"Road to BEA" Updated Version of Book Blogging 101

Click the now deceased Tootsie Pop Owl to get to the retro version of Book Blogging 101

Book Blogging “101” With  Fantastyfreak’s stand-in: Muzzy (obvious copyright infringement..)


    In the past, I’ve commissioned the Tootsie Pop Owl until he got one too many licks in his perpetual game of trying to get to the core/essence of the Tootsie Pop. Also, I sorta had some legality issues, and in the name of copyright infringement, I decided to veer more towards a British spokesperson, who also is bilingual.If you don’t know who Muzzy is, watch this fantastic commercial that is comprised of cheesy nineties hair styles, and outdated clothing! (Plus, the  spokes-lady, with the cheery voice, could totally pull off a David Bowie ala. Labyrinth look)

       Oftentimes, my blog posts are exceedingly long to the extent where they could easily pass as the endless stream of overwrought exposition text at the beginning of the Star War films.

   Since this particular blog contains some very important information for beginner bloggers, Muzzy will be interviewing me in English, not Spanish, French, Italian, or derivatives/dialects of these languages.

Blogging Advice for Beginners, Featuring Muzzy as the Interviewer.

Muzzy: So Fantastyfreak, you’ve been blogging for quite some time. How does one start a blog? We know you can’t just have your blog posts featured as Facebook notes. One has to use either Blogger or WordPress to first create a blog.
FF:Muzzy, I would advise beginner bloggers to use blogger because I find WordPress to be overly complicated, and I think most beginner bloggers are hindered by the fear of the technical aspect of blog creation more-so than the writing the posts. There are many readers that would love to express their love for literature, and promote titles that they found to be worthwhile and worthy of being recommended to other readers that might find such a book just as captivating. Blogger has a great tutorial for creating the blog,and the various layout options are neatly organized and clearly labeled. I’ve tried WordPress before, and just got lost trying to create the layout and place banners on the side of the page afterwords. I’m not dissuading people from using WordPress, but I personally find Blogger to overall be a much easier program for those who are not tech-savvy. I know, I’m not. I still have problems with setting hanging indents for Works Cited pages on college papers. If you don’t know how to use Blogger, I suggest doing a Google search for “Tips on how to Start a Blog on Blogger.” Right now, I don’t feel like my technical instructions about how to start a blog would be very helpful, when there are other spaces on the internet dedicated to simpler, more effective instructions on such things.

Muzzy:A lot of bloggers are confused about the methods of attaining review copies for forthcoming releases from publishers. More importantly, they don’t know whether you just rudely impose on the publisher, and write an email plea for an ARC, or are there easier ways?
FF: I actually started my blogging career on a Blog Tour Alliance, and blog tour groups can easily be found using Google. Recently, I just joined Bewitching Blog Tours, and also joined another group dedicated to Young Adult Fiction through Book Bloggers, which is a wonderful social media tool for bloggers to have a space where they can share their blogging activity and also confer about questions and nagging frustrations with blogging. Also, I wholeheartedly recommend NetGalley, where you can easily sign up for different electronic advanced reader copies that can be read on Adobe Reader, or sent to either your Kindle or Nook. Its wonderful because you don’t have to build up a stock of physical copies in your room. In the past few years, I’ve started to amass far too many unread books that I initially thought I might like, only to later learn they were lackluster and not in the confines of what I normally find entertaining and readable.

Beginner bloggers should be judicious about what books they commit to reviewing and also realistically ask themselves: “Will I really read this?” When your blog develops more of a presence online, you’ll begin getting inquiries from publishers, and its easy to think to yourself gleefully “OHHH!! Free BOOKS!!” No, you must stamp those unrealistic impulses out, and try to only commit to reviewing books that you really believe you might like. Realistically, even a novel’s premise may be unsatisfactory and is not a good judge on whether or not you’ll actually enjoy the book because the writing itself might be riddled with errors. That is inevitable;therefore, its best to try to set achievable book review goals. You are bound to despise some books. I’m a very picky reader and can tell that I won’t enjoy something by approximately ten pages. Remember, publishers and authors are depending on you to help promote a forthcoming release, thus its polite to try and review their books that you reply in return with absolution. At the beginning of blogging, I was far too disorganized and a bit trigger-happy. I tended to say “Yes” to everything. In the last year, I’ve striven to “politiely” say no, and bid the author good luck on their book release.  While everyone should have fun blogging, it still requires responsibility, and I’ve recently been trying to “atone” for my blogging related sins.

Muzzy: What about contests? Do you recommend them? I hear many beginning bloggers quizzically ask:”How can I have fancy graphics or contests?” How many contests should a book blog have, and just have flashy should the colors and graphics be?

FF: See, I’ve encountered this problem numerous times and reading other blogs can be a trial of envy. Every time, I look at another blog; I see higher numbers of followers and more comments. Feeling forlorn, I wonder to myself: “What am I doing wrong? Where are my readers?” First of all, all beginner bloggers should divest themselves of any motivations to shape their blog to conform to some blogging standard. I hate to see creative bloggers be crushed by the presence of so many flashy blogs. Its better to rely on the style that you feel most comfortable with. Of course you should have an area on the right side of your blog that shows publisher and possible writers an email address where all inquiries about possible reviews can be sent, and contests are fun, but I really don’t like them. Conversely, contests are pure drudgery and I’ve always wanted a blog with substantive posts, and not just billboard-style reviews. I’m not here only to advertise books with insipid, uninteresting reviews, but write something I want to read. While, there are some aesthetically-pleasing blogs with great substance. I have been dismayed to see some book blogs crowded with flashy graphics, and pithy reviews with no substance. Don’t cave into pressure and use other blogs not as something to covet, but to perhaps begin building relationships with other bloggers. Blogging does not need to be competitive, and it does not have to be something one does in alienation either.

      Recently, I feel like I don’t do enough of the former, but I’m trying to reach out more. In the last two years, I’ve been sharing my Anne Rice-related blog posts with members of her Facebook page, and I’ve been indebted to Anne Rice’s active presence with fans for keeping things here enlivened. My book blog, at one point, nearly went extinct, until I find myself remembering that blogging is not stringently attached to how many followers or comments one compiles. It is about stretching yourself creatively and having the opportunity to be able to autonomously maintain your own media space of sorts. Be yourself when blogging, and never succumb to outside pressure to have a blog that is uniform, and not unique! Also, do what you feel is most comfortable with your schedule. Oftentimes, I drastically slow things down during my college semester because I’m a writing tutor/full-time college student outside of blogging. Blogging might remain a summer activity for now. 

Muzzy: We are getting down to the metaphoric wire, Fantastyfreak. I have only two more questions, before that scary lady (my agent) with the frizzy blonde hair comes back to forcefully record more videos for the BBC. Anyways, How does want get to BEA, and should prospective BEA attendees make business cards for their blog?

FF:Signing up for Book Expo America is pretty simple. You just have to go their web page sometime in either January or February and sign up as part of the Media. I still haven’t figured out the whole  difference between editorial/non-editorial option, so I can’t really explicitly state which to choose. Either way, I would suggest contacting someone who represents BEA, and asking them for a specific answer.

Anyways, my first year of Book Expo America was pretty overwhelming, and taxing. I literally dragged four bags of books home on the Amtrak train. Again, I had a little too much fervor about Book Expo America, and took one too many ARCs. You should always be judicious when choosing ARCs, and realistically think about how you’ll transport them home.  Otherwise, the experience will be marred by the long trek from the Javitz Center to Penn station or elsewhere. 

About business cards, I never had them for the first two years. For the first time, I got about 400 for the convention and plan to interact more this year with representatives from publishers I normally recieve books from. I would also suggest giving business cards to other bloggers, when you are waiting in line with others. Your business cards are not only resigned to being for publishers, but also bloggers and even librarians or other attendees.  When engaging in conversation, be natural and don’t feel forced to be false. Its better to express your blogging as an extension of yourself, rather than something you dread doing. 

Muzzy: A lot of bloggers feel discouraged after their third review. What are the best way of combating the feeling of being in the “blogger doldrums?

I just had this problem yesterday, and wondered “Why the hell do I keep blogging?” Rather than allow myself to sink into the morass of self-pity, I decided to re-strategize and plan theme months like “Zombie May” “Anti-hero June” to give me a theme to work with, thus making it easier to organize my reviews. May has been thus far my most successful blog month and normally a momentum like this could result in a dry spell. About compensation, I wouldn’t do this for that. Its better to think that you are doing this mostly for yourself, and not to garner acclaim from others. Whenever, I write a review for an author’s work and do a feature here, I make sure to share it with them through Facebook, Twitter, or even through email. Blogging requires connecting with writers and publishers. I’ve never really had any disenchanting encounters; the worst response you’ll get is an apologetic email about being busy or just no answer at all. My connections with authors has been the reason this blog stays afloat, and many of these authors are really cool people. They are not formidable demons that seek your demise.

   When you’re in the doldrums, don’t keep burying yourself further in the pit, but find creative ways of getting yourself out! We all get discouraged sometimes, and therefore it is best to just keep pushing yourself and set achievable goals for yourself. If your blog is something that is not daunting, but is something that is individualized and creative, blogging will not become the drudgery that is can become if you don’t constantly remind yourself that “the blog is your property, but its also somewhere where you share in the love and promotion of literature!”

Muzzy: Thanks Fantastyfreak for this stimulating interview, though it is still as lengthy as your other posts!

FF: Once I start talking, I can’t stop! Anyways, I’ll be sure to update my blog this Tuesday. For now, this blog will be on hiatus during Memorial Day Break. Enjoy your Memorial Day Break and feel free to email me any blog-related questions at narniafanatic(at)gmail(dot)com.


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