Harmony Book Reviews

Review Guest Blog: The Story Siren

Posted on: September 13, 2008

Well, I realize I’m supposed to post these on Fridays but that is NOT working. So I’m going to try posting them on Saturdays now. I have a few more of these but reviewers: if you haven’t been interviewed or written a guest blog and would like to, please let me know!

Now, The Story Siren is here to give you tips on being a book blogger!

It seems that book blogging is becoming more popular every day. And I often get contacted by new bloggers that just want to know what exactly it is they’ve gotten themselves into! Although I must admit that I am not a professional and really I don’t know what I’m doing either, but hopefully these tips will help you out!
1. So where do I get books?

There is a ton of places to get books. Believe it or not, I don’t get all of my books from authors or publishers, I go to the library and my local Borders more often than not. Here are some web sites that you might want to start out at.

 Teens@Random ( http://www.randombuzzers.com/ )
This website is sponsored by Random House. You can obtain points by participating in various activities, polls, quizzes and surveys that pertain to books. Then you can use those points to get free books. Most of the time you can get Advance Readers Copies (ARCs).
Book Divas ( http://www.bookdivas.com/ )
Book Divas is a non affiliate site. They have various author visits, message boards, reviews and author interviews. They also periodically give out free copies of upcoming books. I mostly use Book Divas for its message board!
HarperTeen ( http://www.harperteen.com/firstlook/ )                                                                             Harper First Look is affiliated obviously with HarperCollins Publishers. Every month in the First Look program the offer a wide range of books that are upcoming releases. All you have to do is write a brief explanation on why you would like the book to review. There is a random drawing that decided on who receives the novels, you do however have to submit a review for the First Look site as well.
The In Group ( http://us.macmillan.com/Content.aspx?publisher=holtbyr&id=377 )
Affiliated with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. You have to be between the ages of 13-19 for this one, and you must also have your parents’ permission. I’m not sure how this one works because I’m too old to be a member, but I do know that you have to submit your reviews for The In Group as well.
Pulse It ( http://www.simonsays.com/content/feature.cfm?tab=23&feature_id=5712 )
Affiliated with Simon & Schuster. You have to be between the ages of 14-18 and you must also have your parents’ permission. I’m not sure how this one works either, but I do know that you have to submit your reviews to Pulse It as well.
Book Swim ( http://www.bookswim.com/ )
Book Swim in an online book rental site a lot like netflix, but for books. If you’re like me and come from a small town that has a limited selection at the library, Book Swim can be very useful. I know I use it when I have a sequel to review and my library doesn’t have the prequels. That way I don’t necessarily have to buy the whole series of books!
The Library is also a really good place to get books to review. Also, lots of bloggers have contests for free books! You can also ask authors or publishers for their books, although I have only done that a couple times. I’m not very comfortable asking an author to send me something for free, I just don’t want them to think I’m here for handouts, but that is a personal choice, so you’ll have to decide what you are comfortable with.
And don’t worry about how old or new the books are either. If you want to read and review a book that’s been out for twenty years go ahead and do it!
2. Where can I blog?
There are a lot of different blogging sites out there. I’m just going to mention a few free ones.
Blogger ( http://www.blogger.com )
Freewebs ( http://fw.members.freewebs.com/index.jsp )
WordPress ( http://www.wordpress.com )
MySpace ( http://www.myspace.com )
3. How do I get visitors?
Networking is a very important part of getting your blog out there. If no one knows it exists, you aren’t going to have a lot of people stopping by. So you just need to get your name out there! But don’t be annoying about it….please! That only turns people away.
When I got started, I didn’t have any visitors either, so this is what I did. I made a MySpace page. There are a lot of authors that have their own pages, and people that like to read are on MySpace too! This is a great way to “advertise” your blog! Visit other people’s blogs and leave a comment. I know when someone leaves a comment on my blog I almost always go to their site too! Go to a book related message board. I utilized message boards a lot when I first started my blog! Just don’t be overly perplexing and leave the same message on every topic, that’s overkill and it turns people off. Tell your friends and family!! Or if you’re insecure about that, just tell some of your friends!
Another important aspect is design of your site. Pick a color scheme that fits your voice! Make sure that your color scheme is easy to read and easy on the eyes. Don’t make your font to small either. People won’t bother reading your reviews if they can’t see them! Try to make a header that portrays your site. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Music or not to music. I know there are a lot of bloggers out there that have music on their site and if you want it I’m all for it. I know that personally I get distracted by music when I try to read so I end up finding the music player right away and turning it off.
Get ideas from your neighbors. I know that I was one of the first if not the first blogger to have the “What I’m Reading Now” element with a picture of the book I’m currently reading, and also the “In My Reading Pile” slideshow. And personally I think it’s cool that other bloggers started doing it! When I started having my theme element icons in my reviews, I had another fellow blogger ask me if she could use the idea as well, needless to say I was flattered that she liked the idea that much. So, why not ask your blogger neighbor if you can use their cool idea, what have you got to lose!
Try to make your blog stand out! Offer something that no one else has. My stand out element is my weekly Author Tales. Yes, it is a lot of working sometimes tracking down authors, asking if they would be willing and then of course actually getting the author post, but it is also a very critical component to my site!
Having a contest is always a sure way to draw visitors. Most of the time I supply the prizes in my contest, but every once in a while if you are lucky you can get an author to donate a book for a prize!
4. How should I write my reviews?

There isn’t a wrong or right way to write a review. You can try to be professional if you want or you can be more laid back. You just need to find the style that is right for you and not necessarily worry about what other people think. Write something that you would want to read, most of the time that’s what your readers would want to read too. You don’t have to write an essay to get your point across either, unless of course it takes you an adequate length to get your point across. Write the length that you are comfortable writing. Maybe you’ll start out writing short reviews and then once you are more comfortable with your writing, your reviews can grow.
5. How did you get your layout?
I’ve been getting this question a lot lately since I switched my background and header. I’m glad that everyone likes it so much! I actually did it myself. I’ve been helping some other bloggers change their layouts as well. If you would like some help please feel free to email me at thestorysiren (at) hotmail (dot) com.
Okay, that was kinda long, okay really long, but I think I’ve covered enough, so I’m going to wrap it up. If there are any other questions or suggestions please feel free to drop me a line. I would love to know if anyone else has any blogging tips, because in all seriousness I am really just going with the flow. These are just some things I’ve picked up in the short time I’ve been reviewing. You don’t have to use any of my advice and you don’t have to agree, I’m not a blogging specialist! But hopefully I helped out someone! Thanks again to Harmony for asking me to stop by and I’m really really really sorry it took me so long! 

The Story Siren
Happy Reading!!


4 Responses to "Review Guest Blog: The Story Siren"

Awesome job Kristi. I think you really covered a lot of good points about blogging…especially about trying to be unique and offer something that other blogs don’t have. At the moment, mine is mainly that it’s not just books…but an entertainment magazine of sorts.

I can’t think of any other advice at the moment…but I’ll post later if I think of anything.

Harmony: these are cool, and if you need anyone else at any point, feel free to get in touch. 🙂


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Great post!! I love The Story Siren and I love these tips. Definitely a must-read for new bloggers.

Great tips! They are great for people who want to blog. Love her reviews!

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