Blog Hops, Book Tours and Book Reviews, Part Deux

You know how a picture’s worth a thousand words? It occurred to me that maybe a link or two, directing you to a blog hop or a book blog tour or a book review, might be a good way to show you how everything works. So let’s follow Cathy-on-a-Stick up those ooky cave stairs to…


Here we have a themed blog hop, where a bunch of horror writers (97, to be exact) are waiting for you to drop in this week and get the bejeebers scared out of you. (There are some scary writers out there, my friends, writers who make you pray that you will NOT run into them on a dark and creepy night. Alone. In the woods. With their laptops in tow.)

Anyway, notice how each writer gets a chance to promote his/her books or stories or poetry, and you get a chance to perhaps find a new favorite writer–and win a prize or two while you’re at it. Bet you’ll also notice that some writers have done a great marketing job, from getting followers, to promoting their work, to offering fun contests. (You’ll want to be one of those writers if you participate in a blog hop.)

Okay, now we’ll hop into our time machine so we can visit the WOW!BLOG TOUR with Linda Hubelek’s book, Trail of Thread, here at the Hall of Fame back in May of this year.

You’ll notice that I talked a little about Linda and gave a short synopsis of her book. Often, authors will prepare ten to twelve posts on different topics and blog hosts can choose a topic. So I asked Linda to share a little about writing for our descendants. And I ended the blog book tour with a giveaway of her e-book, which Linda provided. Now here’s a little something from behind the scene. Though I didn’t get a ton of visitors commenting that day for a chance to win Linda’s book, I did get a ton of visitors to the blog. And I still get hits on that post. So as a host, I attracted readers who might not have come to the Hall of Fame (and some of them signed on as followers and return). For the author, the promotion stays out there forever, possibly drawing new readers every day.

Finally, let’s sneak a peek at some of my favorite spots to catch a BOOK REVIEW!

Sometimes, I’ll review a book just because I like the book. My friend (and a swell writer herself), Sally Apokedak, often reviews Young Adult and Middle Grade novels just because she wants to. If I want an in-depth and thoughtful discussion of a book, I’ll read Sally’s reviews. But don’t expect her to give away her books. (She might let you borrow one or two, if you know her.)

Any time you drop into Jodi Webb’s blog, you’re likely to find a book review. She reviews just about everything, from adult to kidlit. I like how Jodi gives a short synopsis, then follows it with her review, and then gives her readers a chance to win the book. Jodi is usually provided books by publishers; if you review a few books at your blog, don’t be surprised if you’re contacted by publishers, asking you to review their books. I rarely review books when contacted by a publisher, but I will do so if a. I LOVE the author and have already read other books by him/her or b. I REALLY, really love the author (in a writing kind of way).

So, I hope those links painted a better picture than all my blah-blah-blahing about blog hops and blog book tours and book reviews. Honestly, I’m wore out. (And Cathy-on-a-Stick’s getting a tad peckish, too.)

Blog Book Tour, Book Review, Blog Hop: What’s the Dif?

So, you see that your author friend is doing a blog book tour and you wonder what the heck is that? Or you see that another writer friend is doing a blog hop and you figure that must be the same thing. And then you decide that really, they’re both just a way to get a book reviewed. Why make it all so confusing?

Because it kind of is confusing. Your friend’s book may be making the rounds on a blog book tour, but may not be reviewed at every blog. And a blog hop can include a book review, or giveaways, or just a bit of promotion. Perhaps we need to take a closer look…

Blog Book Tour: When a book goes on a blog tour, the book’s author usually submits a post of some sort to the blogger. Often, the post will be in an interview format, and sometimes, the author will make him or herself available for questions from blog readers. The post may also be a topic discussion related to the subject of the book or the author. Say, for example, a fiction book about the Salem witches is on tour. You might read about “How To Research for Historical Fiction” or “How I Got My Book Contract.” In a blog book tour, you’ll find a summary of the book and oftentimes, you’ll find a book giveaway at each stop. And sometimes, you might find a short book review, mostly in the form of a recommendation. So, if you’re interested in a newly released book, search the author’s website for a Blog Book Tour. Somewhere along the 20 stops or so, you’ll win that book. And if you have a book coming out, contact blogger friends and schedule a blog book tour. Or use professionals (you’ll pay a fee) to help you target blogs with the right readership for your book.

Blog Hop: A blog hop is a fun way to get a ton of blogs involved in a common purpose; it is NOT a book tour. It is, however, a great way to get promotion if you have a book. Blog hops are usually centered around a theme…scary reads, foodie books, romance. All the participating blogs plan a post and usually some kind of giveaway (a great opportunity to talk about your book!). Honestly, it’s the prizes that draw readers to a blog hop. And here is where promotion for a book comes in. An author may offer a free download of the first chapter of his or her book to every commenter, or will sponsor a contest giveaway for the book. And don’t forget that getting folks to the blog is the first step in getting them to return! So a blog hop is also about encouraging readers to join as a follower, or sign up for Twitter or Facebook. The key word in a blog hop is fun, so if you’re thinking of participating, think outside the box. And keep in mind that blog hops usually last for a set period…say a week. Have your post prepared to go from the first day, and keep it up all week. You don’t know when readers will be hopping to your blog!

Book Review: A book review is pretty cut and dried. A publisher sends a book to a blogger and the blogger gives a review. Often, the blogger will give the book away. Some bloggers know how to write reviews, and others not so much. If there’s a genre you love (and write!), there’s likely a ton of bloggers who review it. Find a blogger you respect and you can keep up with what’s being written in your genre. But as an author, you need to know that a blogger’s book review may or may not be favorable. Often, it’s the publishers (or their representatives) who contact bloggers to do a book review (rather than the authors).

Now, that’s about it. Or maybe not. No, that’s it. Um…let’s just close the book on the subject for now, okay?

Monday Morning Winning

First, I’d like to thank everyone who dropped by for Linda Hubalek’s blog book tour, Trail of Thread. What an intrepid group of journalers you are!
I’ve never had much success with journaling…my journals start with a bang (of super awesome events) and end with a whimper (of what we had for dinner that night). But perhaps, I shall take up pen once again. Some future Hall may be fascinated by my description of hot dogs topped with cole slaw and onions.
Oh! I forgot to name the winner of the ebook! It’s Sally Apokedak! Which seems only fitting since she’s a mad journaler herself!
(Um, I mean super awesome journaler, Sally. Not crazy as a bedbug/angsty angry journaler. You knew that, right?)

On the WOW!Blog Tour with Linda Hubalek and Trail of Thread

A few years ago, I watched a program where modern families lived as pioneers on the prairie–and I was fascinated, entranced, and absolutely riveted. So I jumped at the chance to host pioneer writer, Linda Hubalek and her book, Trail of Thread.

Linda has always loved the prairie–she graduated with an Agriculture/Horticulture degree from Kansas State University–but never so much as when she moved away from her beloved Kansas. She started writing then, about her home and the pioneer women who tilled the soil. She’s since moved back to Kansas, where she keeps bison(!)and once again farms.

Trail of Thread is her first book in a series, told in letter form, from the women who not only survived but thrived out there on the prairie, women who were, in fact, Linda’s ancestors, tilling the Kansas farmlands. I asked Linda to share with us her thoughts on writing for our descendants. Because maybe there’s a riveting book in your family!

What will inspire my descendants?

My mother gave me a page-a-day diary for Christmas the year before I got married. She thought that I could record the planning of my August wedding in this little hard bound book.

I started on January 1st, my fiancé’s birthday, telling of what we did for his special day. And I continued to write short bits of my daily life, besides the intended lists of preparations for our wedding.

Thirty-five years later I’m still writing in a page-a-day book. I sometimes get behind and don’t write for a week or two, but the majority of my life is recorded the 35 books that are stacked in a file cabinet.

The neat thing is I can go back to any given day in any of those years to see what I did, or what the weather was like. I can go back to remember a special person’s birth or death, and be drawn into the same feeling I had that exact day.

My family knows I’ve written down my life—and theirs— through the years. I haven’t written down anything that will embarrass anyone, but I think the entries will give the next generations a good glimpse of their ancestor’s lives, and the times we’ve lived in.

Will that inspire them to keep their own diaries? I really doubt it, although it would be great if someone was motivated to write and pass down more of the family history.

What I hope my diary entries would do is to inspire descendants to remember family members as I mention their birthdays, to learn the history of the family pieces they inherited, and to give them a sense of whom their family was— and did during their lifetimes. My Trail of Thread series, written in the form of letters to other family members, gives the reader a sense of the character’s lives and the history that was happening at that very moment.

Please read the books, and then think how you could pass on your life story to your descendants. How will you inspire them? It’s up to you….

Linda’s giving away an ebook of Trail of Thread to one lucky commenter (and remember, you can download a FREE Kindle reader at Amazon if you don’t have a Kindle!). Oh! And if you’re a quilter, you’ll love that Linda includes quilting patterns in each book, including Trail of Thread!

Find out more about this pioneer series at Linda’s website. And she’s on Facebook, too, so you can keep up with her and her books over there. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll be reading Trail of Thread. (Comments will stay open through the weekend for your chance to win a copy!)

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life (Wheee!)

Ooooh! I’ve been excited about sharing The Literary Ladies from the moment I met them!

Technically, I’ve known the literary ladies from Nava Atlas’ wonderful book, The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life, for many years. I met a few of them when I was just a gangly teenager with braces. Reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice made me feel quite elegant, and curling up with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre introduced me to gothic romance (so much more exciting than skinny, pimply boys falling off surfboards at the beach).

Still, I didn’t know the literary ladies like this, their writerly and not-so-writerly whys, and whats and hows of the women behind the books. Nava Atlas did her homework to bring us an inside look at The Literary Ladies, and I’m thrilled to be able to share some of her insights today at this, Nava’s last stop of her WOW! blog tour. So on to the questions!

With the perspectives of all these literary ladies, your book is unlike most guide-to-writing books, and yet it contains an abundance of advice and guidance! So which came first—choosing the literary ladies or finding all that brilliant writing wisdom?
It was definitely finding the wisdom first, then narrowing it down to the twelve authors. I was looking not only for wisdom, but for writings about the universal concerns and obstacles inherent in the writing life, viewed through the experiences of authors who eventually surmounted these difficulties.

It took several years of occasional delving into diaries, collections of letters, interviews, and memoirs to amass enough material for a full-length book. I’m quite a library geek so I loved having an excuse to bury myself in dusty volumes and archives.

As you researched, did you find women writers you hated to leave out? Who didn’t make the final cut, and why?
Above all, I hated to leave out Zora Neale Hurston (ca. 1891-1960). She was not only a literary pioneer with a distinctive voice (best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God), but studied anthropology in the 1920s at Barnard College, where she was the sole black student.

She seemed to be such an exuberant, courageous spirit, but her efforts were always undercut by money troubles. She died alone and forgotten, but then Alice Walker helped resurrect her legacy. Now her books have sold in droves and she is studied widely. However, I just couldn’t find enough about her writing life (other than her money woes pertaining to such) to weave through the chapters.

I almost used Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953), author of the children’s classic The Yearling, as she did leave a fair amount of writings on her life as a writer, but there was some indefinable thing about her that somehow didn’t resonate with me; she often seemed to have some axe to grind. Ultimately I thought that twelve was a better number than thirteen, and not just due to superstition!

So many interesting and surprising tidbits of these writers’ lives are included that I’d love to share all the secrets! But since my book efforts are in children’s literature, I’ll go with Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women. Can you divulge a shocker or two about sweet Louisa?

Louisa May Alcott was a hard-working, strong woman. The biggest surprise for me was that she wrote lots of anonymous thrillers and gothics before her classic Little Women was published. She did them because she needed the money to support her mother and sisters. She thought of Little Women as just another job, cranking it out to make a quick buck. Both she and her publisher were surprised at its immediate success. One of the anonymous thrillers she wrote, A Long Fatal Love Chase, was republished just a few years ago with her real name. I read about 90% of it; sorry to say I didn’t think it was very good, and LMA may well have agreed with that assessment.

What I like about Alcott was her determination to earn a living from writing and not being wimpy about demanding her due. It took decades of slow but steady progress, but she did finally earn not just a living, but a tidy sum from Little Women and the books that followed. Unfortunately, she only lived to the age of 55, and was pretty well worn out by overwork and illness by then.

If you could sit down and have tea and a chat with any of these women, with whom would you choose to share an afternoon? (Goodness, reading this book has already improved my literary skills!)
I notice lately that some women with whom (see that?) I have been in touch have revived the word “whilst.” So maybe there is a trend toward better grammar and classic vocabulary!

It would be hard to choose, of course. I would have loved to meet them all and do the things they enjoyed doing—go to the opera with Willa Cather (though I found her to be a bit intimidating); stroll with Edith Wharton in Paris, visit with George Sand and all her famous literary and musical cohorts at her lovely estate in central France; and see how Edna Ferber went about transforming her novels into movies and Broadway shows.

I’ve been asked who I would like to meet if I could choose but one, and that would be Charlotte Brontë. Her use of the English language was so exquisite that I imagine she’d be a good conversationalist. She also seemed so tough and determined in persevering not only on her own behalf, but that of her literary sisters, Emily and Anne. She sometimes invoked her small stature, and as another very petite woman I would enjoy looking her in the eye!

I’m sure it’s hard to pick a favorite piece of writerly (Oops! Maybe I’m not as improved as I thought.) advice or inspiration from these literary ladies, so I’ll just ask you to leave us with the quote that resonates with you today.
You know, the word “writerly” (and even “writery”) has come up several times in conversations about this book. My word processing program doesn’t highlight it as an error, so I think we can safely use it; it’s a great word!

Since you’re interested in children’s literature, I’ll leave you with a quote by Madeleine L’Engle (1818-2007), best known for the YA classic A Wrinkle in Time. As both a writer and visual artist, I remind myself that it’s important to take risks, even though it feels like I’m constantly trying to reinvent the wheel:

“Risk is essential. It’s scary. Every time I sit down and start the first page of a novel I am risking failure … We are encouraged only to do that which we can be successful in. But things are accomplished only by our risk of failure. Writers will never do anything beyond the first thing unless they risk growing.”

—From Madeleine L’Engle Herself, 2001

You. Will. Love. This. Book. If you’re lucky, you’ll win the copy I’ve pored over. Leave me a comment about your favorite literary lady, or if you have a question for Nava, she’ll be checking in today with answers. On Monday, I’ll draw a name.

If you’re not so lucky here, don’t despair. Nava has assured me that there are plenty of copies available of The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life. So either way, make room on your shelf for this wonderful book. Seriously, you’ll whee for excitement, too.

Um, you know what I mean.

(P.S. Just heard from Nava that she’ll be making another WOW! blog stop, so we’ll ask her to leave details in the comments. But that doesn’t mean you can slack off here. A wheee in the hand is worth two wheee’s in the future blog.)