviews have started to have a major impact – one that can be positive or negative. And that impact matters to agents, authors, and publishers. Book review blogs have begun to do more than just summarize, rate, and review. Most book bloggers promote books by doing cover reveals, author interviews, giveaways, and online book tours.  I can’t even tell you the last time I purchased a book without checking out some of the reviews on my favorite book blogs as well as on Amazon. Times are tough and book buying budgets are tight, for individuals and for schools. No one wants to waste 16.99 on something they won’t enjoy.

Just as literary agents have preferences when it comes to query letters and submissions, book reviewers have personal preferences that are important for authors and agents to consider when sending out review copies. A few other things are pretty important too, so I have compiled a brief(ish) list of things to think about when preparing to send your book out for review.

*Book blogging takes TIME. Most bloggers have full-time jobs, school work, children, a growing TBR pile, and other hobbies. When you send a book or a request for a review, a blogger might not be able to get to yours right away.  Or they might not be able to accept your book at all at that time. Don’t get angry and set fire to that bridge; chances are they will do what they can to help promote your book even if they can’t review it right away. Maybe suggest a cover reveal, prepared interview, or giveaway instead.  (Tread carefully though, book bloggers like original content so maybe don’t give a dozen bloggers the same prepared interview or guest post—not that you would do a silly thing like that!)

*Review Policies. This is simple. Every good book review blogger has one. Read it. It will probably answer a lot of questions like what specific genres they prefer, what they need from you such as bio info, cover art, etc. Some may even give a specific time frame for when they can post the review. They took the time to write it, take the time to read it before you contact them.  If they include an About Me section, maybe read that too.

*They’re just not that into you(r) book. Ouch. Talk about awkward. Sometimes you read the review policy, contact the blogger, they agree to review your book, but when they post their review, it’s not a good one. Or worse, they say they couldn’t even finish your book, much less think of anything nice to say about it. It’s like a stab to your soul, I know. Honestly, bloggers feel a certain amount of pressure to say mostly positive things when the author or agent has contacted them personally, but that doesn’t guarantee a positive review. Writing a book and getting it published are huge accomplishments, the last thing any reviewer wants to do is to diminish someone else’s hard work. Try and remember that bloggers have an audience just like you do; they have a responsibility to that audience to be honest so that their blog maintains its voice and integrity.

*Do your homework before you ask a specific blogger to review your book. What is the blogger’s preferred genre? Do they accept self-published books? Do they mention their policy on negative reviews? Will they post it or give you an opportunity to veto? Will they let your read the review before they post it? Do they also post reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble? Have they written some seriously scathing reviews of books similar to yours that make you cringe? If the blogger hates Sci-Fi and has said so on their blog but you send your teen alien love story to them anyways, don’t be surprised if you don’t like their review.  And if they do post that soul stabbing negative review on every social media site known to man, remember you chose to send it to them.  Avoid retaliation at all costs, even if you didn’t send them your book and they obtained it all on their own. Chin up, it’s just one review. Slap a Hello Kitty Band-Aid on your soul and keep going.

(Sidenote:  Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe trilogy, wrote a post on accepting negative reviews and I literally cannot say it better so stop by her blog and check it out sometime.)

*Etiquette. Sometimes the Internet makes us brave. In a really dangerous, “why on Earth did I tweet that?” sort of way. Some reviewers dislike being contacted anywhere other than the particular email address given on their blog. Stick to the protocol and avoid calling them out on Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads, unless their handy dandy review policy says it’s okay.  Bonus points if you send your book with a nice little handwritten note and/or signed to them personally. It won’t change the review, but bloggers are people too and it’s a nice touch.

And okay, this wasn’t as brief as I’d planned but I included everything I felt would be helpful. Utilized correctly, book review blogs are an excellent (and free!) way to generate some buzz around your book. Are there bloggers out there who will post only happy-fluffy-sparkly positive reviews of books sent to them by authors, agents, and publishers, regardless of how they actually feel about the book? There are. Just as there are, sadly, bloggers who are in it for the free books—though, in my experience, their blogs don’t have much staying power.

Overall the book blogging community is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people who want to promote fantastic books and fabulous authors.  I can’t describe how happy it makes me when someone comments on a review of mine, saying it made him or her want to run out and buy that book! As an English teacher, I am absolutely thrilled by the astounding amount of Young Adult books available today. As a blogger, I am wholeheartedly grateful to be a part of an online community that goes above and beyond to generate publicity in celebration of these books and their authors.

Links to some sites I mentioned:

About Me:
Busy BookBlogger is my not-so-secret blogger identity. My real name is Melanie. I’m originally from Ohio but currently live in Alabama and have been reviewing Young Adult books, mostly school appropriate ones, since 2008. I am “Busy” because I am a High School English Teacher, a mom, a wife, a Sunday School teacher, and I do a little writing of my own. I recently finished my own YA novel, loosely based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s classic poem “Christabel,” and am in the process of agent-seeking. Over the past 4 years I have developed many deeply cherished relationships with some seriously awesome authors and fellow bloggers. I consider myself a little fish in the book blogging community, and I like it that way! I am currently accepting YA novels for review and can be found online via twitter @BusyBookBlogger and at

Friday, August 24, 2012

Protection Against Black Magic

Do you suspect someone's put a curse on you? Do you have more than your share of flat tires, computer malfunctions, and bad hair days? Learning about the tricks of a witch has been my job ever since I started researching Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, so I've been extra aware of both dark and light forces at work in our everyday lives.

Here are some links to spells intended to guard against voodoo curses, hexes, and the evil eye:

Or, if you're in a more whimsical frame of mind, try...

Sadie's Basic Protection Spell For Beginners:

Ingredients: 4 pinches dried New Mexican sage, a handful of powdered adder’s tongue, seven drops lavender oil, a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, 2 scoops pulverized bat wing, 1 drop hummingbird urine, 7 toadstools (moist, preferably gathered at night by a river), 3 crushed magnolia seeds.

1.   Add ingredients to a medium-sized cast-iron cauldron in the order listed.
2.   Pour boiling water over the mixture until steam begins to form.
3.   Blow on steam until it rises in a thick swirling motion and begins to emerge as an             ephemeral blue cloud. (Note: it should swirl in a clockwise motion. If it swirls             counterclockwise, your toadstools are not fresh enough and you must begin again. If moist toadstools cannot be procured, try iguana droppings mixed with melted silver crayon instead.)

(Reprinted from Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I love that so many bloggers are encouraging people to read about witchcraft and magic! Sure, I love it for selfish reasons, but also for altruistic reasons--namely, that witchy books deserve to shine, since so many of them are really, really good--enchanting, even.

The Domestic Pagan, that lovely creature who brought you the Pagan Reading Challenge, is now hosting a readathon, complete with prizes. I've already let her know I'd like to throw my witch's hat into the ring and pony up with some prizes, so I'll keep you posted on that. For now, head on over to her blog and sign up. Think of it: autumnal leaves spinning wildly through the air, the scent of woodsmoke on the breeze, and you curled up by the fire, reading about spells and broomsticks and things that make magic in the night.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Magical Chocolate Cake Recipe (Warning: Serious Aphrodisiac)

Quick Reminder First: Tonight at Midnight the Dark of the Moon Giveaway ends! Get your Witchieness with a side of necromancers for free, but do it now or miss out. After tonight the price will skyrocket to an astronomical 99 cents once again.

Okay, onto other news: I got an email this morning from All Romance E-Books. They're putting out a call for submissions. Editors there are looking for recipes for a new book they're planning called Passionate Cooks: Free Recipes from Today's Hottest Romance Authors. Since Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft already contains a number of recipes (some for desserts, some for spells) I thought I'd submit mine. Follow the link above for guidelines if you feel like sending them yours.

And then I thought, hey, I really should start sharing some of Audrey's recipes and spells on my blog. Why not? Y'all deserve a little culinary magic, right?

Magical Chocolate Cake
 Warning: May induce feelings of intense lust and even love, especially when baked by a witch and served fresh.
·      4 ounces super awesome (i.e. expensive) bittersweet chocolate
·      1 stick unsalted butter
·      3/4 cup sugar
·      3 eggs
·      1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
·      Fresh berries (optional)
·      Whipped cream and/or caramel (optional)

1.   Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.
2.   Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler, melt chocolate with butter until smooth.
3.   Whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well.
4.   Sift ½ cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture until combined—don’t stir more than needed.
5.   Pour batter into pan and bake 25 minutes, or until thin crust forms on top.
6.   Let cool 5 minutes, then invert onto serving plate. Top with fresh berries, drizzled caramel or whipped cream if desired (you know you do).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's that time of the month again! No, not that time, Dark of the Moon time, when AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT is no longer 99 cents, but drops instead to FREE. Yes, you heard me, FREE! Can't get much more magical than that.

WHEN: August 16th, 17th and 18th (ends at midnight on the 18th)

Hope you're all out celebrating the new moon with a little star gazing and witchy reading. Here's to an enchanting last few weeks of summer and an even better fall!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I'm VERY excited about this upcoming event. I know it's not until October, but still! Never too early to get revved up for Halloween, right?

Here's how the hosts, Rainy Day Ramblings and Babbling About Books, describe it:
Something Wicked Comes....bringing Zombies, Werewolves, Vampires, Ghosts, Witches and more Oh My!  What is this wicked thing?  Why a month long blogging event celebrating all books paranormal/supernatural or Halloween related.  Every day during the month of October there will be several stops.  Each blogger will be featuring a favorite paranormal book and offering it for a giveaway.  Think of it as a month long Blog Trick or Treating Event...

They'll be hosting a review, giveaway and guest post by moi October 27th, so be sure to check it out!

I stumbled on these reading challenges more than halfway through the process (they all started in January and end in December) but I'm so excited about them I just have to share! There's The Domestic Pagan's 2012 Pagan Reading Challenge and then there's Pagan Culture's Witchy Books Reading Challenge. They're all great opportunities to band together with other witch enthusiasts and read a lot of witchy books. Whether you like your witchcraft to stay purely in the imaginary realms or you actually practice the craft, it's cool to read books on the subject and compare notes with others; we can all find new writers that way. It's exciting to realize that so many other people are fascinated by witches, paganism and magic, especially with fall and Halloween looming on the horizon!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Melissa's Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge

Hello, witch lovers! I just wanted to highlight this super exciting witch-friendly event hosted by Melissa at the Eclectic Bookshelf (see her button in the sidebar). She's challenging folks to read as many books featuring witches and/or witchcraft as they can. She's actually been running it all year, but it doesn't end until the end of December, so we've still got time.

Here are her rules (in her words):
Challenge Rules:
  1. This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 - Dec 31, 2012.  I will be posting a place to link up a sign-up post (below), reviews and a wrap-up post. (Note: You do not have to review the books to participate, but only those who link up reviews will be entered for the prize)
  2. Grab the reading challenge button (code & button below) and post this reading challenge on your blog to track your progress. Please include a link back to this sign-up post so others can join the reading challenge too. You do not have to be a book blogger to participate- you could track your progress and post reviews on  Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc.
  3. Any full length book that includes a witch as a main character or major witchcraft elements counts.  They may be fiction or non-fiction.  However, they should not be reference books which are not read cover to cover-I will leave this to your discretion.  
  4. Books can be any format (bound, eBook, audio).
  5. Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  6. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
  7. When you sign up in the linky put the direct link to your post about joining the 2012 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge.
  8. You can move up levels, but no moving down.
  9. Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
  10. Have some Witchy Good Fun !!!

I did tons of research while writing AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, so here's a list of witch books I've read (and loved) so far:

1) The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
2) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
3) Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
4) Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
5) Practical Magic (one of my very favorites! A classic) by Alice Hoffman
6) Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (LOVE her too)
7) The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
8) The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
9) Bras and Broomsticks by Sarah Mlynowski
10) Frogs and French Kisses by Sarah Mlynowski
11) Jinx by Meg Cabot
12) Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell
13) The Kitchen Witch by Annette Blair
14) The Witch of Portobello by Paolo Cohello
15) The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
16) The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch
17) Once a Witch by Carolyn McCullough

I'm reading The White Glove Wars (sequel to The Magnolia League) by Katie Crouch right now. I think she's awesome! Northern California girls venturing into the deep, swampy, spooky south totally does it for me. Plus I got to meet her once when we were on a panel together, and she's very smart and cool.

Join Melissa's Witch challenge and I'll happily send you a free e-copy of AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tonight's the Full Moon, and that means it's only a couple weeks until DARK OF THE MOON, when I'll be giving away more free copies of AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT.  That's coming up August 16th and ends at Midnight August 18th. Just follow this link during that period to get a little free witchieness with a side of necromancers for any e-reader or computer:

If you're still into paperbacks, head over to the Facebook page for AUDREY. With just a simple "like" you'll be automatically entered to win a free signed print copy when the moon goes dark.