Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Becoming a Book Blogger - Design Considerations

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today, we're going into design considerations for your blog. Step four in becoming a book blogger. I do hope you're getting excited as you follow along and create your blog. By now, you've chosen a name, have a URL, and have picked a publishing platform. More than that, you have your review policies (what you will and won't review and how to submit)! You should also be a little bit familiar with your hosting service. This post is going into your blog design (layout) and content. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

First, a recap of the past posts and what's coming:

Now, take a close look at my blog. You'll see there's a background that encompasses my logo and color/design scheme. On the sidebar, I don't have a ton of clutter for folks to wade through. One thing I have going on right now is my UtopYA con author interview posts. Because of that, I have two additional images on the right hand side. But, as you can see, my subscribe box is above the fold (this is referencing the part of your blog that's visible before the scroll).

Moving on down, you'll see another couple of ways to follow me and my posts (you do want your blog to be read, right?), then it goes right into my archive. Not having an archive where people can browse your past posts isn't a good idea. You want them to stay and look around a while.

Let's go back to the top!

You see my banner telling you what my blog is about, then a set of links I think are pertinent for everyone on social media to make as easy to find as possible. Note they're above the fold.

Because I'm OCD, and my blog is my haven for all the information I impart to my fellow Indie authors, I have a categorized link list. This is a whole separate page on my blog I use to sort posts into categories (with a little snap of what the post is about) so people don't have to wade through my archive to find specific information.

But my blog loads fast on a browser. Six seconds. Ideally, you want five or less, but I'm okay with six. I've visited blogs that took over a minute to load because there was all this extra "stuff" all over them. I waited, but only to take a look at the mess, click away, and never return.

You have about fifteen seconds to catch someone's attention. They won't wait much longer than that (if they wait at all). So, keep the clutter down and increase your load times.

Black text on a white background in an easy to read font is the next thing you need to consider for your design. If you make it hard to read your posts, people will be turned off and not come back.

You want them to come back. That's why you're blogging.

Make sure all your stuff is harmonious. Not that everything has to be identical, but when someone clicks on the link to your Twitter page, make sure it at least resembles your blog, website (if you choose to have one), and Facebook page. Don't let them doubt they've found the person they're looking for.

The Chicken Coop can have one chicken image on their blog, a different one on Facebook and Twitter, and still another on their website, and (as long as the look and feel is the same) they'll connect the dots.

Remember your name! If you've chosen The Chicken Coop for your blog, be @TheChickenCoop on Twitter as well. Be facebook.com/TheChickenCoop or facebook.com/ChickenCoop. Sign up for TheChickenCoop [at] gmail!

Be consistent and keep it simple.

If you want a couple more tips and tricks on making your public appearance gel, grab my free PDF on branding here. Feel free to download, study, read, print, and redistribute at your leisure. As long as you don't charge for it, I'm good.

What do you think? Have you built up your blog yet? Got any subscribers?

Go on and get those signup boxes going! I'll be back later in the week with advice on structuring your rating system.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Becoming a Book Blogger - Picking a Posting Platform

Happy Monday, everyone! We're continuing on our journey to you becoming a book blogger. If you've been following along and working with me, you'll have a review blog name, policies, and an idea of your branding imagery. Today, I'm gonna talk about choosing a platform. No, I'm not gonna choose a platform for you, this is just gonna be an introduction to the various ones out there. Once you find a blogging platform you like and it's easy for you to use, then you go get a book on how to use the darn thing and go from there (there's a great one at the library - title to come at the end of the post). Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

As always, a little recap of the series and links to previous days:
Now we can get into the various platforms available for you to choose from. These links will take you to the main page for each service. There are no affiliate links on the Jo Michaels blog, so you can click freely here. I get paid when I see you being successful.

FREE Blogging Platforms
PAID Blogging Platforms

How to choose? Well, go check each one out! Play with them or take a peek around their control decks. See which one is the most user friendly and customizable for your needs.

Maybe you'll want to have more than one. I have two: Blogger and Tumblr. Each has a very different audience, but readers nonetheless. Like choosing anything, go with the one that makes you the most comfortable and won't have you tearing your hair out after a few hours of setup time. Still not sure what you're doing? Call someone who does or check out these books from your local library:

Blogging for Creatives: How Designers, Artists, Crafters and Writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success. by Robin Houghton
Blogging all in One: For Dummies by Susan Gunelius

Speaking of libraries! You can find books in the how-to section on almost everything having to do with blogs.

Moving on!

Now that you've chosen your platform, go register your new blog name (get your URL - something like TheChickenCoop.blogspot.com) and get your pages set up. At this point, you should have at least two pages: Home (where your blog posts are) and Review Policies. Get those two up and going, and we'll go into design choices you'll make for your blog tomorrow.

Baby steps!

What's your preferred blogging platform? Why?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Becoming a Book Blogger - Branding Yourself with Imagery

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Continuing on with my Becoming a Book Blogger series, today I'm gonna talk about choosing the imagery to go with your name. If you've been with me so far, you have a great name picked out, a tagline, and a review policy. As I stated yesterday, I'll be using The Chicken Coop as the name for the example review blog. Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

  • Choosing a Name and Review Policy
  • Branding Yourself With Imagery (you're there now)
  • Picking a Platform for Publishing
  • Design Considerations
  • Structuring Your Rating System
  • Building an Audience - Social Media Crazy
  • Writing Reviews
  • Money, You Say?

When considering branding yourself with imagery, keep this post in mind. While you want to be different and exciting, be sure you aren't cluttering your blog up with stuff that'll keep it from loading quickly. Remember, you have three to five seconds to make an impression. Use it wisely.

Here's a quicky for The Chicken Coop Book Reviews:

Now, this doesn't take into account any kind of color scheme you may have going on, and you may want a smart looking chicken, standing up, reading a book behind the banner, but you get the idea. This will matter when we get to structuring your rating system, too. Themes are fun!

Monday, we'll go into picking a platform to host your amazeblog.

What do you think? Are you coming up with some great ideas? Want to share?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Becoming a Book Blogger - Naming and Policies

Happy Thursday, everyone! Today, we're continuing the series on how to become a book blogger. Why am I doing this series? Because I've had so many people come up to me and tell me they're readers that consume at least three to four books a week, and don't write reviews for those books. What a loss for all those Indie authors out there! I know I'd give my book to someone who wanted to read and review it, and there are plenty of us out there who need those reviews. So, for those of you who love to read and have ever considered starting to write reviews, this series is for you. Grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

First, a recap of the series:
  • Choosing a Name and Review Policy (you're there now)
  • Branding Yourself With Imagery
  • Picking a Platform for Publishing
  • Design Considerations
  • Structuring Your Rating System
  • Building an Audience - Social Media Crazy
  • Writing Reviews
  • Money, You Say?

I'm starting with choosing a name because that's something that'll probably take you the longest, define your brand, and what everything else will follow. It's the single most important thing you have to consider. If you aren't creative like that, here are a couple of cool names not yet in use:

The Chicken Coop
Flower Power
The Book Gardener
Razing the Page

All of those can have awesome taglines that tell potential readers you're a book blog and here's why. Of course, The Chicken Coop would probably center on Hen-Lit. *grin* I'll use this name for the duration of the series for example purposes.

So, make a list of potential names and do a Google search to find out if the ones you like are already in use. When you find a suitable one, come up with your tag line (something like The Chicken Coop - Scratching Around for Great Books) and write it all down.

A WORD OF WARNING: Book bloggers are very protective of their babies. Don't steal a name from someone else or create a name that's too similar to one that exists. You'll be in for a war. Consider the information imparted.

Once you have your new, exciting name chosen, start on writing out your review policy.

This is for authors who find your blog or website, like your review/rating system, and want you to review their book. They need to know how to submit to you, how long it may take you to review the book, and your policy on rating books you can't finish (do you leave them alone or review and say you couldn't finish and why). How do you choose among the hundreds of submissions you get?

Also write a disclaimer about what you do when you're unable to finish or review a book. Will you contact the author privately, or will the title just fall away into the ether? No one really likes to coast along without knowing if they'll be reviewed or not, so be sure you're clear.

I think I've given you enough to think about for one day, so get busy and get that name chosen!

Anything you book bloggers might want to add about naming or policies?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review - The Strange Marriage of Anne de Bourgh

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today, I have yet another book review for you all from my Indie Fever 2014 reading list. There's still time to join in the fun of the challenge. Just go here, add your name to the linky thing with your pledge level, grab the badge, and read on! I always choose my books in December (and some are added along the way I find on my own) so I know about how many I can promise to read over the next year. I've already hit my goal for 2014, but I'm gonna keep going until the end. *grin*

Here's a recap of my review list:

Skylar Hamilton Burris The Strange Marriage of Anne de Bourgh REVIEW BELOW
Tamar Hela Feast Island REVIEW HERE
Rebecca Trogner The Last Keeper's Daughter REVIEW HERE
Scott Marlowe The Five Elements REVIEW HERE
L.K. Evans Keepers of Arden: The Brothers Volume 1 REVIEW HERE
Sarah Mäkelä The Witch Who Cried Wolf REVIEW HERE
Felicia Tatum Masked Encounters REVIEW HERE
David T Griffith The Bestiarum Vocabulum REVIEW HERE
Thaddeus White Sir Edric's Temple REVIEW HERE
Heather Topham Wood The Memory Witch REVIEW HERE
N. L. Greene Illusions Begin REVIEW HERE
J. A. Huss Tragic REVIEW HERE
Pauline Creeden Sanctuary REVIEW HERE
Casey Bond Reap REVIEW HERE 
Casey Bond Devil Creek REVIEW HERE
S. G. Daniels The Druid's Doorway REVIEW HERE
Misty Provencher The Fly House Amazon Kindle $3.99
Peprah Boasiako The Hitman Amazon Kindle $0.99
C. S. Janey Surrender To You Amazon Kindle $2.99
Gloria Piper Finnegan's Quest Amazon Kindle $4.99
Elle Todd The Elect Amazon Kindle $3.99 
Morgan Wylie Silent Orchids Amazon Kindle **FREE**
Laura Howard The Forgotten Ones Amazon Kindle $0.99
Christina Marie Morales Ambience Amazon Kindle $2.99
Molly Taggart Off Target Amazon Kindle $2.99

Title: The Strange Marriage of Anne de Bourgh
Author: Skylar Hamilton Burris
Genre: Historical Romance
Length (print): ~ 106 Pages
Buy LinkAmazon Kindle $2.99

When Mr. Collins leaves his living at Rosings for a higher (or at least more lucrative) calling, a lascivious new rector takes his place. Mr. Darcy fears this handsome man of the cloth may have designs on his sickly cousin Anne, and he races to rescue her from a fate worse than death: marriage. In addition to the title novelette, this collection also includes three Pride and Prejudice inspired short stories that offer playful glimpses into the future life of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy.  These short Regency romance selections will provide you with an enjoyable introduction to the writing style of Skylar Hamilton Burris, who has also authored two popular, novel-length sequels to Pride and Prejudice.

**Will not appear in review elsewhere. I think the newest version of the cover does the most justice to the book inside. It depicts Anne looking sheepishly over her shoulder. How awesome is that? You can check it out by clicking on the Amazon link above.**

Review time!

I read P&P about once a year. I love the characters, and always wanted to know what happened to poor Anne after Mr. Darcy chose Elizabeth.When Skylar Burris appeared on my blog to pitch The Strange Marriage of Anne de Bourgh to me, I snapped up the sample right away, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the book. Without further dawdling...

From a Reader's Perspective:
What I love most about Pride and Prejudice is the language. I get caught up in the flow and rhythm of Austin's words on the page. While this is a collection of short stories based on the P&P characters, it doesn't have the same cadence (which I firmly believe is one of the major reasons so many of us love the root story). Even so, I enjoyed the easy banter between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, further rooting their odd relationship as one that works. Both were overly witty in P&P, and that was both a blessing and a curse. My favorite short was the letters the couple exchanged, as it displayed a lot of their nature and gift with words. There was no backstory, so if you aren't familiar with the original, you probably won't enjoy these short tales. Writing was well done and flowed smoothly, but was missing that je ne sais quoi I was looking forward to.

From an Editor's Perspective:
There was one instance where the author lost her character's name (Jonson became Johsnon), but there were only three or four other errors.

1 Star for giving me laughs with some of my favorite P&P characters
1 Star for the letters short (which was very well done)
1 Star for giving Anne a happily ever after
1 Star for writing that had few errors
- 1 Star for not capturing me with prose that had cadence
Overall 4 out of 5 stars. Enjoyable read with fun shorts that'll keep you entertained.

Do you love the original? Ever read a spinoff? What did you think?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How To: Start a Book Review Blog - Series on Becoming a Book Blogger Introduction

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm giving you some information about a new post series that'll walk you through the steps of creating your very own book review blog. So, if you haven't subscribed yet, and you're interested in reading great, free books (and making money doing it) get on it. You may subscribe on the right ------------>

For this first of many posts to come on this topic, I'm giving you all a topic list that'll be updated as we go through the process. Why? Well, it's so I can show one link (to this page) and folks can find the information they're looking for. I love simplicity and organization (yeah, have you seen my link list?). Haha! In order, here are the post topics I'll be covering:
When you see the following image, you'll know you're on one of the building a blog pages:

I can't wait to get started. May the odds be ever in your favor!

What do you think? Interested?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Author Interview - Liz Long

Happy, happy Monday, everyone! *cheers* I'm back with yet another interview with a lovely UtopYAin. Today, I'm pleased to welcome Liz C. Long to the blog. She's got a quirky sense of humor, and we have stuff in common (which means we're like sisters)! So that's awesome. If you don't have your tickets to the con yet, what are you waiting for? The theme next year is time travel, and I'm positive Janet Wallace (the mastermind behind UtopYA Con) and her crew are gonna bring us some awesome stuff. Get your tickets here. Right now. So you can come meet awesome authors like Liz (and me! *waves hands around*) and go to panels to learn stuff. Pssst! There's a giveaway on the bottom of the page!

Enough rambling! Let's get going.

Jo: LIZ! Welcome to the blog of Jo! It’s super awesome to have you here, and I can’t wait for my readers to get to know you. Ready?

Liz: So ready! Let’s rock this interview!

Jo: And the congregation says, "Amen!" So, a little bird told me your book made it to the semi-finals in the KBR Best Indie Book 2014 Awards. Congratulations! How did you feel when you found out, and which book was it? Why did you enter?

Liz: First off, thank YOU because you were MY little birdie who told me the good news! My standalone title WITCH HEARTS was the submission that made semi-finals and I am beyond blown away by that fact. With nearly a thousand submissions, the fact that my book made it into the Top 20 is a huge honor. I entered mostly just to see how I’d do – I honestly don’t think I expected to make it that far! LOL I think the day I found out, I double- and triple-checked the website to make sure I wasn’t reading it wrong (you know 500 times in a row).

Jo: I know what you mean. The Bird hit the semi-finalist list last year and I stared and stared at the title; wondering if it was really sitting there. How exciting for you! *squee!* Tell me about the section of your website that gives authors tips and tricks on writing (my readers are totally your audience). How did the idea come about, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

Liz: Part of the reason I write those pieces is for authors like me who are just starting out. I remember googling every little question and sometimes there’s so much information out there you aren’t really sure where to start. My background is in marketing and I’ve been writing for publications on and off since I was a teen, so I’m relatively familiar with tricks we should all learn as indie authors. There’s always room to grow, so I’m always hoping to learn something new to pass along to my readers! I’ve had such great feedback from both writers and readers who get something out of those posts and I’m always tickled to receive an email thanking me for one of them. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy!

Jo: I love to see Indies helping Indies. It makes me happy how we all share. You have really great reviews on Amazon! I have to ask who your editor is. Everyone talks about how well written the books are.

Liz: Thank you! Actually, my editor is my best friend from high school, Morgan Wall. She was a newspaper journalist and editor for several years after college and is now a high school English teacher, so I’m really lucky to know someone with such a keen eye. We’ve always gotten on well due to her blunt honesty and similar humor, so not only do I understand how to take her critiques but I always know that she’s doing everything she can to make the book better (because eventually, I will have to pay her!).

Jo: It's awesome to have such a killer editor in your corner, huh? I have one, too! *shoutout!* She knows who she is. *nods sagely* So, I must know! What magazine do you work for, and how did you get the job? What kinds of things do you enjoy most about working there?

Liz: I am the Social Media & PR Strategist for LeisureMedia360, and we publish several publications, including the Virginia Travel Guide, THE ROANOKER, BLUE RIDGE COUNTRY, and BRIDEBOOK magazines. I’m really lucky in that I love my job – it’s a great 8-5 M-F gig that not only gives me a great writing schedule at nights and on weekends, but also gives me opportunities to meet great people in the area for interviews and networking. It sounds weird to my ears, but here in Roanoke, I’m supposedly a social media expert, so it’s also a good way to tie in what I learn with marketing my writing. I really love supporting my city in such a big media-based way and of course being a magazine writer is pretty much a dream come true!

Jo: What a perfect job for a writer. Hell yes, dream come true. Rock on, lady! Talk to me about getting your BA in English (yeah, I cyber-stalked you a little - don't judge). *grin* What prompted you to major in that subject, and what were your favorite classes?

Liz: I actually started out as a Communications major at Longwood University; I wasn’t crazy about the program, so I figured the next logical step was English because obviously I wasn’t too bad at it ;) I had a few fantastic classes I still think about years later, including my YA Literature class and American Literature with a tough-as-nails teacher who really shaped a lot of my senior year. My creative writing courses were of course favorites too, even if the homework wasn’t for the faint of heart!

Jo: I did almost the same thing (but with different majors). Ha! Cool. Okay, I’ll stop harassing you about your personal life for a moment. *bats eyelashes* Rapid fire question time! Lime green or hot pink?

Liz: Hot pink!

Jo: Sparkles! Amen! Toilet paper - over or under the roll?

Liz: Oh god, over. I’m totally in the middle of a toilet paper war with an unknown coworker who is a MONSTER and puts it under. She doesn’t know about the war, but it’s there.

Jo: I'd be doing the exact same thing. Only I'd call it to her attention. Haha! Puppies or kittens?

Liz: Puppies. My family raised dogs when I was a kid, so my entire childhood was based around puppies!

Jo: Puppy breath! *awwwwww* Now for the time travel question of the interview! Hey, we gotta have a theme, no? If you could go back in time and meet just one person, who would it be and why?

Liz: For real?! Oh my god, that’s too much pressure. Um…normally my celebrity is Justin Timberlake, but I feel like that’s inappropriate here. Someone dead…hmm…how about – no he’s a fictional character, Long…let’s go with Queen Elizabeth I. Can you imagine a woman in her time ruling an empire? I’d love to hear her advice on how to deal with bitchy coworkers. (Fun fact: In kindergarten, I brought in old coins for show and tell, one with Queen E on it. Because I’m also an Elizabeth, my clever classmates called me Queenie until the 8th grade!)

Jo: Now what are the odds that you and I would have the same historical figure? I freaking LOVE Elizabeth I. Obsessed a little. Wrote a huge paper on her in college and made a family tree and everything. Awesome. Oh, and you shall now be called Queenie for the duration of this interview. *evil laugh* Which of your books was the most difficult for you to write? What was so hard about it?

Queenie: That’s a tough one! I’d probably have to say BURNED, the second book in the Donovan Circus Novel. It was a bit tougher than I expected having to pick up in a series – not only do I want a reader to be able to pick up any title out of order and still understand what’s happening, but I also knew there’d be some choices readers would be annoyed about (ie a boy choice when I have two teams) – so I have to leave things open-ended for the third book to let them know a lot more will be going down! It’s fun to think about how things will develop for the characters over time, but you can’t reveal too much or too little. There’s a balance I had to find, but luckily, I think I found it in time for publishing!

Jo: I get the reading out of order and leaving dangles requirement. It's a fine line. Where’s one place you’d like to visit if you had unlimited money? And would you set a story there?

Queenie: I’ve been watching a lot of Outlander lately, so Scotland is pretty high up there. Then again, some of my family is old Irish, so Ireland has always been at the top of my list. And you bet your bonnet I’d set a story there once I visited and had plenty of details to go off of!

Jo: My husband is Irish, and we're planning to visit there later in life. Hope it's all I've built it up to be. Haha! Remember, if you base a book there, you can probably write the trip off on your taxes as research. *grin* Did I miss anything? Something you’d like to add?

Queenie: I’d actually like to let everyone know I’ll have a new book release coming out October 30th called A REAPER MADE. It’s a clean NA Fantasy about a new Reaper who has to go back and save her family from demons. It’ll be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in time for Halloween!

(Liz Queenie gave me the synopsis - and a very pretty banner - which I'm now sharing with you all)
Grace had finally gotten used to her new afterlife as a “Made” – a Reaper who used to be human. When Made Reapers and souls begin disappearing, however, Grace and her mentor Tully suspect demons. Grace’s worst fears are confirmed when her living family is threatened.

She’ll have to break every rule in the Reaper book to save them, including using a little magic to become temporarily human. With the help of Tully and her witchy friend Tessa, Grace goes undercover to save the fates of kidnapped souls – only to discover that demons aren’t working alone. Betrayal and distrust runs deep and Grace discovers that sometimes even Reapers are prone to humanity.

Jo: Sounds amazing. I'll be sure and check it out! Thank you so, so much for joining me on the blog today. It was awesome having you here and I can’t wait to squee with you at UtopYA 2015.

Queenie: Thank you for having me! Expect a tackle hug in June!!

Now, it’s time to tell all you lovely readers about the featured book of the week!

Author: Liz Long
Genre: Paranormal/Horror
Length (print): 212 pages
Buy links: Amazon ~ B&N ~ KOBO  ~  $2.99

How does a witch stay safe if a killer can get through her protection spells?

Witches like Ruby and Courtney can take care of themselves. So when Courtney is murdered, Ruby’s world crashes to a halt. The only thing keeping her grounded is the return of Courtney’s brother, Cooper. He seeks revenge, but Ruby wants to help other witches stay alive. To do that, she’ll have to reunite with her old coven’s High Priest, who also happens to be her cheating ex-boyfriend.

If that wasn’t awkward enough, when the killer gets too close, Cooper temporarily moves into Ruby’s place while a police officer tails her every move. Cooper’s presence distracts Ruby as they fight their desire against their need to stay safe. Then Courtney begins to haunt Ruby’s dreams and secrets are spilled, things from Cooper’s past that could get them both killed. The killer continues to stalk Ruby and the more she discovers, the more she fears she won’t be able to keep her heart in her chest.

While your fingers are in the clicking mode, why not give Ms. Long a follow on alllll these awesome social media sites?

Twitter: @lizclong
Facebook: Liz C. Long Author
Pinterest: LizCLong
Website: http://lizclong.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBsxIcJsG0L3owWYOzNhczg
Google +: LizCLong
Goodreads: Liz C. Long
Amazon: Liz Long Author Page

Wait! Don't go yet! Liz has graciously offered to give away a copy of Witch Hearts for one lucky reader.

No, there was no torture involved! Okay, maybe a little...

Now that you know I could get in trouble for my persuasion tactics, don't you want to enter even worse? Perfect! Here you go:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you have any questions, pop them into the comments below!

Well, that’s all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!