Jenn, tell me a little about yourself and how you got started blogging.
Jenn: I am a romance novel blogger, college student, coffee addict, book boyfriend fan girl, and dog lover!
I find my romance novel addiction a little strange because in real life I am not an overly romantic person. But with these books, I can’t get enough. Maybe I use up my romance fix with the books I read. Who knows?
I read my first adult romance novel by accident. At the time I was a student and flat broke. On my kindle I stumbled across a free book and thought… “What the hell? I’ll read this for something to do.” I think I expected more of a Nicholas Sparks novel or just a PG sappy love story type thing. I began reading and when I got to my first sex scene my jaw dropped a little. I am not easily offended or uncomfortable with sex, but it just wasn’t what I expected. I had to go back and look at what I had bought, thinking…”Did this thing come with a disclaimer on it?!” Before then I had no idea about this genre of novels or all the indie writers involved with it. I have always been a reader but since this discovery my kindle has got a lot more use.
In my non-social media life my friends have no interest in romance novels (which I totally don't understand!) Originally, my intention on this journey was not really to be a blogger. I started my original blog (Which was on blogger, but now I'm on Wordpress) as a book discussion forum to connect with people who were reading the same books as I was. However, I found out pretty quickly that nobody was going to read my thoughts when no one knew I had even created the blog. Obviously, no one was going to visit when there was no promotion of the site. I kept posting my thoughts on the books I was reading but I could see from my stats page that I was only getting the random viewing.
At this point I had no idea about the whole indie romance world or romance social media community. One day I decided to look up an author I was reading to check out her Facebook. I guess here is where you could say my journey really began. Here, I saw all my fellow readers I had been looking for. You know how social media stalking can go… and I quickly fell down the rabbit hole. I snooped around from there and soon found bloggers, groups, and all of the authors I had been reading for the last two or so years before then. I was like a kid in a candy store with my new findings! There was a whole Internet world I knew nothing about before that day.
I started looking at other blog sites and realized this is something I would love to do. I created my Facebook blog to help promote my then blog on Blogger and connected with a few fellow bloggers that taught me the ropes and showed me the ways (I would have been lost without them back then and now I still stay connected with them and we help each other in any way we can). Once I did this I saw people were starting to read my blog posts and leave feedback. Authors of the books I was reading were leaving me comments and I was flabbergasted!
At this point though my posts were really more discussion posts as opposed to reviews and they contained A LOT of spoilers. I wasn’t thinking about the idea that I was giving stuff away to people. I just wanted to talk about my obsession with others who enjoyed the books I did. I had some authors contact me and ask that I add clear warnings before my posts so that unsuspecting readers didn’t happen upon my posts and have a story ruined for them. From there my posts began to evolve and progress and eventually I was able to lose my warning label by figuring out the art of expressing my emotions on a book without also providing spoilers. My posts still discuss how I feel about a book but it’s more of a review now and done in a way to not ruin the story for anyone else.
Now this month marks one year since then and I have learned so much, found so many great authors, and made friends across the world. I have learned about cover reveals, blitzes, and tours. I’ve read and reviewed ARCs and given feedback to authors on pre-published books. I’ve hosted Facebook events, organized for authors to do takeovers of my blog and even done some taking over myself. I went to my first book event over this last year and then another. Having a blast at both. Last year I had no idea this world existed and now I feel like a true member of it.
Jenn: There are a lot of factors that go into choosing my next book and I would like to say I'm more organized but the truth is that I rarely know what the next book I will read is until I select it (Unless I'm in the middle of a series or have been seriously anticipating a new release).
Here are some factors I consider when choosing my next book and they are not in any particular order but just in order of how I have thought of them to share with you.
1. Have I read this author before?
This isn't a deciding factor because obviously I love to read new authors but when I have read the author before it means I have insight into their style and quality of work. There are some authors I practically have a countdown on their new releases!
2. What type of sub-genre is it within romance?
When I’m considering this… none of these are hard rules but they do influence my decision making process. There are certain sub-genres that usually just don’t do it for me and some I am more partial to. Generally I don’t have a pull toward paranormal/fantasy, (PG) young adult (Teenage characters and fade to black sex scenes), and the overly controlling book boyfriend (A man that tells a girl what to eat for lunch just doesn’t turn me on). I also have sub-genres I more obsessively read; Rockers, Mystery/Thriller/Suspense, Fighters… among some others, but these are probably my top. I have a definite sweet tooth for the cocky, bad boys with tattoos.
3. When the author is unknown (to me), this is what I look at (I’ve listed this in order of my process because I have had many authors ask me how I make the decision on a new read):
First, I read the book description. The description gives me an idea of what the book is about it and usually also gives me my first look at the authors writing style and care toward their work. Next I check out the book’s Amazon and Goodreads rating. This is strange for me to admit (because I am a book reviewer and I know authors depend on reviews) but as a general rule for me I don’t read the actual reviews of a book when someone has requested an honest review from me. I don’t want to take the chance that someone’s thoughts will influence my own. I like to keep my mind as open as possible when someone is asking me for an honest review. So when I look at these sites I look at the star rating and I look at the breakdown of how many reviews they got for each star rating. Then a lot of times I ask around to people in the community I have met if they have read the book in question or the author. When I do this I usually ask them to simply tell me if they would recommend the book or ask that they give me no other details. I don’t usually post things like this in Facebook groups because I tend to get more information than I want and I have also seen posts like this turn into book, author, or character bashing (which I don’t support). I have fellow bloggers who I trust will give me an honest, respectful answer and avoid giving me unwanted information. Next I look up other books by the author on Amazon and Goodreads and repeat the first two steps of this process I have already mentioned. This tells me if it is a debuting work and how people received other work by the author. I know some readers are highly influenced by a cover but this is probably the least influential toward me. It’s the last thing I consider and mostly only influences my decision if the cover stands out and screams, “WOW!” For the most part non of these things will automatically keep me away from a book but just go into the decision making process. I also use this same process when I have read the author before but I am not 100% sure about a certain book of theirs.
4. How the author approaches me:
Authors contact me through Wordpress and through Facebook looking for honest reviews. I have made connections with authors from the way they go about it. I know some bloggers who automatically do not respond to the obviously ‘copy and pasted’ message, but these don’t bother me as long as they are professional and kind. However, with that being said I am probably more inclined to help the author with the personal message. It’s nice to know I’m appreciated too or that they have taken notice to something they like about my blog. And when things are done this way the chances are greater that we will develop a long lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. With the ‘copy and pasted’ messages the relationship usually doesn’t last past the decision to either review or not review said book (and if I do review... the upcoming tour/blitz/review/etc.). I know authors are insanely busy though (especially around release time) and that is why I don’t automatically dismiss ‘copy and pasted’ messages.
JH: I’ve seen both sides—the sheer amount of book blogs (and time constraints) make it hard not to copy/paste sometimes, but receiving copy/paste messages can definitely be a turn off. It’s a balance. So far, what’ve you loved most about blogging?
Jenn: Really the best part about blogging for me so far is everything I’ve learned and the relationships I’ve made. As I said before, last year I had no idea this book world existed and over the last year I have learned so much. I’ve learned how the indie world works and about the promotions within the community, that is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Prior to blogging, I had NO ONE recommending me books, only my kindle suggestions. Some days I would search for hours through these suggestions looking for a book to read and now I have a TBR list that is frightening. I’ve been to book events were I came face to face with authors and was showered with their welcoming of a small time, new blogger. I couldn’t find one person to discuss books with last year and now I’ve been to full events where there are hundreds of people there for the love of books, just as I am. I’ve learned how to create and run a blog, work with html, and run social media events that go worldwide.
I’ve learned how helpful people in this community are and that leads me to my next point; the relationships I’ve made. When I first reached out to other bloggers I really thought... “Why would these people help me? They are trying to build their own blog…I’m the competition. The ‘little guy’ but still the competition.” Boy, was I wrong. I’ve found I have had to eat my words a lot over this last year while learning new things. The bloggers I reached out to welcomed me with open arms; listened and answered every question I had, made video demonstrations to help me, called upon their author connections when I’ve needed help, given me step-by-step descriptions of things to help me learn something new, called upon others when they didn’t know an answer (Brittany Alexander from Brittany's Book Blog - Jen Wildner from Just One More Page - Shannon Hunt from Once Upon an Alpha... you three have helped with my journey so much this year). It’s been amazing and it’s taught me that when someone comes to me for help I’ve got a lot of ‘pay it forward’ points to give out. I’ve connected with authors I have read and admired, found new amazing authors to add to my circle, joined street teams, and met authors in person. I’ve learned I have authors right here in my own town that I have the opportunity to do things like book clubs and nights out on the town. This year of blogging has been amazing and really brought new opportunities to my life.
JH: It makes me smile to hear how the bloggers of this world prop each other up and pay forward what they’ve learned. It makes all the difference, because at the end of the day, you all got into this because you love books, plain and simple. It’s supposed to be fun. But I know it’s also a ton of work—so why do you do it? Tell me what you like about running a book blog.
Jenn: I own and operate the actual blog; I do all of the posting, corresponding, and all the technical stuff (I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to the stuff I produce) but I have a reviewer who reads and writes reviews for me. Her name is Dottie. I like the contrast between us because I think it provides a more diverse blog when it comes to the reviews we accept and put out. While we both live in the U.S.A. we live and have grown up on different coasts of America. She lives in C.A., while I live in Florida. We are of different generations, and at different stages in our lives. She enjoys light paranormal and fantasy where this is usually not true for me. We do favorites lists at the blog; where we each separately list our top 5 of different sub-genres to try and help others find books that we LOVED and when she handed over her lists to me I was amazed at the lack of overlap between our lists. It helped show me that we have two people here that can provide you with totally different points of view. (And P.S. I would be lost without her; unable to produce anywhere near the number of reviews we do and I would also lose my sounding board for decisions concerning the blog and my double checker when I am unsure of how something sounds in my review or to make sure I’m avoiding spoilers!)
I like that both of us are on the same page about being here to promote authors and books we love and not dwell on the things that aren’t for us. We won’t post hateful reviews. If we have a critique it must be accompanied by a reason so that someone reading our reviews can decide for themself if it is something that would or would not bother them in a book.
JH: I love the idea of favorites lists, especially for those who might be new to the genre (or subgenre). Speaking of favorites—if you could have dinner with any author, who would it be and why?
Jenn: This is a seriously hard question but if I had to choose just one, my answer would probably be K. Bromberg. I discovered The Driven Series much later than most, probably because prior to blogging I solely relied on my kindle for book recommendations. I only began my Driven book journey about five months ago. I love Colton, Beck, and Hawkin; as I’m sure many of us do but I think my larger pull to the series and K. Bromberg is the way she writes female characters. In my opinion, she sets a high bar for this. In her writing, the “good girl” doesn’t have to be the “boring girl”. Just because a girl is more conservative in her choices doesn’t mean she can’t be sarcastic and funny. And even when she’s not writing the good girl, she gets it right. I am always a fan when a writer can capture a strong, powerful, funny, woman character that isn’t afraid to channel her “inner slut”. Girls are allowed to have fun too, ya know? Bromberg really has a way with words, taking simple phrases or imagery comparisons and making them something beautiful. Concerning her writing in general; she paints a crystal clear picture of feelings through words and her depictions that make the reader laugh, cry, swoon, hurt, turned on and a roller-coaster of other emotions during the reading experience. She is the author I would choose to have dinner with; because I admire her, because I love her writing, and because even with her being one of the more popular authors she still makes the time to communicate with her readers on social media. I would say that during my blogging journey she has responded to 99.9% of the times I contacted her in any form of way on social media, even when I simply tag her. As a reader I appreciate this and as a blogger, someone who is tagged or reached out to by people probably only 1% of the times someone like she is I can’t imagine how she pulls this off. I think dinner with her would be a blast and I don’t think I could resist fan-girling over her during.
JH: You actually have a way with words yourself—it reminds me how far behind I am on my TBR! If you were to write a romance book loosely based on your life, what would the title be?
Jenn: Afraid to Commit. Honestly the idea of commitment outside of my romance books has never been something I have been comfortable with. I think I may have a lot in common with the misunderstood bad boys of the romance genre.
JH: That, and some of the women too. As a fellow commitment-phone, I know—the struggle is real. J Last question. There are tons of passionate readers out there, as we know. Do you have any advice for those thinking of starting their own book blog?
Jenn: Just go for it! Play around with Facebook or your blog site of choice and find what works for you. Your process and knowledge will grow and change as you keep going. You'll find what works and doesn't work for you. Don't be afraid to reach out to people; other bloggers (reach out to me!) and authors you love (Just make sure you're courteous, not just looking for free stuff, and in it for the right reasons). Be open to new things and learning. Please, please don't get into blogging and bash on books. The authors work so hard and just because a book isn't right for you doesn't mean it won't be someone else's favorite. Sometimes, I also see a lot of people in groups bash on female character. This is something I just don't understand. That character is whiny, she has an eating disorder, she totally isn't worthy of her leading man. This is something I don't like either. These books are predominately written by female authors. Often times in popular media woman are already beat down about their appearance, promiscuity, and a million other things. I don't get why even when it comes to fictional characters, some people (men and woman) still feel the need to bash other woman. If you become a blogger, don't allow bashing of any kind on your site! It's hurtful and unnecessary. Have FUN and enjoy the ride!
JH: Well said. I don’t think I truly grasped that female character bashing bothers me for the same reason. Like it or not, most of the time we can see some of ourselves in the characters we read (or write), and maybe we should strive to use that as a tool to cut ourselves some slack once in a while instead of the opposite. Jenn, thanks so much for stopping by the blog and for the thoughtful answers!
Authors: Rave and Rant About Raunch Book Blog IS currently accepting review requests!
Readers: Jenn is throwing a huge, multi-author event for her one-year blogiversary. And I’ll be taking over September 3rd! Check out the lineup below & join the party! Don't forget to follow Jenn’s blog on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the loop and to talk books with her.