Welcome to my stop for day three of ArmchairBEA 2015. The online blogging conference for those people unable to attend the Book Expo America in New York City.
Today we had a choice of two topics: one about characters: favorites, least favorites, couples and what you love or hate in your characters. The other topic is Blogging 101: the basics about blogging, reviewing, web design, must haves; all those things. I’ve got a mixed post for both pieces – but let’s talk characters first.
My all-time favorite characters are those I keep coming back to, no matter how often or long ago I first encountered them. Two always stand out for me: Paddington Bear and Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables stories. Yes, both are children’s reads – but you have everything that you want in a character here: they could be your friends, they make mistakes but learn from them, every day is not good or bad, but always real. Paddington encapsulates the child’s curiosity and determination to do it himself, often with disastrous results. But, aside from being afraid to try again, or to look ridiculous, he just goes forward. Anne is the eternal optimist: “every day is a new day with no mistakes in it”. Loyal, kind but with a fierce temper, she won’t accept being treated badly, and won’t allow her friends to feel less than tremendous even in adversity.
I still look for those sorts of traits in my now reads: an author who can’t take a character into places that make them grow and develop, or who just insists on writing a stereotype won’t hold my interest in their book for long. I’m so tired of reading about the nympho virgins and the TSTL heroines who have no purpose other than decoration and a sexy scene that I want to scream. There is NO coming back from a character that is too stupid to live, period. OK – everyone has their moments, and I admit to more than a few, but in most situations I have a clue. And it isn’t to giggle and look cute. Other overdone characters for me are those stuck in victim mode with no forward movement to changing your life. Which is difficult and scary, but oh so necessary to claiming adulthood.
Flat characters are another deal breaker: no one person in the real world is ALL good or ALL bad. Even secondary characters should be deeper than a puddle on the street, with some clue as to why they are behaving as they are. If it’s a villain, make them jealous or greedy or even sociopathic: just don’t make them only bad. Readers are clamoring for characters that occupy the space as they read, perhaps even develop in ways that they are in the room with you, reading over your shoulder or poking at you demanding attention. Give me that – and I’ll be happy.
Blogging, particularly book reviews has taken off and there are tons of outlets. The first thing, I believe, is learning how to write an opinion piece. This means WRITE, not spend hours pulling together gif files or graphics where you put “I gotz feelz’ and OMG HOT and think you are done. NOTHING is more frustrating than looking at reviews of books and finding perhaps 20 words, most in text, italics and overly dramatic with bold, exclamation points and other graphics. SAVE those for your shares. I don’t want to know how you were “like this” then like, then like,…. You get the idea.
Do yourself a favor in the eyes of other reviewers, authors and publishers and DO NOT RATE books you have NOT read, or titles that are not yet released (that means the 3rd and 4th in a series that released book one yesterday. Not only are you NOT providing any useful information you are not reviewing anything. A review is of a BOOK – not of the author’s behavior, not of the drama that all your friends feed into, not the Chinese whisper you heard that loosely inferred something from someone that a friend’s friend heard. If you find that you really have a reason to NOT read a particular author, make a note somewhere – NOT PUBLIC – and keep that list to yourself. Simple. Clean. Professional. Remember: books are different to every person that opens it to read; all of your own life experiences feed into your enjoyment of a book. Your word is not the last one for that book or author – you are sharing your opinion and giving (hopefully) examples of why something worked for you or not.
Once you have the writing part down, check your spelling, grammar and word use and go from there. Last year I did a series on writing book reviews which you can see it at Review 101 which covers the basics to get you rolling, and there are insets and guest posts from authors that discuss reading and reviewing from their own perspectives.
Other than those basics: your platform (I use wordpress) and your theme (I’ve modified the Website theme) are up to you. I like the freedom of self-hosting because I can use plugins that make my life easier that aren’t available on free sites. BUT – test out your platform and see what you do and don’t like before investing in a URL / domain. You may not want to spend the money for what is, at least at first, a hobby.
Resources for review copies are vast: get an account with both Edelweiss and NetGalley. Favorite publishers that publish your favorite reads, don’t be afraid to request a reconsideration if you are turned down for a title.
Sign up with tour companies – but don’t overbook. I try to keep no more than 3 review posts up a day – I do not (except on very rare occasions) do promo posts. ALL of my posts for at least 3 days and usually 5 are easily seen in excerpt view on my front page. Nothing is more frustrating than scrolling through pages of posts to find the one post you want to read.
Follow through – if you say you will post a review on X date – DO IT. Be sure to share your review, and tag the source – whether it is the author, publisher or tour company. Post to sale sites – I post to Amazon, Barnes, Audible (if audio through them) and iTunes. I also post to GoodReads and Riffle for more ‘social’ review posting.
Lastly – sharing review copies, uploading them to other sites, or selling ARC’s is a no-no. You have been trusted to not violate the author’s copyright and work, your bad behavior will be a detriment to all. I hoard my paper ARC copies, but I’ve also donated them to the local library for circulation or to senior centers and jails where time can drag and any escape into a book is welcomed.