Saturday, 20 July 2019

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Bloggers Get Real: Mel of Book Reviews From Canada

Bloggers Get Real Graphic

Bloggers Get Real: Mel of Book Reviews From Canada


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Welcome to Bloggers Get Real! Inspired by CW of The Quiet Pond's The Pond Gets Loud series, Bloggers Get Real is a YA book bloggers spotlight interview series with the aim of celebrating and supporting YA book bloggers and the work we do, while also discussing the realities of book blogging, the YA community, and the various controversies that have sprung up. I feel it's important to keep these conversations going - our voices matter, what we do matters, and we should be heard.

I'm really excited to have be spotlighting Mel of Book Reviews From Canada today!

Mel of Book Reviews From CanadaCan you tell us a little about you and your blog?

I had started a few blogs previously to starting the one I’m currently running (including a Tumblr blog which is literally the worst website to run a book blog on). I always fell into the trap that is NetGalley and requested far too much, got overwhelmed and gave up. This time around, I decided pretty suddenly one day in October to sign up for a Wordpress Account and actually commit to blogging. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to have a continuous running list of all the books I have to read/review with the dates they need to be read and keep track of them that way. I’m fairly new at book blogging as I started my blog in October 2018.

My favourite genres are Young Adult Fantasy, contemporary and classic literature and my favourite authors are Cassandra Clare, Becky Albertalli, Jane Austen and Shakespeare. I will pick up any books with bisexual characters automatically because as I identify as bisexual myself, I like seeing my identity represented in literature.

What's unique to your blog?

I am currently running a feature (at least at the time of writing this, I don’t know if it will last) which is called Book Tag Monday where I find a different book tag each week and answer all the questions in it. A more minor unique aspect to my blog is the fact that I don’t rate books on a scale from 1-5 (and I hate that Goodreads makes me do this). I just feel that my thoughts on a book can be best expressed through words and can’t be reduced to a point value, because often my thoughts are much more complex than what a point value would allow.

We often ask authors in our interviews what they’re writing process is. But what is your blogging
process?

I write reviews as soon as I finish the book and will post it either right away or schedule it to be posted depending on the release date. Other blog posts, I will write when I have time and schedule them to be posted at a later date. I I do all the writing, editing, formatting and scheduling for my blog posts all in one go.

What other ways are you involved in the YA community?

I have a book Twitter account for my book blog (@bookreviewscan) but other than that I just run my blog and contribute to posts on other blogs occasionally.

What does book blogging mean to you?

Book blogging to me means the opportunity to share my love of books with people. It means the opportunity to hype up books I love in an amazing community and support authors.

Which of your blog posts are you most proud of?

The blog posts that I’m most proud of are the ones where the authors or publishers have replied to me and said that I had really captured either their or the author’s intentions with the book in my review. The two posts that stand out for me in relation to this are my review of The Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby and my review of Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva. The Hurricane Season was actually the very first physical ARC I ever received so to have the publisher tell me that I really captured what the author was going for with the book really meant a lot to me. With my Hold my Hand, it was the first author interaction I had that was more than just “thank you for writing the review” and actually expressed how well Barakiva thought I had captured the essence of his novel, which was really special to me.

What are your greatest book blogging achievements?

My greatest book blogging achievements are similar to my response to the previous question, as hearing that I actually captured the essence of what the author was going for with the novel in my review is always really important to me. I also like when author’s follow me (although I don’t know how I feel when they follow me before I’ve reviewed their book(s) because I do feel a slight bit of pressure to love the book). I also feel that receiving physical arcs is an accomplishment as I always thought that was something that only happened for really well-known book bloggers and not really something that would happen for me, but it did.

What do you love most about blogging/being part of the YA community?

I love being able to support the publication of books and the authors who write them.

What aspects of book blogging or being a blogger do you wish were different/better?

I wish that there was more of a focus on the content that bloggers were putting out rather than on the follower count that a blog has. I have a small but consistent following on my blog and Twitter but due to seeing so many blogs which have really high follow counts, I have felt very self-conscious about my number of followers. Additionally, while I have not had issues with receiving ARCs from publishers due to follower count in the majority of cases, I live in Canada and have heard that follower count is a major influencing factor for publishers in the U.S. when deciding whether or not to send ARCs which I wish wasn’t the case for American bloggers who are just starting out and growing their following.

Are there any aspects or elements to blogging that are more difficult for you, specifically?

Personally, I wish that follower counts did not matter as much to be taken seriously as a blogger, as I previously stated, I have a small but consistent and dedicated following and wish that I didn’t feel inadequate or self-conscious about my follower count as I often do.

What do you wish people knew about running a book blog?

I wish people knew that it takes a lot of time, effort, energy and planning and that we are doing this for a love of books with no compensation. I also wish people would recognize that this is not a full time job for us and that we still have to have regular jobs outside of blogging to make a living.

Do you feel bloggers are supported/appreciated for the time and effort we put into blogging?

I feel that we are appreciated by authors and publishers. I have had a lot of good experiences and interactions with publishers and authors as a result of my reviews. I really appreciate having that interaction and knowing that my reviews are valued.

How do you feel about authors who react, and then act, badly regarding negative reviews?

I disagree with authors who react badly to negative reviews. I understand that it must be hard to have something that you’ve put so much effort and heart into reviewed negatively but I also feel that if an author thinks they might react badly to a negative review that they should abstain from reading those reviews. Additionally, I also feel that authors should recognize that bloggers and people who write reviews are people and are allowed to have an opinion and that they also have feelings and to be attacked for that opinion will hurt.

How can the following groups of people help support bloggers more:

Publishers?

Publishers should make an effort to reach out to and interact with ownvoices bloggers in regards to upcoming publications which feature protagonists and characters from specific marginalized communities. Additionally, publishers specifically in the U.S., should give consideration to bloggers with smaller follower counts and recognize that they need to be given the opportunity and the chance to grow their following, and it helps to have a publisher on their side for that.

Authors?

I feel that authors are doing a pretty good job of supporting bloggers. I think that just continuing to interact with bloggers, sharing our reviewers and acknowledging the time and effort that we put into reviews is good.

Readers?

Readers can help support bloggers by reading our posts and retweeting/sharing posts that they particularly enjoyed. Also, I enjoy when readers interact with us and particularly enjoy when people tell me that they read/are going to read a book because of my review.

When appreciation of and support for bloggers is sometimes lacking, what keeps you coming back?

My love of books and the fact that I want to support authors is what keeps me coming back.

What are your thoughts regarding #OwnVoices?

I strongly believe in ownvoices novels. I think it is great for representation to see people from marginalized communities write about those marginalized communities, however I do believe that it should be completely up to the author’s discretion in regards to whether they want to be classified in an ownvoices category if they do not want to out themselves for any reason, and should not feel pressured to be classified in any way that they are not comfortable with. In regards to ownvoices bloggers, I really believe that publishers, as I mentioned in a previous question should make an effort to contact ownvoices bloggers in regards to ARCS first and get those ARCs into the hands of marginalized communities represented in ownvoices novels. Only after ARCs have been sent to the publisher’s ownvoices reviewers who wish to review the book should remaining ARCs be distributed to reviewers not represented by the book.

What are your thoughts in regards to how the YA community approaches problematic books, the response of publishers when a book is called out, and how those outside the community react to the YA community calling books out?

In recent months, I find it quite horrifying how quick publishers are to pull potentially problematic books written by POC but are just as quick to stand by white authors whose books are also problematic even when they are challenged about this.

I actually had a conversation with a publisher recently regarding this, which was about a specific book but I feel that certain statements that I made in the conversation are relevant to this discussion: "I believe that it is wrong to use the assumption of a character’s race which is not explicitly stated in the book to critique a novel especially when it has resulted in  publication being pulled on a debut novel by a POC author. I think others assuming a character’s race is problematic and minimizes the importance of having diverse books with ownvoices POC characters. Additionally, it seems rooted in ethnocentrism to believe that all stories must be understood and viewed from a North American, specifically U.S. perspective which does not allow or account for the myriad of diverse cultures and heritages which authors come from and which they should be able to write about freely both to express their own understanding of the world and expand reader’s knowledge of the events and histories of other countries and worlds outside a North American lens."

What are your thoughts regarding the materialistic aspect to some elements of being a part of the YA community?

I disagree with the materialistic aspects of the YA community. While I think it’s great if bloggers want to and have the means to purchase hardcovers, props for bookstagram, use final copies in posts etc. , I don’t think that your ability or lack of ability to purchase books has any impact on how good you are at blogging or how passionate you are about books and I wish more focus was put on the quality of the blogging rather than on the amount of money that was spent to make a post look nice.

What are your thoughts about bloggers monetising their blogs, and idea of book bloggers getting paid?

I support bloggers getting paid, we put a lot of time, effort and energy into posts so it would be nice to get paid and if bloggers have figured out how to do this, I support them fully. I would love to figure out how to get paid to blog, but I haven’t figured that out and don’t have a large enough following yet.

What advice/reassurances/advance FYIs would you give to anyone thinking about starting a book blog?

Don’t worry about spending too much money on books when you’re first starting your blog, review the books that you have on your shelf in order to build your blog and then start requesting ARCS. Also, I have had great luck with requesting on Edelweiss and not so much luck on NetGalley, I have heard conflicting reports regarding this but I would say try requesting on both and seeing which one you get more approvals on. I would also say don’t be afraid to e-mail publishers and ask for ARCs, I didn’t think I would have any luck requesting books and I have actually had quite a few sent to me.

If you are a marginalised blogger, what YA books would you recommend as having great rep?

Some books which have great bisexual representation are:

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon Once and Future by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare

And finally, can you tell us about three of your favourite book bloggers, and why you love each of them?

Three of my favourite book bloggers are: Musings of a Book Girl, Vicky Who Reads and Lucy’s Novel Purpose, I love all of their writing styles, reviews and blog posts.

Thank you, Mel, for your fantastic answers. I love what Mel says about propblematic books by authors of colour being pulled when those by white authors are supported, it's so true. As is what she says about how publishers should reach out to #OwnVoices reviewers! And I agree that content should be considered more than stats.

Be sure to visit Mel's blog Book Reviews from Canada, and follow her on Twitter, and Goodreads.

Check out the other interviews for Bloggers Get Real, and if you are a YA book blogger who would like to take part, do email me!

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