By Narelle Atkins and Jenny Blake
Jenny and I are co-founders of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA). During our many conversations, I asked Jenny to share what a reader would gain from belonging to a blog alliance. I understand authors need to build a marketing platform and blog tours are one way authors can interact with readers and promote their books online. But, what exactly are the benefits for readers who join a blog alliance?
Jenny: There are a few benefits for readers, one being free books to read. With so many new books coming out and the cost of books, receiving one or two free books a month to read and review is a real blessing. Readers also get to know new authors. Readers who join blog alliances and are faithful in posting reviews will sometimes find authors contact them to promote their books which leads to more free books to review. Also, being in an alliance can bring new readers to your blog and open new opportunities. One other benefit is the html is provided for the post so the only additional information to add is a book review if you request the book.
Narelle: What inspired you to start blogging?
Jenny: I actually fell into blogging. I joined Shelfari, a site where you can keep a record of books read, leave reviews and connect with other book lovers. On this site I met Rel from Relz Reviewz who also has a book blog for Christian fiction. Through her I came in contact with Camy Tang (Author) and her blog. I became a regular follower and Camy had a meme (a few questions to answer) on her blog and challenged others to post on their blog. I had to join Blogger to post on the blogs and decided I could have a blog to post reviews. Camy's challenge was my first real post. I then started posting reviews. This was December, 5 years ago. When I posted my first author interview with Mary Connealy I was so excited. My blog has developed since then to include an author interview most weeks.
Narelle: What information do you include in a book review?
Jenny: In a review I tend to use information from the book blurb, my impressions of the book but I do not give information that happens after the first couple of chapters. Authors often have hidden gems in books. For example one book I read the hero had a brother with health issues that were more an issue to the hero. The hero is trying to contact him and he is not answering. The brother then turns up where the hero is which leads to a few other interesting turns of events. In this situation the Author hasn't mentioned the brother in the blurb or the first few chapters as it's a surprise for readers. I would not mention this at all in a review no matter how much it impacts the book. I also like to say what issue the book deals with. For example if the book is dealing with trust issues or forgiveness I will mention this. You do not have to say why. If the book impacted you you can mention this without giving the story away.
Narelle: What do you do if you request a review copy and don’t like the book?
Jenny: I have had this happen to me. Most recently it was because of the language in the book which was fine for America but in Australia it was swearing. I wrote to the co-ordinator of the blog alliance and explained that I just could not read any more of the book because of the language. I still posted the html but because of the language I put a note that the book may offend some Australians. In other cases I have requested a book only to find when I started reading the book I found I just couldn't connect or didn't like the book so I didn't finish it but again I let the co-ordinator know I just couldn't get into the book. I have learnt what genres I like now and can normally tell by the blurb but in some cases the blurb can be misleading and not give an accurate description of a book.
Also, if you don't like a book and would give it under a 3 star rating, you may want to email the co-ordinator and let them know explaining why you didn't like the book and ask if they still want you to review it. Not everyone will like all books. Personally if I don't like a book after a few chapters I do not keep reading. Even if a book is only a 3 star you can still review the book and mention the positives and mention why you didn't like the book. If I can't give a book 3 stars I will not put up a review.
Narelle: Do you have any advice for readers who are thinking about blogging and reviewing books?
Jenny: My advice is just do it. Blogger is so easy to use and if you are new at reviewing just put down your thoughts for the book without giving away secrets or the plot. You will find your way with practice and people will get to know you and your voice. Decide what you want your blog to be about and how often you want to blog. Some people will set up a schedule where as others will post when they have a review to put up. Try to post at least twice a week at regular intervals.
If you're interesting in joining the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance, please visit the ACRBA blog. International members are welcome. http://acrba.blogspot.com