As a flash fiction writing contest site, it makes sense that we at Flash! Friday spend most of our time with writers and writing industry-related professionals. After all, we want to become better writers, so who better to talk to than really really good writerly people?? At the end of the day, though, writers make up only half the relationship: books also need readers. So I thought it would be a lot of fun to explore The Other Side of Books for this week’s Spotlight. Which made me think of book bloggers. Which then made me think of my friend Andye, who, I am relieved to report, endured my begging with patience and humor and, ultimately, capitulation. :D
And so it’s with a great deal of pleasure and gratitude that I welcome Andye to Spotlight.
Hiya, Andye! Please introduce yourself to our writers.
Hello to all of the amazing writers reading this right now! I’m so in awe of what you do, and so grateful! I blog/review over at ReadingTeen.net. I’ve been reviewing for about 6 years, and I can honestly say that it has drastically changed my life for the better. When I first started blogging, I had no idea that this huge community existed. I was just trying to talk about the books I was reading, mostly to connect with other people who were reading Young Adult. I never expected to find such a huge, amazing, supportive group of people who were just as excited to talk about books as I was.
What’s your book blogger life like??
Nowadays I usually only read 1-2 books a week, but when I first started I was a reading machine. I was reading close to one a day, but things have gotten busier around here, and I’ve gotten much more picky about the books I read. I finally decided that there are too many amazing books out there to waste my time on anything that isn’t. If there’s a book I don’t feel like reading, I ask one of my reviewers, and someone is usually willing to give it a shot. We mostly review books that are sent to us, or books I’ve grabbed at conventions. There’s also NetGalley and Edelweiss, where you can request eBooks you’re interested in reviewing. If something is very popular, chances are one of us is interested in it, so we almost always cover those as well. There are SO MANY Young Adult books released every week that there’s no way to cover them all, but we do our best to review as many as possible.
I think I read an equal amount of print and eBooks. It just depends on the situation, and which format I have. I have a hard time remembering my eBooks, but the print books are just sitting here staring at me, so I tend to pick them up quicker. There are often times I’ll switch to eBook, though, because they’re easier to read when I’m doing other things like eating, treadmilling, or traveling. Also, reading at night. I can’t imagine that print will ever be dead. Books are just too pretty. Book lovers want to display them, pet them, smell them; you can’t get that in eFormat.
Tell us the truth: as a YA book blogger, how do you feel about traditionally published vs indie published books?
I’d love to say that I’ve had a lot of good experiences with indie published books, but honestly it’s been rough. The feel of the book is usually just less . . . polished? The most luck I’ve had has been through indie publishing companies like Spencer Hill, Entangled, Month 9 etc. I think having the guidance of people that are around the industry can be invaluable, just so you know how to get the support of bloggers/reviewers, and don’t do anything that puts people off. Bloggers can make or break an indie book, and being informed about interacting with them is crucial. Jennifer Armentrout is an amazing example of this. I do have a reviewer (Elisa) who will read self-pubbed/indie authors and has had incredible luck. Usually she will just find those books on her own, as we don’t accept review requests from self-pubbed authors. I totally understand that trying to get your book out there is tough and you have to do so much to try to get it publicized. But reviewers have hundreds of books to review, and accepting a book is not a promise to review; the more pressured a blogger feels, the less likely she is to read the book, or accept more in the future.
I do think the industry is moving more and more toward self-published books, and that’s great! However, if a major publishing company has picked up a book, as a reviewer you know that it is usually going to be edited well, available to your readers at book stores, and has impressed a company that gets constant submissions. Indie/self-published books are always a gamble, both with the book and, sadly, sometimes with the author as well.
So what convinces you to give a new author a try?
I am sad to say that I pay a lot of attention to the book’s cover and title. If the cover is pretty, I want to know what’s in it. If the cover is hideous, I have a hard time thinking the inside will be good.
I read new authors all the time. There are so many debut authors every single month and I’m always up for trying someone new. There are a lot of things that will convince me to try a new book. Like I mentioned above, if the cover is awesome, I’ll give it a look. Also, if my friends (usually on Twitter or blogs) are raving about a book, that will convince me. One of the best things is if a book is labeled “for fans of . . .”. If someone says a book is for fans of Graceling, The Demon King, The Winner’s Curse, you can bet I’m going to be all over that thing. Of course this can backfire sometimes, as everyone is sick of seeing “For fans of The Hunger Games“.
Have you “always” been an avid reader? What YA trends do you see that you love? -loathe?
I actually have NOT always been a reader. I used to (think) I hated reading. I think it’s because of the books that were forced on me in schools. I was so bored with them, so I just thought all books were boring. It wasn’t until Harry Potter that I realized that I actually loved books, and it opened up a whole new world to me. I think I was 32 years old before I picked up a book voluntarily. I haven’t stopped since.
People are always trying to figure out what genres are trending in YA, but the thing I like so much is that there’s such a wide variety. I don’t think people are really wanting any specific genre as much as they’re just wanting a great story. You’ll see people say they’re sick of dystopian, for example, but if there’s a new dystopian out there that is written well and is something different than the Hunger Games cookie cutter format, people will be all over it. I do think people are sick of insta-love. That the one thing, across the board, that I hear complaints about. Insta-love is boring, unrealistic and lazy, and no one wants that in their book.
Like I mentioned above, if there’s insta-love, I’m out. I also (and this is personal preference) don’t like a book that has a lot of crudeness in it. I usually avoid contemporary books told from a guy’s perspective, because I just don’t want to hear what goes on in a teen boy’s mind. Gross. Most of the time, if I put down a book, though, it’s because I’m bored with it. If the writing is too choppy, or nothing is really happening, I start to notice I’m choosing to do other things besides read. That’s when I know the book isn’t compelling enough to continue. I used to read a book to the end, even if I didn’t like it, because I had to know how it ended. I’ve gotten over that, though. There are just too many good books to waste my time on one I don’t love. I’ll usually give an author a couple of tries. There are plenty of authors who write one series/book that totally fits me, then another I don’t like at all.
How important to you (as a reader) are author appearances?
I love going to author events, if I’ve loved a book, or if I think I might be interested in one. I do think that having an online (Twitter especially) presence is more important. If you’re interacting with readers, they’re going to want to read your book more than if you’re absent. You have to stay in people’s peripheral, so they don’t forget. The books that are the most successful are the ones that are well-written AND the author interacts with the community. But people still want to meet you in real life. Fans get so excited if you actually know who they are, from Twitter, or another encounter they’ve had. They want to feel a special connection with you, and author events are a great way for that to happen. The best events I’ve been to are the ones that have multiple authors. It helps with the flow of the event, and it brings people in that may not have been interested in your book, but after hearing you talk about it, they’ve changed their minds.
What are your all-time favorites that you return to?
My all-time favorite books are the Harry Potter series. I don’t think that will ever change. I read (listen to) them over and over. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, so the books that I love tend to be in that genre. The ones I’ve read multiple times are: The Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Elemental Series by Sherry Thomas, The Seven Kingdoms by Kristin Cashore, anything by Victoria Schwab.
The publishing world is SO crowded now: do you see any gaps, stuff that you’ve noticed no one’s writing about but you wish they would?
Honestly, I really wish that trend writing would go away. I know it won’t, and that’s mostly the publishing companies’ fault, but when authors try to write in for a trend it almost always sounds forced. The best books are books that authors have said they just HAD to write because the story is bursting out of them. My favorite books are almost always the ones that aren’t in “season” right now because they’re different. I just read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and it was absolutely amazing, and there’s nothing like it out there in YA right now. That’s also why I mentioned Victoria Schwab above. Her books are always so original, and she just completely ignores what everyone else is writing about. It makes her books timeless and always relevant. People aren’t going to say they’re sick of reading the genre she’s writing in, because she makes her own genre, and just writes an incredible story.
What a gorgeous note to end on, and what powerful advice for us writers. Andye, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us!