Welcome to Bookish Tête-à-tête, the newest feature on The Bookish Context! I am thrilled to introduce this platform that aims to connect with book bloggers through interviews to understand their creative processes, showcase their hard work and have a chance to engage as fellow readers. In the introductory post, I present to you an insightful discussion with Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks, a well-known name in the book blogging community as she shares her experiences with her characteristic humour!
Bookish Tête-à-tête with Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks
Tell us more about yourself and your blog. What served as your motivator for curating such insightful resources for newbies on their blogging journey?
My name is Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks, and I might be best known for my #NewBloggers 101 guide. The guide wasn’t my initial goal when starting blogging, but it’s just that I struggled a lot on my own as I started, and then I met so many other new bloggers who didn’t know the basics, struggled with them and had nobody to ask. At the time (in 2016-2017), there weren’t that many resources – or rather, there was no single guide all in one place. It became more common after I started my series of articles, and I’m glad of that! Starting shouldn’t be hard – and the book blogger community is known for its friendliness, so we all tried to pitch in and make it easier for newbies to set out on their blogging journey. I am happy to have been able to contribute to that – and I have to say, the #NewBloggers 101 series is not a work of my hands only – so many more people contributed to it, and that’s the sole reason why there are articles on more than one topic. It’s been years since it came out, and I’m happy that people still find it useful.
What is the most exciting blogger/author/publishing event you have been a part of? What about this experience changed you as a blogger?
Oh, it’s hard to say! As an international blogger, I don’t get to go to pretty much any real-life events, and the road is barred for me for a lot of the bigger releases because not all books have international rights. That’s why I wouldn’t say it was ever one single event that felt meaningful – rather, there were a lot of small ways I could change someone else’s life. Over the years (I’ve been blogging since 2016), I’ve found that the things that make this journey the most meaningful for me are the small ways where I could help indie authors succeed, or help them see how wonderful their books were. The joy I see in the author’s comments or emails every time I post a nice review, photo or ask an author for an interview is great. For me, the greatest joy in blogging is in the relationships that form – and getting to uplift smaller voices. Sometimes, it’s an email from an author in the middle of the night who has just found your 5-star review and wrote you to say “I didn’t know my books could make someone feel like that“, and hearing that is just wonderful.
What are the elements of a novel that make it re-read worthy or unforgettable?
It’s easily the characters! I love character-driven stories so much. Also, deep topics affect me strongly as well, for example, books about feminism or oppression. Not many books make it into my re-read pile, especially because there are just so many books to read! But the ones who do, go there usually because I feel like they’ve changed me as a person after I closed the last page.
What are some of your biggest pet peeves associated with book blogging?
It’s funny, I used to have so many! But as time passed, I seem to have let go of a lot of them. Now I just blog, and that’s all. But here are some of the ones I used to have.
As an international blogger, I was most annoyed by the fact that we don’t really get that many print copies, if at all. Now – the laws in my country have changed and I can’t even accept the ones I do sometimes get offered from abroad, but the funny thing is – I don’t seem to care anymore. After all, that adds to my carbon footprint, so why not read an ebook copy instead?
I used to also be bitter that other bloggers (like ones who read more popular genres than me) get more followers, or get them faster. Now I think that was a silly thing to do! Sure, followers matter in a sense, but… I became very popular at one point (briefly), and I remember the stress of having 300 unreplied comments in a week and not being able to do anything about it, because of a job and other responsibilities – and honestly, answering 300 comments is no small feat on its own. So yeah, maybe it’s not that bad to be a small-time blogger 🙂 (although I wouldn’t mind if Instagram wasn’t so greedy with the way they support ONLY big bloggers, and it’s so hard to get your content seen. That remains a bit of a pet peeve.)
I used to also be really mad about the fact that monetizing book blogs specifically is so hard. I know book bloggers who monetize successfully, but there are so few, it’s ridiculous (there is also considerable legal stuff involved in monetizing, and not many know it.) Now… I don’t know, I’ve realized that hosting doesn’t cost THAT much, and after all, it’s a hobby, and hobbies always ask for something from you. Perhaps this is still the one pet peeve that occasionally returns, in the perpetual question of “why am I essentially working for publishers for free AND paying for my own hosting?” 😂 But it is how it is, and I think it’s still worth it for the experience and the community. Besides, isn’t it a great feeling just being given a book? I’ll always be a sucker for that.
As someone who is sharing their opinions on a public platform one will inevitably face criticism of some kind, what is your best advice for handling it?
Always think before you post. I have posted things on social media that have been grossly misunderstood, and it cost me nerves and even some friends. That’s one thing everyone should keep in mind when posting absolutely anything on the internet, never mind if you’re a blogger or not.
Then there’s the question of angry authors. Some authors deal with bad reviews with grace. Some don’t. Those who don’t WILL sometimes bully book reviewers. That’s a nasty problem that every reviewer will face at least once in their lives. If this happens, please DO report them. And take screenshots. Definitely post them on social media (although it’s worth thinking about whether you should disclose who the author is because they might get annihilated by an angry mob. Most of them are just fumbling, so maybe don’t post it publicly unless you can tell that they’re being completely horrible to you and are doing it deliberately.)
Then there’s the third piece of advice that sort of ties both these things together. If at all possible, keep your private name and life to yourself, and don’t tie it to your blogger persona. Especially because of those angry authors who may bully you – yes, there have been stalker stories in the world of book blogging. Second of all, not disclosing your full name is smart because when you talk about your hobby, it’s not always in line with your career plans, or other real-life related things. You’ll want to blog freely, so maintaining a separate profile from your personal and professional life is probably a good idea. (Unless you’re aiming to work in publishing, in that case – don’t take this advice!)
What tools do you find to be essential for accomplishing blogging related tasks?
I used to use A LOT of tools! Most of them are covered in this post. But the funny thing is, I don’t use a lot of them anymore. That’s because I’ve now turned my blogging minimal effort – because a year or two ago I realized that I can’t expend the amounts of time and effort on an unpaid hobby that I would on my job. I work late evenings a lot of the time, and I’m too short on time and energy to post as much or be as organized as I used to. So now I try to go for simplicity.
But that said, I still use a couple of tools for my blogging. I make my blog banners using Procreate (for editing photos) and Canva (for putting the banners together, and this tool will be essential for a lot of bloggers). And I absolutely wouldn’t be anywhere without Google sheets for my blogging calendars.
How has your work as a digital marketer influenced your writing style? What has been the most effective strategy in driving a larger audience to your blog?
You know, I honestly don’t know! Being a marketer has helped me navigate social media, that’s for sure, and it’s taught me the importance of aesthetics in blogging. But… I try to keep my job and hobbies separate, cause it just wouldn’t be fun to be doing my job after work hours on my hobby too, you know what I mean?
As for driving a larger audience… Like I said in an earlier question, you have to ask yourself… Why? Since I don’t monetize, there’s no real reason to drive more people, because it wouldn’t change much of anything. And since most publishers can’t give me books anyway (cause I’m international) and I’m already drowning in review copies, I don’t really need to work hard to get my numbers up for my blogger resume. I used to struggle with this when I was a young blogger because you think you’re just SUPPOSED TO have brilliant stats, but now I just let my hobby be just that – a hobby. I’ve got a day job to do the work! Blogging won’t really payback in the ways that most new bloggers expect it to – instead, it pays back in relationships and emotionally. And you don’t need to drive traffic for that!
But I still have a few remarks about driving traffic. The best you can do and the thing that will work for you without any extra input from you is SEO. Blog hopping is fine – but you have to keep doing it to keep getting traffic, and also, you only ever bring other bloggers to your site, that way staying in a perpetual bubble of other creators, and no plain old consumers. If you plan to monetize or want more traffic because of better numbers to present to publishers, you want regular people googling you. Look into SEO. That’s the easiest and the best way to drive traffic.
How adept are you at deducing plot twists? Name any 2 books that were truly able to shock you and how?
Oh, I’m actually quite a gullible reader! You don’t have to work hard to stun me completely. I actually kind of love it that way because it would be boring if I were able to guess plots too easily. But the books that have stunned me the most are quite probably The Xenogenesis series by Octavia Butler and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, simply because they have really complex storytelling and incredible plots. But those are just the first 2 that spring to mind. When you’re a book blogger, the list is endless, but it’s just too many to remember off the top of your head. (I just thought of another one – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials! You must all read that!!)
What kind of bookish content appeals to you most? Are there any book bloggers you find especially admirable?
Well, I’m sad to admit, but I don’t blog hop much now anymore. There is just not enough time in the day to work your day job, cook and clean, handle family issues and all the other boring adult stuff! (That, AND read books for your reviews.) I don’t read as many book blogging articles as I used to. That’s why I can’t give you many recommendations on bloggers anymore, cause I’ve fallen out of touch with the blogging world, largely. But back in the day, I had so many favourites – mostly because they had a great sense of humour. A few examples could be PaperFury or This Is Lit.
What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
When I started blogging, I wanted to be remembered for “being cool” and “having cool opinions” and “making nice photos”. HA! Now? Now I want to be remembered for helping people, uplifting a blog or a book, introducing someone to their favourite series or simply just making someone’s start of their blogging journey a little easier. They might be infinitely small things, but I think they are also infinitely meaningful.
Any parting thoughts as our interview comes to a close?
Thanks for inviting me to do an interview! I haven’t done one in ages, and it has been unexpectedly fun. I hope my thoughts weren’t too candid – and that I didn’t come across as a jaded old reviewer 😀
A lot of things have changed for me in this blogging journey, and there’s just one thing I want to say to all those starting out now – there will be a time when you’ll want to drop blogging. There will be a time when you’ll run out of energy or free time, or just get annoyed at angry social media audiences, publishers that ignore you, spam comments or the lack of any real means to monetize – but at that point, it’s worth it giving yourself a break, and taking a hiatus. Don’t quit straight away.
I very nearly quit a couple of times a few years back, for good reasons – but in the end, I decided not to. And while my blog right now may not be the most popular, most visited or even the most technically and aesthetically pleasing – it’s a space where I can return to post my ideas and talk to other like-minded folks. I know now that I would have regretted shutting down the blog if I’d done that. Yeah, it’s a lot of work – but it’s still worth it.
So give yourself time to think and rest before you make such a decision – and always remember WHY you’re blogging before you give yourself burnout, as many of us do. Nobody’s paying you, nobody is making you take this as a job. Give yourself space and enjoy book blogging! Thanks for reading my long rant 😉
Connect With Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks
I hope everyone had a wonderful time getting to know Evelina just as I did. Stay tuned to meet your next favourite book blogger!!
What are your thoughts on the Bookish Tête-à-tête interview series?
What was your takeaway from Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks?
Feel free to chat with me in the comments below!!