Before anything else, a very Merry Christmas! It’s all about snow, gifts and beauitful lights today so let’s add some interesting blogger views in the mix. Today, for the Interview Of The International series, we have the very lovely and amazing book blogger—Evelina from AvalinahsBooks—who has some helpful and honest answers for us! She has been blogging for over a year now, and tends to blog about a variety of genres—general fiction, sci-fi, fantasy. While at it, she always tries to voice out the important things too, like equality and disability. Apart from blogging, she works in the field of digital marketing. And oh, she loves cats!
Let’s start with the usual, what got you into blogging about books and your love for them?
I’ve always been a reader, but reading “abroad” has only become possible for me when my sister gifted me a Kindle—I’ve actually even posted about that! But that was just the first step. I’ve been on Goodreads since 2012, but never really reviewed things… Then one day, I won a giveaway for a great book, and the publicist asked me to register for NetGalley to receive it (this was in 2014). I forgot about NetGalley after that, up till maybe 2016, when I realized its potential. Then I started looking around, posting my first reviews… And figured that I like it! I started consciously working towards having a blog – building my Goodreads and Twitter audience. I didn’t just up and start a blog like most people do—I stuck to Goodreads reviews for a few months. And then one day I just got my own domain. That was in the end of 2016. And here we are!
Your reviews range over quite a few genres—from fantasy to non-fiction—but what is that one genre, or demographic, that you can’t possibly say no to?
Oh, it’s hard to say. That’s the thing with me—I can’t pick one! I read all over the place, and about the only things I don’t read are romance, mysteries and most thrillers. I also don’t read YA too often. The rest? EVERYTHING. I don’t really have a niche blog! Sometimes I wonder if it’s a bad thing. It’s always better to be geared in some direction, but what can I do. Too many interests.
You’ve, by now, reviewed a total of thirty books that brings women under the spotlight and highlights feminism. How important is this particular category to you? Any one of these you would mark down as a must-read for our readers?
It seems as though you know more about me than I do! *nods in an impressed way*
Truly, I don’t count the numbers. I just blog about what inspires me, and a lot of those things have to do with empowering women, PoC, people with illnesses or disabilities, or basically just anyone who needs a voice. I would absolutely mark The Radium Girls as a must read for all women—it’s not an easy story to stomach, but if not for those girls, you might still be working in a sweatshop yourself.
At this moment, you’re ranked as the #1 best reviewer on Goodreads along with some equally amazing ranks for other titles. How do you best use Goodreads to uplift yourself as a reader?
Well, basically… You have to live in a small country? Thing is, Goodreads ranks you by your country. Mine only has 2.5 million people—that’s not a lot. And not a lot of them are on Goodreads either! So really, I don’t have almost any competition.
To be honest, I haven’t used Goodreads much as a social network, after I started blogging, and I regret that, but there is just so much time in the day! Now, I just use it to post my reviews and blog-related news. I don’t get to actually come back and interact with people so much anymore. But, I will share one thing that I haven’t heard a lot of bloggers do! It brings me quite a lot of my traffic, and that is timing my Goodreads reviews with my blog posts. I know most bloggers just do their Goodreads reviews whenever, and post on their blog independently, but I always time them together and link back to my blog post from Goodreads. I even have an elaborate system of setting scheduled emails to myself of when the content is posted on the blog, so I would remember to post my review at roughly the same time. Believe it or not, I have posted them while in a party through my phone! But that is a topic for another day.
Oh yes, my pleasure! Well, sometime in 2017 I realized that I might have an ARC problem. What tipped me off was that I had about 100 ARCs from back when I first joined NetGalley and didn’t know it had such a thing as a ratio…? Nobody seemed to have a link-up meme for taking care of your ARCs situation, so I jumped at making one of my own. That led to assembling an entire crowd of people who seemed to have the same problem! Every month we vote on a theme and try to mow down as many ARCs with that theme as possible from out ARC stack. It has been an incredible motivator! I have been reading like 3-4 old ARCs every month now, and I’m not the only one! Meanwhile, the State of the ARC meme is a monthly progress post that everyone can do to track their own progress. There is also a link-up available, so it’s easy to get more traffic to your own post. You also don’t have to be in the group to participate in the link-up.
Wow, that sounds like a really good idea. Moving on, your latest post deals with the current issue in the book blogging community, especially how international bloggers are being unappreciated. As a book blogger from Lithuania, what are your opinions on the steps taken by Goodreads and Netgalley?
I am not surprised about Goodreads, as I feel like maybe they’ve just grown tired of administrating so many giveaways for nothing, when they basically have a monopoly to capitalize on. I think it’s awful for indie publishers, as the prices Goodreads listed seem perfectly ridiculous. On the other hand, there haven’t been any good giveaways for my region for a loooooong time, so I don’t personally feel a big loss, although I’m sad for the indies, of course. As for NetGalley… It was a shock. I realize now that they might have not made such a big change as we had all feared, but what I am still appalled by is that they will mail us for a little change in their review format, but they will not mail us for a big change like this! To warn us, to at least show us respect and tell us what’s going on. Nor have they paid any sort of attention to the Twitter [shit]storm. What kind of PR is this, guys? If NetGalley doesn’t care for us internationals, that’s fine, but if they care about their own image as a brand, they should not be doing this silent treatment. It’s against all rules of marketing. Unless they think any bad marketing is good marketing too.
Sequencing from the previous question, how do you best use the available resources to keep your reader soul happy?
I still think there are pretty many available resources for us! (I mention quite a few in the said post) I am lucky though, because I don’t care too much about hyped books, so I am often just as happy to read a book nobody has ever heard about, as long as the blurb catches my eye. So I’m pretty easy to entertain!
For how long have you been blogging and what’s the one most important thing you’ve learnt so far in your journey that you wish you knew before stepping into the blogging world?
I haven’t been blogging for long, actually—only since October 2016. So currently, slightly more than a year! The most important thing that I’ve learned is that your readers are not your audience, they are your friends. That’s the weird part—see, I am a digital marketer. I sometimes write communication plans for brands, and in those cases, it’s always an audience. As I was starting out with blogging, I thought it would be the same, so there was always a certain distance between me and my readers. But gradually, I found out that there’s a community, and you’re not just speaking words into a void of empty faces! That was the most amazing thing to find—the connections we form, the groups that emerge and the support. We truly do have one of the best communities I’ve ever encountered.
I see you’ve an active group on Goodreads with over 100 members, by the name ARCs Anonymous. What is it about and what propelled you to set it up?
Well, I guess I’ve already answered your question at least in part, when I was talking about State of the ARC! The meme came about first, but then I was talking to people and the fact that we’re “ARCoholics” kept coming up, and I just decided it would be an amazing thing to do! I didn’t expect people to jump at it like that. In maybe two days, the group grew to like 50-60 members. It’s not an incredibly active group on Goodreads, but the best thing is that it helps them achieve actual goals! (We even keep score) And of course, it has been shrinking my ARC backlist quite a lot. So the group works!
With the recent trend of ARCs around the book bloggers, how important do you think ARCs actually are? Do you think it’s an important factor in determining a book reviewer’s approach?
I don’t know if it’s extremely important for us to blog about ARCs, per se, because the reviews for well-known books are always more popular. But the thing with us internationals isn’t about how many ARCs we receive… It’s about how it makes us feel. And often, it makes us feel like we’re just not good enough, and that’s the worst feeling ever, isn’t it? That’s what’s problematic. It’s the emotional part of this issue that we have to resolve, I think.
Do you prefer contacting publishers directly for ARCs/galleys or do you consider third party platforms as a better option?
Actually, I have never contacted publishers directly for ARCs *hides in fear*
I am just too afraid to hear a no! And we come back to the same thing—I don’t want to hear I’m not good enough!
I like third party platforms a lot, because you get to choose what you want to get (as opposed to authors emailing you and sending you review requests), and you also don’t have to deal with rejection the same way as emailing an actual person—it’s somehow less painful that way.
Let me just tell you that I have immense respect for any blogger who had the balls to ask a publisher for an ARC directly. Teach me your ways!
As a reader with a strong preference for diverse books, I was excited to see a separate heading for this specific slot under reviews. Do you think diverse reads have taken up the book world by storm or is there work to be done?
I think it’s wonderful that we have such a movement for diversity! However, I think it’s also important how we talk about it. Unfortunately, a lot of people like to ‘police diversity’. They will tell others that ‘they are not diverse enough’ which kind of beats the point, don’t you think? For example, they will sometimes assume white = same as American (which couldn’t be farther from the truth). They will assume things about people, they will label them and shout at their opinion. They will not let some people have an opinion, even if that opinion is respectful. We will not achieve anything by being angry and mean to others. That’s not education. That’s not diversity.
In fact, I often feel excluded from diversity—even my being from a small, not very rich country doesn’t seem to count to ‘the police’. Which is why I don’t mind them and just keep blogging about women, disabled people and minorities. I am not the skin I was born with. I am what I do.
E-books or paperbacks? Covers or blurbs? ARCs or Backlists?
I must say I prefer e-books at this point, because getting paperbacks is much too complicated and expensive where I live. Because of that, naturally, there’s less attention to covers! And I would love to read more backlists, but currently I have the ARC affliction (I wouldn’t have created that #ARCsAnonymous group for nothing!)
With 1000+ followers, where do you see AvalinahsBooks headed toward in the near future?
I truly hope my blog can grow and keep being relevant! I love blogging, and even though it’s so much work, it’s my identity now. And the communities I’ve helped create are just so wonderful and supportive. At this point, I can’t see myself going back from this.
Last but not least, what’s the best thing about the book blogging community?
ALL OF YOU. Like I said, I couldn’t have imagined there is an actual community. And they’re all nuts about books! Some of them have become people I share my personal life stuff with. I just kind of wish the world was smaller or we had teleports, so we all could have our little evenings with cookies and tea and books being read aloud.
So that’s about it! Thank you so much for being a part of this series, Evelina, and voicing out your opinions and suggestions so well. It was a pleasure interacting with you.
Go connect with Evelina through her blog and social media!