Sunday, 11 July 2010

Blogger Inquest - Steph (Steph Su Reads)

I really cannot contain my excitement in how this interview series is turning out. Everytime I see a new interview arrive in my inbox I open it and read it like a kid desperate for candy. I want to thank the bloggers that have so generously provided their time in allowing me to pick their blogging brains.

Today we have the splendiferous Steph who is the exceptionally talented writer and reviewer behind Steph Su Reads. We started our blogs in the same month - January of 2009 - and we've been crisscrossing paths every since (and perhaps even for real next month). Steph was the worthy recipient of BBAW's award for best writing in the first year of her blog's existence...she's THAT good, people. She also swims like a dream...can a girl possess too many weapons in her arsenal?

The purpose of the Blogger Inquest is to delve into a specific blogger's mind and experiences online. To be up front, I presented each of the interview subjects with 21 questions to choose from and they took it from there. This is a month long series of interviews on Persnickety Snark and I've got a whole host of bloggers (new and old) lined up. Next up is someone new on the block, Tye from The Book Gryffin.

Now on with the show, Ms Steph Su do your thing...

How has your approach and attitude (specifically reviewing) altered from the early stages of your blog?
Well, it changed rather quickly at first. I had been writing reviews for several years before starting up a blog, but those were mostly synopsis-heavy, with maybe a sentence or two of "opinion" (read: sales points) at the end. It didn't take long for me to reverse my attention on the two sections! Other than that, I just try to tell myself that every review I write can't be of equal quality. There are too many factors that go into a good (by which I mean honest and informed) review, from the book to one's relationship with the author to one's mood or simply the time of day. Unfortunately, all reviews are not made equal. I write what I want to say, and it's never the same from day to day.

Characterise yourself as a blog reader – monogamous, flirty or promiscuous? Lurker or commenter?
Definitely monogamous. I have a folder of favorite blogs in my Google Reader that I like to check regularly, when time prevents me from perusing all the blogs I subscribe to. These blogs are all well-written, thought-provoking, honest, groundbreaking, funny, etc. Most of the time, they make me think, why hadn't I thought of that myself? I think I comment on my favorite blogs a fair amount, but I wish I could more. Alas, time doesn't permit it.

I am currently in a situation where debut authors I have befriended are coming out with their second titles. How do you choose to deal with the apprehension and pressure with reviewing work of those you are closer to?
So the question I've struggled with this past year or so is that I'm not sure whether two people can have a thoroughly intimate, no-holds-barred friendship if they also have a professional, moderately power-structure relationship. I think I've made it clear through my blog and otherwise general online communication that I am honest: I don't do false advertising, I'm constructively critical, I rave when there's cause to rave but don't otherwise, and I try to avoid situations that I fear may become unpleasant. (I'm conflict-averse; it may be a problem.) I try not to hold debut authors up to a different standard than I would other, more established authors, who sometimes also come up with books that I found myself not enjoying as much as their other works.

Nowadays, I rarely email authors to ask if I can review their books: the chance for disappointment and hurt, on both ends, is too great. I'm very flattered when authors whose works I've consistently loved ask me to review their upcoming book, of course, and 98% of the time those situations turn out fine. I guess I'm more careful now about declaring favorite authors, partly for this reason.

This sort of thinking may also be why I don't have many close friends... lol.

Newest old find that you wish you had read years ago?
I just read Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce for the first time in my life. WHAT was I doing as an elementary school reader that I NEVER found this book? Hello, 8-year-old Steph?!?!

Nevertheless, the book is still fantastic even reading it at my age. :)

How aware (and/or supportive) are people in your everyday life of your blogging?
I try to keep my blogging life separate from my "real" life, for the most part. A decent number of people in my life--friends, family, mentors--know that I review books online and have books sent to me for review. Some even know it's for a blog I run, and some *coughrelativescough* check it out every once in a while and like to ask me how it's going. But I haven't gotten to a point in my life yet where I'm comfortable sharing my dedicated interest in reading and writing YA with most of society. Perhaps some day!

There are fantastic discussion posts across YA. Which post made you wish you had written it?
Pretty much any discussion post Kristi or Adele write, as well as Khy's "Why [insert genre here] Rocks/Sucks" posts. I love Kristi's Top Ten lists for the summer, and wonder why my list-obsessed self hadn't thought of doing such a fun thing! Adele's posts keep me constantly aware of my role as a blogger, reviewer, and consumer in the YA industry. It's very meta! :)

Writing a book review (for a title you’d ideally like to marry if legally possible) is one of the tougher tasks for a book reviewer. What is your approach to writing an informed, glowing review?
This is a hard one. I think for a glowing review, you just have to find the review style that best gets to the heart of what you liked about the book, and may get your readers' attention. I try to be professional when writing most of my reviews, but sometimes I can't help but break out of that and start fangirling. I think my blog readers can probably see when that happens and take note. If I love a book for its beautiful writing, it's probably apparent through the style of MY review, which also tends to get lyrical in those instances. So much of our reading experiences are based on expectations (from long-time hype to simply our reaction to the jacket description) that reviews are necessarily relevant to one's expectations, and thus are different each time.

Publishers do a great deal for the YA community but what could they be doing to increase the effectiveness of the blogger/publisher relationship?
Oh gosh, I REALLY want to do something about this! If I had applied for publishing internships this summer as I had considered, I would've had a lot to say about this, lol. I think that blogs are a fantastic way to promote books: they are as effective as other industry news publications, such as Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, etc. Buzz is top-down self-generated: the publisher secures a "major deal" with an author, and suddenly the book world's ears perk up, waiting to see how this deal will play out, what the book will be like.

I think that right now, the review book distribution process could be much more streamlined. I've had ideas of amassing a giant blog database in which you could organize blogs by their reading and genre preferences. That way, a publisher could more effectively reach their desired audience, and save money at the same time. Like, if you're a publisher, and you're promoting the latest big paranormal romance, why why WHY would you send a review copy to a blogger who makes it clear he/she doesn't enjoying reading those types of books? This database I imagine would have people's favorite and least favorite authors, so that publishers could easily sort out the blogs who would not be compatible with the book they're promoting. If you pitch your book as [author name] meets [author name], and I like neither of those authors, then you would save yourself resources by just not sending the book to me. Does that make sense, or is it just me?

Book tours – effective marketing or blog flooding?
Effective--but I might be biased, as I help run Traveling to Teens. I think book tours are hit or miss, and they have to be done well to be effective. No more than 10-12 blogs on the tour, and preferably a theme that connects the tour stops together. Probably my favorite book tour ever was one I organized for Y. S. Lee's A Spy in the House. She wrote up 8 guest posts on the theme "Things You Didn't Know About Victorians." The guest posts were succinct, funny, fascinating, and related. We're working with her for a book tour for the sequel, The Body at the Tower, right now, and the guest post theme is going to be "Notorious Victorians." Who wouldn't want to read on for that theme?

What is something that makes you immediately groan when looking at another’s blog?
If the blog has lots of widgets, graphics, icons, and more that slow it down incredibly. If my computer freezes while trying to load your page, you can bet I'm not going to visit your blog on a regular basis. It's more going to be like I'm going to try to avoid visiting your blog as much as possible.

You can find Steph at the following places:
Steph Su Reads


Chachic said...

Adele, I think your Blogger Inquest posts are awesome! I like reading their answers to your thoughtful questions about blogging. I already follow Steph's blog but I'm hoping to discover more blogs in your posts. :)

Steph's idea of a blog database is a good one. It will definitely make it easier for publishers to distribute their books. Also, so glad she discovered Tamora Pierce!

Nomes said...

I recently read Tamora Pierce too (for the first time). I follow Steph as well - originally followed from the link on your side-bar. It's good to see some of the history of her blog and her experience. I agree, her reviews are always beautifully executed and unbiased - plus I think we have similar taste in books :)

great idea, this series :)

Chapter Chicks said...

I love these! Awesome post!

Bianca said...

Adele, I'm having a blast reading these Blogger Inquests! All of the bloggers write so well and are so informative in what they write! Steph Su Reads is one of my favorite book blogs.

Khy said...

Yay Steph! She's one of my favorites. :D

Mariah said...

Great interview! Her idea for what publishers should do is a great idea! Also the Alanna series is amazing!

Anonymous said...

Another great interview - as a new book blogger I'm really loving this series Adele :)

Angiegirl said...

I loved hearing a bit more about how you started blogging and how your blog evolved, Steph. And so very glad you discovered (and loved) the Alanna books this year. As Adele can tell you, they are made of awesome from start to finish. :)

The Book Owl said...

Another wonderful interview! Thanks for stopping by Steph. :]

Tammy said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE Steph Su! She'e one of the blogger's I want to be when I grow up! Thanks for the fun interview!

Michelle said...

Love reading Steph's amazingly thoughtful answers. Seh is definitely a leader in the YA blogging community that other should be doing their best to emulate. Amazing interview.