From the Booking Desk:

On Saturday, July 9, Dru Ann Love and I presented a panel on Blogging to the members of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. We structured the discussion like a book and I promised to post a recap. Here is the working outline I used for this event, with some key points mentioned. Dru Ann has also posted a recap of her portion on Dru’s Book Musings.


Cover: An introduction to our blogs and ourselves.

Prologue:  How we started blogging and our goals.

  • I came at it with a desire to both read and write.
  • Put my degree in English to additional practical use.
  • While I read everything, I decided to focus the blog on one genre – Crime Fiction
  • The name ties into that focus. BOLO – Police Acronym for Be On the Look Out.
  • Remember that most bloggers pay money to run and maintain their blogs. I make no money on my blog, but a few bloggers do sell advertising or affiliate links.
  • My ultimate goal is to encourage reading, so I keep reviews as spoiler-free as possible – something that many of the “professional” reviewers seem not to take into consideration.

Chaper 1:  Our review philosophy, how we choose what to review, where we will and won’t post our reviews, positive vs. negative reviews, etc.

  • My reviews are meant to help readers find quality books.
  • Please don’t send me a link to purchase your book when pitching it for review on the blog. I review plenty of books that I purchase, but never once because an author told me to.
  • Make sure you included all necessary information about the book and yourself in the pitch.
  • Share the review when it posts or get others to share the review (if you don’t like self-promotion). A review that gets few hits means I probably will think twice about reviewing the next in the series.
  • Use my name when pitching and show that you have visited the blog. Helps if you have shared other reviews/posts from the blog previously. Think of the author/blog connection as a relationship – both sides need to bring something to the table. Like you as a writer, a blogger is trying to build an audience: otherwise, why would we do it? So help us with our goals as we help you with yours.
  • But don’t act like we (or readers) owe you a review. Always be kind and gracious – not just in this, but in life!
  • I rarely review bestsellers – they don’t really need the boost. Exceptions to this may be if I reviewed an author before they were a bestseller, I might continue to review the series or when a big name author is a Guest of Honor at a convention, I might cover their latest book to help promote the Con.
  • I don’t do negative reviews. I really do believe that every book has a reader and every reader a book. How I feel about a book can be dependent on where I am (mentally) at the time I read it. Reading again later, I may love something I hated previously, so I am not in the business of discouraging folks from reading something they feel they might enjoy. As such, I end up reviewing maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the crime fiction I read.
  • I’m pretty good at gauging my interest in a book by the author, sub-genre, and synopsis. Of course, at times I am completely wrong.
    • But if I say no, say thank you and move on to another blog. There is a reason I am saying no, trust that the blogger knows their audience.
  • Key subgenres for me are: Domestic suspense; psychological suspense; traditional mysteries. I read cozies, but they are always ones that are targeted to my interests.
  • I don’t really have the time to explore self-published work enough to discover the gems in the mix of poorly written/edited/marketed work.
    • Feel free to pitch it however, as if a book seems interesting enough to me, I will read it.
    • There are many blogs that focus solely on self-published works, seek them out.
  • I don’t post reviews to Amazon/Goodreads. My reviews tend to run 500-700 words, lots of effort and time put into them, so I can’t justify posting them alongside the un-curated reviews at those sites. All I have is my reputation, so I won’t risk tarnishing that.
    • A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t ask the same of a “professional reviewer,” you might think twice before asking a book blogger to do it. A “professional reviewer” is simply someone who is lucky enough to get paid for their work, but the quality of those reviewers varies as widely as the quality of book bloggers.
  • Think of book blogs in this way: The major newspapers reviews are like Barnes and Noble, while a good book blog is like an Independent Bookstore – it has a more focused “inventory”, aimed at getting the reader to read (no spoilers), and able build a loyal audience who returns for recommendations.

Chapter 2: Our Guest Post goals, what we ask of authors who guest post.

  • As one person, I can only read so much. But I do occasionally offer Guest Post slots to authors.
    • Also I do interviews, but I rarely accept a pitch for an interview. When I am interested in an author or a book, I will ask for an interview. On both sides, there is more work involved in an interview, but those do tend to have very long staying power in terms of interest on the blog – returns decent hits for years in some cases.
  • I want original content – no blog tours – that would be interesting to my audience. Some blogs love tours, but my sense is that they are losing popularity – especially ones that repeat the same/similar content throughout the tour.
  • I am more likely to agree to a guest post if pitched with an idea of what the post would be about and how that might interest my audience.
  • These slots are highly limited for BOLO Books, however, just because the blog is more focused as a review site.
  • If you do get a guest post on any blog, share your post on all social media outlets when it goes live. It’s work you have done, so don’t be shy about sharing it.

Chapter 3: Other ways that we spread the word on books.

A blog is more than just the followers on the website. For example, I share and talk about books on all social media outlets.

  • Post regularly on Facebook about books.
  • #bookmail on Facebook is where I sometimes show covers of things that have been sent to me. Seeing leads to buying!
  • Post pictures of books and events on Instagram
  • Tweets/Retweets from other bloggers, authors, industry professionals.
  • Be wary of blogs that offer giveaways solely as a way to boost their hits/followers. A smaller following who is reading reviews and buying based on those reviews can be more valuable than tons of folks who just want to win a free book.
  • As mentioned previously, I am syndicated in some print magazines as are other bloggers.
  • Active on panels and at conferences, where I talk constantly about books, reading, newly discovered authors.
  • Remember, local bloggers will likely to be happy to interview you at book launches and events. I’ve done several of these (Lyndsay Faye and David Swinson) recently.

Chapter 4: Stories from the life of blogging: this could be anything that makes for an interesting story.

Chapter 5: Book recommendations: Some recent books we loved, things we are looking forward to:

  • Upcoming
    • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (July)
    • The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood (August US, out now in UK)
    • The Fixes by Owen Matthews (Owen Laukkenan) (August)
    • Crime and Music Anthology (September)
      • w/ stories by Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Brendan DuBois & music industry folks like Jim Fusilli

Index: Open it to audience questions

From the Booking Desk:

While these comments are mostly about BOLO Books (and in Dru’s case about Dru’s Book Musings), in most cases these are things we have heard/discussed with many other book bloggers, so the content probably applies to a large portion of this ever-growing field.