I've Spent 5 Years Blogging About and Reviewing Self-Published Authors-- Ask Me Anything

KaraSkinner
Jul 9, 2018

I'm the creator of Lover's Quarrel, a blog and YouTube channel about romance novels that aims to help readers find their next favorite reads by shopping self-published books and shopping locally. I've spent over five years reviewing self-published books, interviewing authors, and promoting indie books. Ask me anything.

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Do you think self-published authors deserve a little leniency when book reviews are done on their work?
Jul 16, 1:32PM EDT0

It depends. 

I think it would be unfair to hold self-published authors to a different standard than a traditionally published author. Giving a three-star read four stars just because it's self-published isn't fair to readers or authors.  Authors wouldn't be given a chance to improve because they wouldn't know they did anything wrong. And readers wouldn't trust indie book reviews and be less likely to read an indie book even if it has high ratings. 

I do try to be more understanding of problems in self-published stories, however. When reviewing them I take care not to attack the author and give positive with the negative. I get specific with what I like and dislike, and sometimes give suggestions on how the story could be improved, which hopefully helps the author on future stories. Sometimes authors reach out to me, asking where exactly that typo was, or how do I think this story flaw could be fixed, and I help them the best I can because I know at the end of the day they're trying their best to tell a good story even if they don't have several hundred (or several thousand) to spare on editing. 

However, it's important to remember that even negative reviews help indie authors. It might suck to get a bad review from a blogger, BookTuber, or random reader on Goodreads, but at least someone's talking about your book and other people are hearing about it.  The best way to make an indie book fail is to not say anything at all. 

Jul 22, 7:06PM EDT0
Have you always loved reading books? How has this shaped the person that you are?
Jul 16, 12:25PM EDT0

I've loved reading books since the summer before second grade. Something during that summer just clicked and I was finally able to read easily and after that, I read everything in sight. But even before that, I was fascinated by books and reading because I grew up in a family of readers.

On a basic level, it gave me good critical thinking scores on standardized tests and allowed me to get into the advanced English class in middle school, which gave me a much -needed reprieve from bullying. 

I think it also gave me a huge sense of curiosity and a love of learning. If I have a problem to solve or a new skill to learn, I almost always turn to books.

I like to think reading has also made me more open-minded and more empathetic. Some studies have suggested reading, especially about people from different cultures and backgrounds, creates a higher level of empathy, but I'm not sure if that's the case for me.

I do know books were able to give me tastes of different times, places, and cultures despite growing up in rural Maine with very little internet access. And that was definitely valuable.

Jul 22, 6:47PM EDT0

Kara, what drives you to keep blogging about books and doing reviews? Are there specific things that make it a rewarding experience for you?

Jul 14, 1:19PM EDT0

I love reading and talking about books, which helps me keep blogging. I love getting indie authors more exposure and I like making the world a better place, which I do by donating half of my affiliate earnings to charity. Comments and other user engagement makes it really rewarding. I like knowing I made an author's day by reviewing their book or that  I entertained a reader with my review. Having a reader check out one of the books I recommend and enjoy it is probably the most rewarding experience of all.

Jul 14, 5:25PM EDT0
Have you found yourself giving up on a book before the end but still gave a review based on your perception on the little you read? Does this make you biased?
Jul 14, 11:16AM EDT0

If I give up on a book, I don't bother to review it. I don't like abandoning books and do it rarely. If I abandon a book it's because I felt like it's not worth my time, which means the review isn't worth my time. Also, I'd be worried the review would be misleading if some of my biggest complaints is something addressed later in the book. 

Jul 14, 5:21PM EDT0
Do you find yourself inclined to review books of specific authors?
Jul 14, 4:53AM EDT0

Sometimes, yes. I was inclined to review Eternity by Maggie Shayne because I enjoyed books by her in the past. I'm also sometimes inclined to review some of Nora Roberts' books because as a well-known author, one of her books is more likely to attract more readers. But most of the time I review books by authors I've never heard of, or don't know that well. 

Jul 14, 5:19PM EDT0
Is there a book you are currently reading that you will be sharing your reviews for? If so, what is it?
Jul 13, 10:12AM EDT0

I'm currently making a vlog about me reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell for the first time. It's a little more in-depth because I'm recording my thoughts about the book as I read them, and it's a lot of fun. It's the first time I've done one of these, so editing it will be interesting and I'm not sure when I'll have it posted, but hopefully within a month or so. I'm also going to review A Whispered Wish by Cindy Louallen. 

Jul 13, 2:22PM EDT0
What are your goals for your reviews and what is your book review process?
Jul 12, 5:14PM EDT0

My review process is to read a book and take notes while I read. I either use a small notebook for print books or comment directly in the text if I'm reading an ebook. After finishing I organize the thoughts on paper and write a spoiler-free summary of the book for the beginning. Then I look for quotes that illustrate what I'm saying, or quotes that just stood out to me.

My goal is for readers to find books they will love through my reviews. Especially books they've never heard of. 

Jul 12, 6:37PM EDT0
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Jul 12, 3:46PM EDT0

I don't think I have a specific writing style because I write a wide range of things, from novels to freelance articles.  I tend to be pretty casual in most of my reading, and sometimes slightly sarcastic but probably people who read my writing would better be able to tell you what my style is than me. What I find most challenging with reviews is not leaving any spoilers. A lot of the time I can't accurately say what I think without giving something away. 

Jul 12, 6:33PM EDT0
Every author has a preference for how they are contacted. What process did you follow when approaching authors?
Jul 11, 6:02PM EDT0

It depends on what I'm contacting them for. If it's just to let them know I reviewed their book or I included it in a blog post, then I'll let them know publically on Twitter. If I want to ask for a giveaway copy of their book, then I'll message them through email or through the contact form on their website. Most of the authors I've reached out to have the contact form and I just send them a quick message. 

Jul 12, 6:29PM EDT0
What do you hope your followers will gain from your reviews?
Jul 11, 5:27AM EDT0

I'm really hoping they'll find a novel they've never heard of before, pick it up, and will love it. But at the very least I hope they'll be a little entertained by the review and have a better idea on if they will like the book in question or not. After all, even if I give a negative review based on my own personal preferences, someone else might still enjoy what I didn't like. That's why I try to be as elaborate as possible in my reviews so readers will know if my tastes match up with theirs. 

Jul 12, 6:26PM EDT0
What were your top 10 reads of 2018 so far and why? What impressions did they leave on you?
Jul 10, 9:05PM EDT0
What books do you find yourself recommending the most?
Jul 10, 3:25PM EDT0

I recommend the By Magic series by Maggie Shayne a lot, especially the first two books in the series. The Queen's Consorts by Kele Moon is another one I recommend a lot, and I also recommend Bad Things Play Here by Chani Lynn Feener. The Chained series by Elise Marion is another great series I recommend all the time. 

Jul 10, 8:22PM EDT0
What advice would you give to a book lover who might be a little shy about writing a review?
Jul 10, 12:26PM EDT0

Just do it. It's not easy at first and your first review won't be great, but it's important to get used to saying what you think and why as quickly as possible. That's a skill that needs to be developed and the sooner the better. Don't be afraid to say something negative if that's how you really feel. If you want to get better at writing reviews, then keep practicing, and study other reviews to see how they are written. 

Jul 10, 8:21PM EDT0

What the tips and tricks you have used to drive more traffic to your blog?

Jul 10, 8:35AM EDT0

I use social media to market my blogs, but I also make an effort to engage with other users through comments and retweets. I recently started doing Twitter support chains where bloggers or authors will reply to my original tweet and I'll retweet all replies. That helps me connect to people and help them remember me and Lover's Quarrel. I also post articles on Medium and Hubpages to drive traffic to my blog, as well as post links on YouTube, especially when I'm doing tag videos that a lot of people will see. 

Jul 10, 8:19PM EDT0
Is there something you wish self publishing authors knew about your blog or blogging?
Jul 10, 12:52AM EDT0

The biggest thing I wish they knew is that bloggers started blogging to connect with other readers, not to get free books. It feels isolating and depressing when the only user engagement you get is just review solicitations. Leaving a comment and sharing a post can go a long way to make a blogger's day, just like leaving a book review can go a long way to make an author's day. 

Jul 10, 8:17PM EDT0
What are the top 3 characteristics you look for in a good book?
Jul 9, 9:49PM EDT0

It varies depending on genre. For all books, I look for good grammar, spelling, and formatting. Without those, I'm too distracted to focus on the text. For romance novels, I also need a healthy relationship for the main couple, and for them to fall in love over time instead of love at first sight, which is a total cop-out and horrible to read. 

Jul 10, 8:12PM EDT0

When you review a new book, are there common threads you notice right away that differentiate a good book from a mediocre one? Or does it vary from book to book? 

Jul 9, 4:48PM EDT0

It usually varies from book to book. A lot of the time books will have a strong beginning and disappointing end or vice versa. Typos, punctuation mistakes, and "!??!" and "!!!!!!???????" and even "?!" automatically keeps a book from being great. (Can you tell multiple punctuation marks make me angry? Because they do!).  Another common thread, especially for romance novels, is an unhealthy relationship portrayed as a healthy one. This drives me crazy and unfortunately happens too much in romance novels. Girl-on-girl hate-- usually in the form of a jealous ex-girlfriend who always wears too much makeup-- has also made many a novel mediocre at best. 

Jul 9, 6:42PM EDT0
How long have you been a book blogger and where do you post your reviews?
Jul 9, 3:53PM EDT0

I officially started book blogging when I was 14, back in 2011. I did biweekly book reviews for a magazine called Differences Online Magazine. My official title was Blogging Bookworm. After that I started a blog called Ink and Paper, which I had for a few years before starting my current blog, Lover's Quarrel. This is where most of my reviews are. But I also have some on YouTube, Hubpages, and Medium. I have a few others scattered around the internet, but these are where the bulk of my reviews are.

Jul 9, 6:34PM EDT0

Who are your icons? And specific to writing, who are the writers whose impact you seek to emulate?

Jul 9, 1:27PM EDT0

If by icons you mean idols, then there's probably no one I idolize more than Malala Yousafzai. Honestly, I'll never be able to meet her in real life because I'd probably fall into a catatonic state by sheer shock. Writers I admire include Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Billy Joel (he counts), Jim Croce (also counts), Meg Cabot, Sarah Wendell, and David Gaughran. I would love to be equal to all of these talented writers one day, but my main concern is just continuing to improve myself and be a better writer and blogger than I was last year. 

Jul 9, 6:28PM EDT0
When choosing which books to blog about, do you differentiate between trade published and self-published authors/books?
Jul 9, 12:50PM EDT0

I generally blog more about indie books than traditionally published books. I have easier access to self-published books and those are usually the ones I get most excited about because I can actually say what I want without parroting countless other reviews on the same book.  But not all of the books I read are indie. I'm actually doing a vlog right now about me reading Eleanor and Park for the first time. 

Jul 9, 6:21PM EDT0
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