Monday, 3 August 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Publishers and Review Books

I am asked how to deal with publishers and how to get review books all the time. In fact, it's not uncommon for me to receive messages from random people asking for all of my contacts. Whilst that's wrong on many levels, I get where these people are coming from, I really do. A few years ago, I had no idea how any of these things worked either, and lots of mistakes were made.

I'm far from being an expert, but I like to think I've learned a lot from those mistakes, and so when it was requested again that I write a post on how to deal with publishers and how to get into reviewing books, I thought I'd give it a go. Please take this post as a guide, not as a rule book! I'm not telling you what to do, just sharing how I do things.

Firstly, let's look at the generally accepted do's and don't's when it comes to publicists and review books. 

What I'm about to tell you will help you to be successful in getting books to review, but you don't need to follow these tips. The fun thing about having a blog is that you can do what you like with it. This is just a guide made up of comments I've seen around the blogosphere and my own mistakes and experiences.

  • DON'T email publishers asking for a book that was published ages ago. You can try and they might send it to you, but chances are you'll be ignored and you'll just make yourself look cheeky, like a Nando's. Heh. What I'm trying to say is that, if you want a book that has already been published but hasn't already been offered to you for review, you should probably just buy it. It's easier, quicker, less cringe-worthy, the industry gets money and you get your book. Or you could go to the library! Edit: Apparently publishers in the US love sending backlist titles! Unfortunately, that's generally not the same here in the UK.
  • DO be polite. When talking to a publicist, whether you're asking for a book or whether they've just offered you something, remember that you represent your blog and your readers. Also, publicists are lovely, generous people and deserve to be treated with respect. And if they're not lovely, because there are a couple who like to take advantage of bloggers, you should still be polite and professional. I think that goes without saying, to be honest.
  • DON'T ask other bloggers for their contacts. Once, a blogger who had only started their blog the day before sent me a message asking if I could give them the email addresses of all the publicists I speak to. This is wrong on many levels.
  • DON'T ask authors for review copies. I used to do this occasionally and I am physically cringing just remembering it. Something I didn't realise in my first year or two of blogging was that authors get a very limited number of their own books. If they want extras, they have to buy them - just like us! Asking an author for a review copy of their book is basically saying look, I want your book, but I don't want to pay for it. Ouch. (Of course, this is different if they themselves are offering you one.)
  • DON'T do the whole emotional blackmail/passive aggressive thing. If you see lots of bloggers getting a review book that you would also love to review but you haven't received, just tweet/email the publicist and ask, or buy it when it's published. Don't tweet them lots of sad faces or say that your day has been ruined and you think you might quit blogging because you don't have the book. Just ask. Are there are spare copies available? I'd love one to review! No worries if not though. I know it's embarrassing. I've been blogging for nearly a decade (#old) and I still feel shy and awkward about it, hence I don't do it often.

And please don't start a blog just so you can get free books. Sure, it's cool, exciting and the novelty for me still hasn't worn off, but if getting free books is the sole reason for you starting a blog then you might want to rethink your life choices. Blog because you love it. Read because you love it. It's obvious when someone is just in it for the freebies and it gives all of us a bad name, so please think carefully about approaching publicists for review books. Another tip - don't contact loads at once. You'll be quickly overwhelmed, trust me!

So, now we've covered that, how do you actually get on mailing lists in the first place?

Back in the day, I would scour publisher websites for hours, tracking down generic marketing email addresses. I would then send a quick email in the hopes that I had the right address, explaining who I was, asking if they had a blogger mailing list and, if so, please could I be added. I also asked that, if I had emailed the wrong person, I would greatly appreciate it if they could pass on my email to the correct department.

I don't do that anymore because, firstly, I don't need to and, secondly, effort.

These days, you can send 'em a tweet or wait for them to advertise that they're looking to add bloggers to their mailing lists, although not all publishers do the latter. They will probably then ask you to email some details. Here's the very, very important bit: do not spam them.

"But, Amber, what do I actually have to include in the email?" I hear you ask. 

Now, what I include might not be the norm - who knows? - but it's never failed me. Ever. So here we go.

  • Full name and address
Saves them having to ask, and saves you having to provide it every time you request a book. Simples.

  • Stats
For this I include my average monthly page-views, my follower count across my blog and all relevant social media, and sometimes my DA (Domain Authority) depending on whether I'm talking to a publisher or a PR company. If you have a YouTube channel, you can also include stats for that.

  • Book preferences
Do you like YA fiction? Adult? Non-fiction books about cooking, or wild dystopians? Let them know! Then they have a general idea of what you might be interested in hearing about.

And now for a little bit of myth-busting.

  • Someone tweeted me the other day asking how I get review books, because she thought they were only available for people in the US until she watched my videos. If there are publishing houses based in your country, there's no harm in seeing if they'll let you onto their mailing lists, and review books certainly aren't just available in the US. I know bloggers in Ireland, South Africa and Australia to name a few, and there's a huge blogging community in the Philippines - they all have review books available to them!
  • You don't need a certain amount of followers or views to get review books or to be noticed by publicists. There are other things, like blog tours and giveaways, which you might need certain numbers for, but generally for review books publishers approach people based on quality, not quantity. Although, obviously, good stats are helpful.

This is a massive topic so hopefully I've covered the key points, but if you have any questions feel free to comment or tweet me @MileLongBookS. If you're looking for more blogging tips and tricks, click here!

Good luck!

Just a quick note to say that I have a new Instagram account @themilelongbookshelf. I'd love it if you could give it a follow! For non-bookish, life-y photos, you can follow me @they_call_me_amber. And my July book haul went up on my YouTube channel a few days ago, so you can watch that here. Awesome. I'm off to paint my bedroom. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

How I Deal With Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Around this time last year I let you in on a little secret which I had been hiding from the Internet for quite a while. I was terrified, and I didn't like talking about it, but even now I'm still getting tons of emails from people around the world telling me that my post on anxiety and panic attacks helped them. And you have no idea how much that means to me.

Along with peoples' own mental health stories, it is constantly requested in these emails that I write a post on how I deal with my anxiety. Because, lets be honest, my original post was an emotional mess and, at the time, I didn't really have any solid ways of coping.

I'm far from being better, but I've come a long way since that first blog post, and in that time I've discovered a few things that work for me.

Listening to music

Sometimes I like to do this, and sometimes I don't. It depends on how I feel at the time, and if I do choose to listen to music, I either pick kickass tracks with empowering lyrics to get me in the zone, by artists like Sia and Jessie J, or I'll listen to less intrusive music, like Lorde and Troye Sivan. I also really like this remix of Midnight by Coldplay. Mostly, I think it's about finding songs with lyrics that speak to your particular situation.

Blowing on my thumb

This sounds weird, but stick with me. I got this one from Carrie Hope Fletcher's book, All I Know Now, and it works. When she's nervous before a show, she blows slowly on her thumb to regulate her breathing. A similar tip is to breathe in for 4 and out for 7, making sure your stomach is rising more than your chest. It helps to lay down for that one, so I prefer the other tip as you can do it anywhere.

Thinking ahead

Say I have an exam this afternoon and I'm really anxious about it. To help, I'll think 'this time tomorrow it will all be over and done with.' Imagining the situation over and out of the way really helps me and is actually something I've done since I was little.

Thinking positively

With anxiety, it's very easy to slip into the mindset that you can't do this, that you're rubbish and you'll never be able to do anything. Picturing myself doing successfully whatever it is I'm anxious about has helped me in the past.

Taking time out

I guess you could say that, until maybe a year ago, I didn't take much care of myself in the way that it never occurred to me to take a break every now and then. These days, I am a firm believer in self-care. If I have a lot to do but I'm feeling rubbish, I'll 'take the day off' and relax - or try to, at least. It's important to take time out when you need to, because if you're feeling like crap - whether you have anxiety or not - that's probably a sign that you need to stop for a while.

Distracting myself

I write about every blog event I attend. There are always more than enough photos, lots and lots of notes, and sometimes even a vlog of the day. Why? Because being at an event is extremely nerve-wracking for me, and the only way I can ever get through it is by distracting myself by completely focusing on the end result, aka the blog post. I'll film clips, take photos, and write notes about the event, and this always helps to make me more comfortable.

Making my lock-screen positive

Like a lot of people, I always have my phone on me. So, I picked two inspirational tweets which I liked, made them into one photo, and set it as my lock-screen. Whenever I'm anxious I'll read it and really let it sink in.

Remembering that lots of people feel the same

Right now, someone in the world is having a panic attack. Right now, someone in the world is sat talking to their therapist. Right now, someone is taking their medication for the day. At YALC earlier this month, I was comforted by the fact that I knew there were lots of other people there with anxiety. Lots of people are dealing with the same things as you, and you're not alone. It helps to remember that every now and then.
These are all things that can help me to feel a bit calmer. However, just because these help me sometimes, doesn't mean they'll help you - I'm not a doctor! Hopefully they do help, and there's no harm in trying, right?

On a different topic entirely, I love it when some of you send in blog post ideas, so if there is anything you would like to see on The Mile Long Bookshelf, let me know via my contact form and I might just do it. :)

Do you have any tips on dealing with anxiety?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

Title: Fire Colour One
Author: Jenny Valentine
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication date: 1st July 2015
Pages: 237
Genres: YA Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from Maximum Pop.

Iris's father, Ernest, is at the end of his life and she hasn't even met him.

Her best friend, Thurston, is somewhere on the other side of the world.

Everything she thought she knew is up in flames. Now her mother has declared war and means to get her hands on Ernest's priceless art collection.

But Ernest has other ideas.

There are things he wants Iris to know after he's gone. And the truth has more than one way of coming to light...

I know everyone loves this book, and I know that Jenny Valentine is commonly referred to as one of the greatest YA voices of her generation, but Fire Colour One wasn't for me. At all. My first impressions were good; I love the tagline and, as I said in my June book haul video, the cover is so tremendously beautiful with pretty typography and flecks of gold.

But, with great sadness, I've come to the realisation yet again that a good cover doesn't always equate to a good book.

Iris is a pyromaniac, leaving a trail of bonfires behind her wherever she goes. Her mother, Hannah, is cold, materialistic, and loves money. Her step-father, Lowell, is a weak wanna-be actor who can usually be found with a bottle of Vodka in his hand. So, when it's announced that Iris's biological father, who also happens to be a millionaire, is dying, Hannah and Lowell are hungry for his money and will do anything to get it.

Iris? She just wants to get out of there, and maybe start a few fires on the way. But there are secrets she needs to uncover first.

Fire Colour One has received so much praise recently. Bloggers have called it beautiful, uplifting and emotional; it's been proclaimed a gem, named one of the best books of 2015 so far, and had people reaching for the tissues left, right and centre. But honestly? I felt no emotion whilst reading this. It felt like a chore more than anything else, and I'm genuinely relieved to have finished it. I'll admit it was poetic and even reminiscent of one of my favourite writers, Jandy Nelson, at times, but it was also slow-paced, choppy and, I hate to say it, boring. Lacking. Meh.

I quite liked the ending, actually - it was genius and lovely, plus it completely took me by surprise - but the rest of the book was a complete let down. Looking at Goodreads, I'm clearly in the minority when it comes to my feelings about Fire Colour One, so if you like the sound of it don't let me put you off. I just hope you enjoy it more than I did.