Armchair BEA: Ask the Experts!

It’s the final day of Armchair BEA, so THE MADNESS is about to end. (Are you relieved?) Maybe I’ll even be able to post a book review again! Imagine that!

Actually, the reason I haven’t posted a review this week is because I’ve been working on the same one since Monday. I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts into words. I really should just take a break from it and review a different book, since I’m holding about 5 reviews hostage in my brain right now. But it’s my Everest. I must conquer it.

(And now I definitely can’t tell you what book it is, because you’re going to expect the review to be EPIC, and it won’t be).

So today’s topic is “Ask the Experts,” where we offer advice about blogging, and also pose any questions we may have, in the hopes that someone with answers will stop by and help us out.

Since I’m a pretty new blogger, I’ll have a lot more questions than answers, but I do have some tips that have already helped me get noticed (on a very small scale, but again, everyone has to start somewhere!)

  • Twitter. Other social media too, but seriously, if you’re blogging and not utilizing Twitter, you’re missing out.
  • Participate in memes. Not a ton of them. You don’t want to be so caught up in memes that you forget to actually blog about books (she says as she winds up a week of no reviews). But they drive traffic to your site, and like-minded people will probably stay.
  • Be professional. Presenting yourself to publishers, publicists, authors, and other bloggers. No, you don’t have to call everyone on Twitter “Sir” and “Ma’am.” (actually, if you call a 25-year-old blogger “Ma’am,” she may secretly hate you). But you do need to treat others with respect and courtesy. Don’t explode all over yourself with the ALL CAPS and the MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!! Oh, and please, just for my sanity, please don’t use text-speak in your blog post. K thx.
  • Comment, comment, comment. And no, commenting on someone else’s blog with “Hi! Great post! Come follow my blog?” does not count. That’s pretty much spam. But meaningful comments that facilitate discussion help make you part of the community and establish connections with other bloggers.
  • NetGalley. Fantastic resource to get advance digital copies of a lot of books.

Okay, so those are my brief words of wisdom. Now for my questions. If you’re an established blogger (or author, publisher or publicist — I’m not picky) and can shed some light on these topics, I’d love it.

  • How established do I need to be before requesting ARCs from publishers? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE NetGalley and have gotten a ton of great titles from there, and today I finally got my first approval for a book on Edelweiss. But there’s some titles that I KNOW bloggers are receiving ARCs for that I would love to be able to read, and they’re not available on those platforms. But I’m afraid I may still be a little too green to contact the publisher for a print ARC. Should I just bite the bullet? (And yes, I know if I’m dying to read it, I can always buy it upon release. But I prefer to only spend my tiny bit of money on books I love, which entails reading it first, so an ARC would be nice).
  • Speaking of publishers, can anyone say which publishers tend to be willing to send ARCs to bloggers and which ones aren’t? I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and I can’t always find that information on their FAQ  or Contact pages.
  • Are there any great resources out there I should be utilizing that I’m not?

And that’s it from me. I am still young in the blogging world, and I know these things take time. It’s easy to want to do ALL THE THINGS right away, but honestly, I’m thrilled with how well my blog has done so far.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to have some awesome established bloggers hold my hand and help me out. I’ve been contacted by several self-published authors about reviewing their books, and I’ve enjoyed the ones I have read, and am looking forward to the ones I haven’t. I’m signed up for several upcoming book tours. And I’ve even had a publisher put some faith in my little blog and send me books already.

So I’m really excited about what the future holds for me, my blog, and my bookshelf.

Thanks so much to all the coordinators of Armchair BEA — it’s been a blast!

Armchair BEA: Beyond the Blog

Today’s topic for Armchair BEA is “Beyond the Blog.”  We’re supposed to talk about how we monetize our blog and how we are achieving our personal writing goals.


Okay, first of all, this is my financial goal as far as monetizing my blog:

But really, at the moment, the actual monetization of my blog is more like this:

So if any of you established bloggers have great words of wisdom on how I can get from point A to point B (or, I guess, from point B to point A, considering the order I put those GIFs up), I’m all ears. Eyes? Dang it, my colloquialisms fall apart on the Internet.

[Edit: Since several people are mentioning this in the comments, I already am an Amazon Associate. I detail that and other small ways readers can support my blog here. So far I have made enough to buy half an old paperback. Woohoo!]

As for writing outside the blog…well, like probably every other book blogger on the planet, I’ve at least flirted with the idea of writing my own book. I’ve conceptualized, outlined, and discarded two concepts for a book. I’m a really harsh critic, especially on myself, and neither concept held up once I attacked it with my brain. But who knows. Maybe someday.

But for right this minute, I’m happy cultivating my little blog. It’s still new and shiny, and I’m excited to see if it will grow into something special. I mean, I already think it’s special, but it’s my blog. I’m supposed to think that.

I think my mom thinks that too.

So instead I will share a fun aspect about my life, because that’s what we’re supposed to do if none of the day’s topics apply to us. And the most fun (and infuriating) aspects of my life are these two goobers:

My oldest is 6, and she is just starting to read beginner chapter books to herself. I’m trying to convince her to help me launch a new children’s section of my site, where I would provide a brief summary and parent reaction to a children’s book, and then she would provide the child’s perspective. If, that is, I can get her to say more than 3 words to me about the books she reads.

I think I’m winning her over, because I just received three ARCs of children’s books in the mail. Did you know they even made ARCs for children’s books? Well they do, I got them, and she read them, and one of them came with jewelry. So bribery may be swaying her to my cause.

My youngest is 3, and she is not reading yet. She also is not entirely sure of the difference between letters and numbers, and even though I consider myself an intelligent person, I’m having the hardest time explaining it to her. I know, it should be simple, but sometimes when you are dealing with a 3-year-old, simple things are not as simple as they should be. So she keeps doing things like looking at flowers and telling me they start with ‘4’. Which makes sense in her world, because ‘flower’ and ‘four’ start with the same sound, whereas when I tell her ‘flower’ actually begins with ‘F’, she retorts that can’t be true because ‘F’ starts with an ‘eh’ sound. And by the time we’re finished, she’s halfway convinced me that ‘flower’ starts with ‘4.’

Why is any of this relevant? Well.

A large part of the reason why I love to read YA books, aside from the fact that I really do personally enjoy them, is because I know that in a few years, my kids will be old enough to read them. Maybe not the more mature ones (you had better believe I’m not giving a copy of The Immortal Rules to a 10-year-old. Right now, they both claim that there are scary parts in Backyardigans), but at least the middle grade titles. And by the time they are old enough to read those books, it is my goal to have a home library full of books they will love that I have already read. And then not only will I know what they’re reading, but I will be able to talk about the books with them.

I want to be a mom my kids can talk to. I want to be able to understand what they like. Both of my kids have displayed a great love of books since they were babies. My 6-year-old takes one of her chapter books to bed with her every night. She actually cornered me in the kitchen the other night, when I thought she had been asleep for an hour, because she was upset that her book ended on a cliffhanger (who knew Rainbow Fairy books ended on cliffhangers?) and she wanted me to buy the next one. Right then.

So if she stays true to form (and if she has any of my genes…which I’m pretty sure she does…), she will be a voracious reader into her tween years and beyond. And by the time she’s old enough to realize what I’m doing with my blog, hopefully she’ll think it’s awesome. And we will be our own book club. And it will be glorious.

Hm. This post turned into something different than what I was intending when I started it. But I think I’m okay with that.

In case you’ve missed any of my previous Armchair BEA posts, here they are:

Introductions First!

Best of 2012 + Win a TIMEPIECE Poster (probably signed by Myra McEntire)!

Networking…in Real Life?!

As a bonus, I guest posted about YA Dystopians on my friend Kelly’s blog this week. Check it out!

Armchair BEA: Networking…In Real Life?!


Today’s suggested topic for Armchair BEA participants is to talk about a real-life bookish experience. And no, “once upon a time, I exchanged witty banter with my favorite author on Twitter” is not a real-life experience.

As I admitted in my Intro Post, I’m a relatively new blogger, so I haven’t been able to go to ALL THE EVENTS yet. I haven’t yet braved the booths of a convention center or rubbed elbows with all my favorite authors. However, I have been to one event, where I met three fabulous authors and a group of Tennessee-based book bloggers. I’ve already gone into detail on the Author Event itself, where I met Myra McEntire, Amy Plum and C.J. Redwine, but I haven’t really recapped the blogger get-together portion of the day. So that’s what I’ll talk about today.

First, if you’re a newbie like me, you may be wondering how you even begin to go about getting to know other bloggers. And my strategy is simple: Twitter stalking. If I see a blog I like, I follow the blogger on Twitter. If I keep seeing people mentioning a certain blogger, I follow them on Twitter. And if I like the comments someone leaves on my blog, I follow them on Twitter.

I follow a lot of people on Twitter.

(You can always unfollow later if their tweets prove to be super-annoying).

Most people don’t follow back right away (or ever), and I don’t ask them to. But I watch their tweets, and I join in when they’re talking about something I’m interested in. The beauty of Twitter is that it’s all public, so it’s not really rude or creepy to insert yourself into a conversation the same way it would be if you just, for example, walked up to a group of strangers at the mall and started talking to them.

At least, I don’t think it is.

Please don’t burst my bubble.

So since I blog in Tennessee, I had visited the blogs of all the other Tennessee folks listed on Southern Book Bloggers and started following most of them on Twitter. And one day, I saw a discussion going on between a few of them about an event happening in Nashville in a few weeks. I butted into their conversation, got details, learned who the authors were (whose books I had absolutely not read at the time, but you better believe I read them before the event!), and next thing I knew, plans were made for many of us to meet up a couple hours before the signing at Panera.

Representing the book bloggers of TN were Hannah from The Book Votex, Nikki from Books Most Wanted, Marla from Starting the Next Chapter, Shalena from Writer Quirk, Megan from Myth-Illogical…and me.

I’ve got to admit, I was a little nervous. I mean, these were real bloggers (in my head, I was still kind of a pretend blogger, because it seemed bizarre to me that anyone would want to take my little blog seriously) with more followers, more subscribers, more blogger and author relationships, and longer histories than me. What if they didn’t like me?

Also, I should mention I’m a total introvert. I fake extroversion online, but in real life, I will do just about everything I can to avoid human contact. So the fact that I invited myself along on this little excursion in the first place is kind of mind-boggling.

So, smacking down my inner introvert and telling her to shut up and stay in her corner, I arrived at the bookstore mostly on time. I drove through a flash thunderstorm on my way there that made me a couple minutes late, but nothing ridiculous. And as I parked, listening to my brakes squeal and repeating to myself for the thousandth time that the mechanic said that’s okay, I scanned the parking lot trying to see if I could spot anyone who was clearly the in-person version of their Twitter avatar.

I saw a clump of women. Some of whom had curly hair. “Hey, I’m pretty sure Hannah has curly hair,” I thought to myself. So I walked up to them (carrying so many bags it looked like I thought I was going to move into Panera for a week), and said something really articulate like, “Am I looking for you?”

And someone said, “Lauren?” and I said, “Yes!” and I shook many hands in what I hoped was a firm-but-not-bone-crushing manner. And we went to Panera.

And at Panera, I ordered tomato soup in a bread bowl, forgetting for a moment that consuming a post-soup bread bowl is one of the most undignified things you can attempt to eat in front of a bunch of people you just met, but not caring too much because whenever I have an opportunity to get a bread bowl, I get a bread bowl. Bread bowls rock.

We spent two hours talking about all sorts of things (mostly about how Shalena’s husband is Batman), and amazingly, very few of them were book-related.

I had this irrational fear that our entire conversation was going to consist of book trivia and I was going to have to admit that I haven’t read ALL THE BOOKS yet, and they were going to look at me with disdain and take away my Book Blogger credentials. Um, yeah, that was stupid and did not happen.

No, these ladies were very fun, very personable, and absolutely did not look down on me for one second for being the newest one to don the title of “Book Blogger.” On the few occasions where a book was mentioned that I hadn’t read, no one took away my Book Blogger credentials. They didn’t even take away my bread bowl and yell “No soup for you!” (which is good, because I would have fought for that bread bowl). They just said, “Oh, it’s great, you’ll love it!” and moved on with the conversation, where we talked about My Little Ponies and Batman and the police (not to be confused with The Police, who we did not discuss, unfortunately) and hoodlums. And some other things.

And when it was time to go to the book signing, we went to the book signing. Which was amazing. You can read my recap of it here. Here’s Hannah’s recap. Here’s Marla’s recap. And here’s a recap from Amy Plum herself.

And what I learned from this, my first experience with authors and bloggers, is threefold:

1. Everyone is new at some point. Nice people won’t judge you for it, hold it against you, or demean you for being new and not knowing ALL THE THINGS. And not-nice people…well, why would you want to associate with not-nice people?

2. Book bloggers and authors are real people and have real interests outside of books, although they (I should say we) do love books with a fiery passion.

3. Lots of bloggers and authors are introverts too, and they understand that I may be horribly intimidated at the prospect of meeting people and talking to them and possible awkwardness. And they will try their best to make me feel comfortable.

Strangely enough, when I realized this, it was a lot easier for me to just be myself, in all my awkward glory. And it’s been easier since then to interact with other bloggers and authors (on Twitter, of course), because I’ve been initiated and it wasn’t scary and I didn’t die.

Did you hear that, 7th-grade me? I interacted with other humans and the world did not end.  If only I could hear myself.

LtR: Hannah from The Book Votex, Nikki from Books Most Wanted, Marla from Starting the Next Chapter, Me, Shalena from Writer Quirk, Megan from Myth-Illogical

So if you’re new to the world of book blogging, take it from me. People are nice. People are fun. People will not yell at you for being awkward and having no clue what you’re doing.

Or at least, that’s how it works in Tennessee.

Who knows, maybe by next year I’ll have worked up the courage (and, you know, the money) to go to BEA for REAL!


This post was brought to you by the Twitter Stalking of the following people:






And of course,




Armchair BEA: Introductions First!

I’m participating in Armchair BEA this year, a virtual conference for book bloggers who can’t attend Book Expo America in New York this week. So all week long, you’ll see me posting according to the daily themes for Armchair BEA.

Today’s theme is “Introductions First!” Participants were given a list of 10 questions and asked to answer 5 of them, so that we can all get to know each other a little better. So here’s a little bit about me!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Lauren, and I live in the vicinity of Nashville, TN.  I am a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom (I’d tell you what my job is, but every time I do that, I see eyes roll into the backs of heads). I have two beautiful little girls, 3 and 6 years old, and am happily married to my best friend. He’s a Web developer, which is good, since I use him as free tech support for my site.

I’ve been blogging for just a little over two months, which just seems kind of bizarre to me. I feel like I’ve been doing it so much longer! I started blogging for a few reasons. First, I love to read, but kept falling out of the habit of regular reading because I didn’t have anything to keep me motivated. I thought a blog would keep me motivated, plus help me help me with the “what should I read next?” problem.

Second, I always am itching to discuss the books I read after I finish them, but never have anyone to talk to. I have a couple friends who are avid readers, but we’re often not reading the same things anywhere close to the same time. I wanted somewhere where I could get all my thoughts out, and someone would actually read them.

And third, I’ve gotta be honest, I thought the concept of free books was pretty awesome.

What is your favorite feature on your blog (i.e. author interviews, memes, something specific to your blog)?

I co-host the Throwback Thursday meme along with Mandi at Never Too Fond of Books. I love being able to introduce others to older books that I loved, and I’ve also added a bunch of books to my TBR list. Book blogging tends to focus a lot on new releases, but there’s a ton of books from the pre-blogging days that are amazing!

Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

The post I’m probably the proudest of (and the Review that’s gotten the most traffic) is my post about why everyone should read The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It’s one of my favorite books of all time, and so many people don’t even know it exists.

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?

I love how friendly and welcoming everyone is. I was (and still am) a newbie, and just kind of thrust myself into the center of activity, hoping people would like me. And no one told me that I was too new to play, or that I was being annoying (even though I probably was). On the contrary, I’ve “met” some great people and discovered some awesome new blogs and authors.

I can’t think of anything I’d like to see change in the blogging community, except maybe some way to consolidate all the different subscription options on blogs into one central place. Some bloggers prefer GFC, or RSS, or Linky…I think I’ve got 6 different ways I subscribe to blogs, and it’s hard to keep track!

Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?

Yes! I already knew I enjoyed YA books (there’s just something so exciting and fresh about them), but I’ve totally embraced it since starting my blog. I read much less adult fiction now, although I still squeeze one in here and there when I feel like it.

Also, I’ve discovered the awesomeness of indie authors. I didn’t realize how many great books were out there in indie world! So I’ve read some amazing books I never would have stumbled upon if I hadn’t started blogging.

Thanks for stopping by and allowing me to introduce myself! I look forward to “meeting” you!