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.
- My name is Kristopher Zgorski
- Regularly attend Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and other books events in the MD/DC area.
- Some of my reviews are syndicated in Crimespree Magazine, Deadly Pleasures Magazine, and Shots UK e-zine.
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:
- Now Available
- Snowblind and Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson
- All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
- Die of Shame by Mark Billingham
- I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
- Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
- 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.
So sorry I couldn’t be there. Sounds like it was a great talk.
We missed you Barb. There was more spur of the moment stuff at the meeting, but this is a good summary of most of the topics.
Terrific recap here, Kristopher! I’m sorry again that I missed, but so much enjoyed reading this.
Thanks Art. I figure this is useful information for everyone to have. There was more, but this is a good outline of the types of things we discussed.
It was an excellent presentation with something for the author, would-be author, and the reader. Thank you!
Glad to hear that, Aubrey. We tried to make it interesting for everyone.
Loved your informative blogging recap, so I took this opportunity to review your 2015 Bucheron recap to help prepare for my visit to this year’s Bucheron in New Orleans. Hope to see you there.
Thanks LaDonna. Glad that you are getting some useful information from the blog. In case you missed it, there was also a series of Preparing for Bouchercon posts that folks found to be very useful:
And yes, I hope that we do have an opportunity to meet in New Orleans. It will be here before we know it.
Kristopher, love getting a closer look at how the serious book blogger works. You describe accepting some books authors pitch to you; do you get other books from publishers? Has that pipeline changed with some of the recent changes in publishing? Do you feel that publishers understand and appreciate the role of the serious book blogger these days?
Many thanks — keep up the great work!
Leslie, yes I get many, many books directly from the publishers. Some publishers are better than others on this and it varies greatly from one blogger to another. I was just talking about the reputation of bloggers on another Facebook post. I think this is still a work in progress. Some publishers really do understand that value of the serious book blogger, while others lump all bloggers together. There are some bloggers out there just to get free books, but you can easily tell by the quality and quantity of their posts. Always check that before pitching anywhere. The UK publishing industry seems to have better accepted the book blogger world – they are always posting to Twitter and such when a book is available. The US could still do better, but they are getting there. What both need to do better is pitching the right books to the right blogs, but that takes more man-hours and I just don’t think they have that in the budget.
I wish everyone could have been there — your stories, along with Dru Ann’s — made it such an interesting and informative event!
Thanks Sherry. I know that Dru Ann and I could have talked for quite a bit longer. There really is so much to cover. But I’m glad we got some of the basic information out there. But, oh, the stories. So many!
Terrific information. Will be adding your link to some author loops I’m on. Thanks so much!
Thanks Ritter. As blogs become increasingly more important in the marketing of books, I hope this helps some authors understand the basics.