Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful individual and blog that SSP has had the honor of knowing for quite some time, going back to the time when we reissued Jackie Gamber's Redheart in fact! Not only does Shana run a popular blog with a lot of great content, but she also shares some fantastic insights in this interview that can be of help to authors and publishers in working with blogs. We hope you enjoy our latest installment of Blogger Spotlight!
Blogger Spotlight # 14
Well, first, thank you so much to Stephen Zimmer and Seventh Star Press for hosting me as a guest on this Blogger Spotlight Feature! This is so cool! THANK YOU!
So, hello! My name is Shana, and I run the book blog, “A Book Vacation.” I’m a voracious reader (367 books in 2011 alone), so nearly all my free time is, therefore, spent reading because, “books [are] the cheapest vacation you can buy,” as Charlaine Harris once said. Oh, how true that is!
I am currently working on a list of review requests, with over 150 books on it, as well as reading books from my shelves at home and at school. While one might think that this would keep me extremely busy, and it does, I still have lots of time for all the demands of my job as a teacher (and there are a lot), as well as having time to socialize, watch movies, etc., though reading is, indeed, my favorite pastime. I have found that I get a little cranky if I don’t have a chance to read for pleasure at some point during the day, but as you can see, I tend to become wrapped up in my books and, once I start, I usually finish them in one sitting, hence, I generally read a book a day.
2. What kinds of books do you like to read for pleasure? Any favorites?
Mostly, I read Young Adult novels. I really love them (I like to think that they keep me young at heart), and since I force my students to read outside of class, all the time, I figure that I’d better have a decent selection for them to choose from. Thus, I’m constantly reading books I think my students might enjoy, spanning many different topics. Aside from all types of YA, I also read mysteries, thrillers, memoirs, classics, and literature and fiction novels on a fairly regular basis, as I want my blog to be for readers of all types, and not just for YA readers.
3. When did you start your blog, and what motivated you to do it?
I started A Book Vacation on January 23, 2011. One of my co-workers kept telling me that I should start reviewing the books that I read, since there were so many, but I kept putting off the idea because I felt like I wouldn’t be any good at it, and that I didn’t really have the time to spend reviewing. Then… we had a huge blizzard, sending my area into a State of Emergency since we’re not equipped to deal with heavy snowfall. We were off from school for a week, if I remember correctly, and a few days into this “gifted” extension of the holidays, I went stir-crazy. No one was allowed on the roads, all businesses were closed, and I didn’t have cable, so… I began toying with Wordpress, finally creating my own blog for reviews.
4. How did you come up with the name for your site? Is there a story behind it?
As Wordpress requires you to choose your blog name prior to setting up the full account, I had to pick fairly quickly, as I’m somewhat impatient. So, I called up a friend and talked to her about whether or not I should, in fact, start a book review blog, and, if so, what it should be called. We discussed it for about 15 minutes before we decided I should go with “A Book Vacation” based on a quote I love, by Charlaine Harris. It was a rash choice, but I’ve never regretted it—it remains the perfect name for me.
5. What kinds of genres do you cover on your site?
Really, I cover all of them. I don’t discriminate against any genre, though some I enjoy more than others. I will say, though, that I really shy away from ALL novels that deal with explicit sexual situations. Those books really aren’t my style.
6. What kinds of regular features do you have on your site?
On the first of every month, I run a “Recently Released Giveaway Goodness Giveaway.” Basically, this giveaway features eight recent releases that I’ve reviewed, and one lucky winner gets to pick one from the list. It’s an international giveaway (as long as The Book Depository delivers to their country), and I really love running it. Giveaways are my favorite, and I tend to run them for no other reason than that I like to give books away!
I also run “The 99 Cent Club” feature every Saturday. Basically, I troll Amazon and Barnes and Noble for eBooks that are 99 cents on BOTH sites, and then I pick 10 eBooks to post about each week. I also usually do an all-call on Twitter, asking authors if they have any books on both sites for 99 cents, and if any authors respond, I am sure to add them to my next 99 Cent Club Feature. I really enjoy it, though I only came up with the idea for it a few months ago, so it’s still relatively new in the blogosphere.
7. What is the hardest thing about being a blogger?
Finding time to write the reviews. My Kindle makes it so I can read anywhere at any time, even in the car (because my Kindle reads aloud), but I can’t always stop wherever I am and write a review, so they tend to get a bit backed up… right now I’ve got close to 20 outlines I’ve got to complete…
8. What are your favorite things about being a blogger?
Creating relationships with authors. I’ve met some phenomenal people since I started blogging nearly two years ago, and I’ve formed some lasting friendships. I’ve also been introduced to the indie publishing world, and I love it. If I hadn’t started blogging, I would know just how vast the book blogging world really is. Seriously, it floored me when I first began. There are many people out there that love books, and there are many people out there who are very talented writers. I’m just glad I get to be a part of it all, and I consider myself very lucky.
My other favorite part is the giveaways. I love making people happy, and I want people to read, so giving away books just makes sense. Hence my creation of the monthly “Recently Released Giveaway Goodness Giveaway.”
9. If you could give a piece of advice or two to authors looking to work with a blog site, what would you say?
Be respectful of the reviewer’s time, and be polite if they decline a review. Though this is a hobby for most book bloggers, we still like to be treated as professionals. I always feel bad declining a review, but sometimes I’m just not interested in the novel itself, and authors seeking reviews can be downright rude when I tell them that. Also, sometimes book reviewers just don’t have the time to add another book to the pile right now. For most book bloggers, reading and reviewing novels is a pleasure, something we do for fun because we love it. Dealing with authors who are haughty and rude really takes the fun out of it. I actually had an author tell me my name, “A Book Vacation,” was a misnomer because I didn’t have time to review her novel until 2014. As far as I can tell, reading should be a vacation, and that’s why I chose that name. I didn’t choose it so that I could be told when and what to read by an author who is, apparently, very rude. Obviously, I will not be reading that novel for review, nor anything else by that particular author.
Also, give us time. Reading is a lengthy process, and we’ve probably got a ton of other things going on in our lives at the same time, so don’t feel bad if we don’t respond to an email right away. I always get to my emails eventually, and to my review requests as well, but it takes a lot of time.
10. Any last thoughts or things you might want to say to readers who are finding out about your blog for the first time?
Welcome! I hope you enjoy my blog and find some great books to read based on my reviews. Comments are always welcome, and please make sure to check the blog often as I’m ALWAYS running GIVEAWAYS!
Connect with Shana and A Book Vacation at the following links!