day twenty nine: on book-bloggers, the unsung heroes of every novel

I still remember those first moments people started talking about COME ALIVE on their blogs.

It freaked me out at first. A lot of these people were friends of mine or within the network I frequented online. I didn't know how to respond. They didn't have to write about it. There wasn't a sign up or anything. These were just people who loved me and loved my book and wanted to talk about it. Should I respond at all? Should I share the post? Would that seem egotistical? Should I even thank them? 

When EVERY SHATTERED THING released, I signed up for a blog tour through InkSlinger PR. This is where I began to understand the magic of word-of-mouth marketing and how amazing bloggers can be for a book. I had blogs posting about it every day for a little over a week. Some of them were amazing. Some of them were unsure. Some of them were from people who didn't like the book.

All of them were SO NEEDED to get the word out about EVERY SHATTERED THING.

I grew more relaxed. I started answering questions and engaging with the bloggers on social media when they'd chat with me. If they tagged me in a tweet with a link to their review post, I'd thank them for reading + sharing the book and RT their review. I found them on Facebook and made sure to "like" their blog pages so I could keep up with them. If they responded to me consistently on Twitter, I'd make sure to follow them back.

Slowly, over the past fifteen months, I've come to realize something.

I would not be where I'm at today if it weren't for book bloggers taking time out of their schedules to read and talk about my books. Not every review glows with praise. I'm okay with this. There is nothing — nothing — that compares to the community of book bloggers who celebrate and cheer on indie authors. I've learned more about indie publishing through this network than anywhere else. And I've grown to love the people behind some of the blogs that promote books with humility, excitement, and honesty.

A few months ago, I was a table assistant for an author at a local book signing. Before the doors opened, there was a line down the hallway and circling the stairs below the hotel lobby. There were homemade t-shirts. Posters made. Scrapbooks filled with book covers and character names. These bloggers weren't messing around by holding one-or-two books to sign. Nope. They had luggage filled with copies of books. Multiple books per author.

The atmosphere was electric.

They gave gifts to the authors. Bracelets, drawings, flowers — and it wasn't with this "I'm trying to impress you" vibe, either. These were humans legitimately wanting to connect with another human they admire. These were relationships that formed long before the face-to-face interaction. 

One reader came up to the woman I was working with and started crying. 

"You have no idea what your books did for me," she whispered. Laughing, she wiped at her cheeks. "I'm sorry. I told myself I wouldn't cry. But your books....they just got me through a huge rough spot and I'm so thankful. Please don't stop writing." 

If I didn't know it before that event (I did), I definitely knew it after: book bloggers are the lifeblood of your indie release. 

Love them. Care for them. Engage with them. Pay attention to your @ replies on twitter, because sometimes they'll send you questions about your book. Respond to their emails if they take time to shoot you a message. 

Rainbow Rowell does this well. So does Sue Monk Kidd. I've even had John Green reply / favorite / RT a few of my responses to his questions or comments. Cora Carmack and K.A. Tucker and Autumn Doughton are also amazing at engaging with their readers.

I used to think it was okay to not respond. (And sometimes, it's necessary.) But, then I started noticing how seen I felt when authors took the time to engage with me when I'd tweet about their books or send them a message on social media. I started realizing that the book I loved just turned into a blog post trying to convince everyone else to read it. 

I'm not a book blogger, but I'm more likely to share a work and celebrate its releases and try to get others to purchase a book if I know there's a human and not a robot between the hardback bindings.

So imagine the power of a book blogger. 

By getting bloggers to read and review your book, you're harnessing their platform. Note: harness and don't use. There's a difference. One, there's an exchange that happens. A giving over of sorts. There's no expectation that they will share a certain way and you're thankful regardless. The other? You just want them for their numbers and audience and not because it's one more person reading your words + engaging with you in storytelling.

Word of mouth marketing is huge. Think of the runaway success of FAULT IN OUR STARS or how it wasn't until John Green wrote about ELEANOR AND PARK for NY TIMES that Rowell hit the bestseller list. Book blogging is more than just haphazardly throwing up GIFs to explain the feels involved in a certain novel. Book blogging is spreading the love of good stories.

And you know what? Even if the review lacks the oomph you're hoping for, they're still talking about your book. They're still sharing links. They're still celebrating the fact that one more person pushed a book out into the world. Because of this, bloggers will always be a huge step in my marketing process. Every time someone writes about EVERY SHATTERED THING or SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY, I'm thankful. Every time someone RTs a tweet where I'm sharing about it, I'm encouraged. And every time a reader expresses hope for new books and curiosity about what I will publish next, I'm inspired. 

If you want to feel connected to your readers, find bloggers who will read and write about your book. Love them. Support them. Cheer for them as they hit milestones of their own. When you get down to it, we're all in this together. From my experience, book bloggers are some of my favorite partners in helping me share about my latest characters because they believe in the stories just as much as I do. 

And for an author, this type of relationship is priceless.

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You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under books, indie publishing, writing.