Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why Join a Blog Alliance?

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.


ACRBA

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

23 comments:

  1. I've run a book review blog for about two years now, reviewing Christian fiction (like Jenny and Rel). I get my review copies from ACRBA, NetGalley, and via authors (a lot of independent and small press authors contact me directly to request reviews). I enjoy reading, I enjoy reviewing, and blog tours are one way of introducing me to new authors or genres.

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    1. Thats so true Iola, I love to be able to promote different books even if I dont review them. I love to that the alliance can include different types of bloggers from fiction to non fiction to childrens.

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    2. Iola and Jenny, I agree and I like belonging to a blog alliance because it provides an opportunity to support other authors even if I haven't had time to read or review their book. Jenny provides the HTML code and it doesn't take long to upload the tour information on my blog. I encourage all reviewers who blog, both authors and readers, to consider joining a blog alliance.

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  2. Great insight into what benefits a reader can have from blogging. I love the idea of free books as well. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Thanks Lucy its is good and even if you dont request a book the html is there to be posted to promote books.

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  3. It's a great idea. I think it's something I would love to do when I'm not so committed - maybe when I finish my studies. One question Jenny - is blogging twice a month the frequency you set for yourself or is expected from all members? What sort of frequencies do other members join in on the blog tours?

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    1. Hi Jenny, We set a frequency of twice a week for all blog members. If you dont have a blog that is active and more would be better you are not going to get followers or people to come to a blog. Consistency is the key. I use to have a set regime for my blog, alliance post Monday and Wednesday, interview Thursday, often a review on Tuesday or Friday. But with being sick it has changed a little. I still like to have the interview but that too has been a little off. We list the requirements at the alliance blog and its a minimum of 2 posts a week. The week the tour is that will count. We also encourage people not requesting the book to post the html as the idea is to promote the book on mass and even just the information helps. Most of us have different followers, I know most of my are from America and Canada. Where as some have mainly Australian.

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    2. Another thing I'd add is we understand that life happens. There will be times when you won't be able to blog regularly for various reasons. I agree with Jenny that you're not going to gain a blog following if you're not consistently posting on your blog. A blog alliance isn't for you if you're not planning to post at least twice a week on a regular basis.

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  4. Thanks Jenny for sharing your story and enlightening us on the process. You're right, reviewing is a great way to widen the selection of books you are reading and bless others. Now I just need to practice writing a good review! I believe it is a skill just as is writing a novel.

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    1. Cat on a blog a review just needs to give your impressions of a book. One tip is to never review past the 3rd chapter or give away information later in the book. Talk about how the book made you feel, what values you found and how it affected you. This is a review not a book report. I find reviews that give to much info are annoying and often unless it says spoiler alert may stop me from buying a book if the secrets are given away. This is where emailing the author and telling them how much things meant in the book. I had one where something mid way through the book really touched me and helped me I couldn't put it in the review as there was no mention of it on the blurb but I could email the author and tell her. I think I may have put in the review There were a couple of surprises in the book that encouraged me because I could identify with what was happening but I cant say more without giving away to much of the story.

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    3. I agree with Jenny here about not giving away all the story in a review. Otherwise why read the book? The idea is to get others to want to read the book. I have read several book as as part of ACRBA I probably would not have read otherwise. it is a lot of fun.

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    4. Thanks Dale It is fun isn't it.

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    5. I've enjoyed the diversity of books that we've toured with ACRBA.

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  5. HI Jenny, Thanks for sharing, it was really interesting to read how you got involved with blogging and reviewing books. I've just started reviewing the books I read on goodreads. It's great to get your advice on how to do that. I particularly appreciated what you said about not reviewing past the 3rd chapter.

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    1. Thanks Linsey, you could say I fell into it and love it. not reading much the past several months has been hard on me.
      Glad I could help with the advice on reviewing I was given this early on in my reviewing life and its one that many reviewers go by. Most books you can get a sample which will include the first and sometimes second chapter. If its on the blurb it can be used but most blurbs don't give more than the first couple of chapters away either (At least good blurbs).

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    2. There are some books where the blurb gives away a key plot point - that is so annoying!

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    3. like the one thats says they marry for convenience and it happens about 4 chapters from the end.

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    4. Hi Linsey, thanks for stopping by :) Iola's post on Monday will cover in more detail how to write a book review. Iola writes excellent reviews and I appreciate her willingness to share her expertise with us.

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    5. Jenny, thanks for sharing your practical tips on how to write helpful reviews. I don't like reading reviews that have spoilers or read like a synopsis. A review should dangle a carrot and entice the reader to download a sample chapter and/or buy the book.

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    6. It's disappointing when the back cover blurb gives away the story. Although, this can be outside an author's control if they are traditionally published and their publisher writes the back cover copy.

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  6. Hi Jenny,
    I appreciated the background about how your blog got started. It sounds like it grew organically and naturally, and that's interesting to know. I agree with other comments, about the features a good review should have too.

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    1. Thanks Paula, It did I just sort of happened. I also started reviewing for myself and then fell into a couple of alliances and as you get to know authors and publishers you tend to get asked to review books. the past 6 months I have had to turn most down but will still do an interview or promote the book.

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