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Book Bloggin 101 - Dispelling the Free Books Theory

Welcome to Book Blogging 101, where you ask a question and I try my best to answer it. I'm not an expert -- so if I get it wrong, shhh I don't want to hear it! LOL. No let me know in the comments if you have a difference of opinion, or know a better way.

Spawned from the Big Sis, Little Blog program, Book Blogging 101 was born. Do you have a question? Leave it in the google docs form and I'll try and answer them in the order they are received.

How can I receive free books? I have no problem reviewing the books via Amazon or creating a blog.  Right now, my favorite genres are paranormal fiction (urban fantasy, time travel, etc.), mystery and pretty much whatever strikes my fancy.  Thanks!  -- Melissa

A:  This is a tough one, because I really want to give a snarky response (biting tongue). Instead of snark, I will just state emphatically that - We might not pay for the books, but boy do we work for them. Am I wrong, my fellow book bloggers? I know I work my arse off, for my "free books".

Melissa, please don't start a book blog just to get "free" books. Because, really, it takes a good deal of work to start getting these "free books".

I was about 6 months into blogging when I got my first actual review copy. I had a few eBooks, and I had won an ARC of Linger, along with one from, but an actual PR solicited review copy (it wasn't even an ARC though) was literally on my 6 month blogging anniversary.

So, to answer your question, what does it take? This is what I did.

Six months of blogging daily. Two to three reviews a week, and two memes or columns a week. Saturday and Sunday "hello spots" or update spots. Daily twitter posts, facebook posts and constant monitoring of books-blogs.ning, and other social book readers sites.

Cyber stalking of authors with online identities. Visiting their blogs, commenting, tweeting, facebooking.

Cyber stalking other book bloggers, commenting, twittering, facebooking.

Constant requests of coveted books through publishers, authors and PR reps via email.

Signing up for blog tours through the Ning sites or Book Tour companies.

Hooking up with other bloggers for ARC tours.
Entering in giveaways for books on hundreds of sites and blogs.
You name it I did it. I spent about 4 to 5 hours daily on blogging (still do).
Is it worth it to me? Hell Yes. But, I don't do it for the FREE BOOKs. Are they nice? Yes. But, I do it because I love doing this. Love, Love, Love it.

I have a meme/feature that I've been having trouble getting people to participate in. It requires more thoughtful, content-rich posts than the really popular memes like "In My Mailbox" or "Teaser Tuesday", which is probably why even the regulars don't show up every week. (LOL!) I believe there are others out there who might be interested in joining, but I'm not sure how to reach them. I've already promoted this meme on the forums of Book Blogs, on blog hops, through personal invitations to bloggers I've been friendly with, and even in others' comboxes (not as spam; the comments were appropriate!)--but only the personal invitations yielded any results, and they were all short-term. Do you have any suggestions for reaching like-minded bloggers that I haven't yet tried?  -- Enbrethiliel

A:  To be honest, what you said you did is what I would have suggested. More personal invitations, I guess. Don't take this personally, but you might want to consider that the meme is just not popular because people aren't excited about participating, not that your promoting of the meme is lacking. Maybe instead of promoing the meme ask your blogger friends for constructive criticism on the meme. Ask for things like what can I do to get participation? Maybe there is some way to refine the meme to get excitement for it.

Memes like Teaser Tuesday and IMM work for a reason. People like to show off what they are reading and the books they have. Plus they are easy to do and get up and live. They appeal to a mass amount of bloggers because you can be from any genre blog etc and it still works. Not to mention they are long established and have spread throughout the community so they have tenure. Getting a new meme off the ground is hard work. Usually it takes a bit of refinement and some really good promotion. Don't give up, but don't just leave everything 'as is' - adapt it and it might work better for the masses.

Okay, so I want to incorporate page jumps into my blog.  I've googled, I've Bing'd....and I can't seem to find dumbed-down information on how to easily code jumps or id attributes so that readers, publishers and authors can easily find reviews on my review page, without have to scroll a giant list (it's not giant yet, but will be, so better to do it now).  I'm pretty technically savvy, though still learning code, and I just don't seem to understand this.  Help! -- Jennifer

A: This is called an anchor!

This is what you would put as your anchor (use all lowercase and no numerals or symbols). It is good to use small words such as top for the TOP OF PAGE

<a name="ANCHOR NAME" id="ANCHOR NAME"></a>

How to link to an anchor:

<a href="#ANCHOR NAME">ANCHOR</a>

You would just add a link and the link would be a # and then the name of the anchor, instead of the usually http://
They are really rather simple to use, you just have to know the code. I hope this helps!

That's it kids. Talk less. Read more. Happy Thursday!

Ask your BB101 Questions here...


KM said...

I didn't get my first "real" ARC until after a complete year of blogging, and that was after (like you said) hounding PR reps with a million emails asking for review copies. Book blogging is a lot harder than people think, I feel like. It takes a LOT of my time, but I love it, so it's worth it :)

ParaJunkee said...

@KM - It really sort of rubs me wrong when people ask how I get free books. LIke that is all it is about.

Bri Meets Books said...

I wrote a long post about this:

My points are very similar to yours.

They are NEVER FREE and when I went to Book Blogger Con, several publicists and pub reps commented on how they don't like them to be referred to for free. You think Entertainment Weekly or Time Magazine says "free book review!" when they do their work?

Mariya said...

I honestly didn't know about the so called free books tell a while after I had been blogging and I don't really call them free books. Us bloggers work hard to get these REVIEW BOOKS!

I mean I blog b/c it is fun meeting other reads and OMG. I wouldn't met some of these great people. Like no body I know read and I met some MN blogger that I get to meet up wit sometimes and YAH!

I also love everything about blogging. Talking to people about books/reading habits and all of that. plus I notice when I do get these review books not only to I have to quickly read them before the release date but I also have my blog to manage, get content up at least 5 days out of the week. Have reviews up. I also have a life,school and a job. And plus they don't just send out the books to just anybody, you have to have good Blog stats, good amount followers and peps commenting on your blog, etc.

I mean there is a lot that goes into blogging than just free books. I mean blogger know what I am talking about obviously.

I admit I am happy when I go to the mailbox and find a package for me, who could not be. but there is a lot more to it than recieving a free book. but yea. this is getting kinda long, buy yea. I competely agree wit what parajunnkee said in the book blogging 101 post 8)

BookGeek said...

Great post. I started my blog for my book club and while it has evolved from there, I think I've been more focused on the community element of blogging. I try not to get overwhelmed by pushing too much out all at once.

BLHmistress said...

Its definitely work, I enjoy it though I would have never found half these authors and made as many friends if it wasn't for blogging.

I have done everything you did and it takes a lot of time so I don't consider it free either. But it is lots of fun.

I eventually had to get help I kind of gotten over my head and thanks to Kelly its taken a bit of load off of me when we switch weeks on the memes.

Man of la Book said...

Ooops, I accidentally filled out your form.

Great job...again.

Midnyte Reader said...

Great, great post...great, great answers. To be honest, I had no clue that book bloggers got "free" books when I started. I got some books at BEA and I had a few sent to me. I only asked for one ARC in my year of blogging. I have so many books to read already and I like to go to the library. Maybe they are not the "newest" books out there, but they are the ones I want to read and talk about.

Thanks also for the anchor info!

T said...

I don't get many free books... but I don't post as often as many people. Reading and reviewing 2/3 books per week is plenty on my plate! I do like some of your ideas though - I obviously need to "put myself out there" a little more with Memes and the such...

Ack - it's so hard to decide on how uber-involved in the blog world I can afford to be!!!

ParaJunkee said...

@Mariya - Great points. I think a lot of us do it for this reason. Everyone wants to feel like they belong to a group and most of us readers are typically anti-social (cause we spend so much time with our noses in books instead of blabbing at our co-workers, neighbors or classmates). I think as readers we find a very common thread and latch on to it together. If you are anything like me it is very hard to find an IRL person that has similar tastes in books to you...but online soo easy!!!

Yes, getting a review copy of a book is very exciting, especially if they are signed or have a bookmark - highlight of my day, LOL. But, I guess that is like a perk to the things we do right? And I have to say that 1 out of 10 books is a review copy.

@BookGeek - The community does make it worth it. Everyone wants to meet their book twin.

@BLH - I’m glad you found someone to help you out. If only. I feel like I’m interviewing for someone to take over my estate...LOL

@Man of la Books - I will disregard LOL TY

@Midnyte - Thank you. Same here. I didn’t even know what an ARC was. And you know everyone was talking about all the smelly bloggers that got all those ARCs at BEA and wah wah this --- but you know, the tickets for BEA were 100+ right?? So once again, not FREE books technically.

@T - 2/3 books is a lot. Trust me. I try to intersperse with audio books and ebooks. Once you get in fully, it is hard to get out! GL

Tynga said...

I started blogging because I had no one to share my book excitement with! I didn't even know what an ARC was until a couple of months of blogging lol
Those so called free book are earned after crazy ass hard work, even more if like me, you are an international blogger.
You want free books darling? Enter the giveaways on GoodReads, follow tons of blogs and enter their giveaways, follow your favorite authors online and enter their giveaways, follow publishers on twitter and enter their giveaways.
Free book, minimal works.
Blogging isn't for you if you think it's gonna be free and easy.

Savannah said...

I started blogging because I wanted people to talk to about the books I've had read. I didn't even know you could blog about books until I visited a blogger page through goodreads and thought that this is good idea and I should try it. So I did. And I too didn't receive my first ARC till about 6 months in as well. It took a lot of hard work, but I'm glad that I gotten this far and worked so hard for it. Plus, I still buy lots of books!! I don't really request books because I still have so many that I have that need to be read. And then theres also netgalley, so it keeps me busy!! Nice post :)

Tynga said...

I forgot to mention!
I don't know for everybody else, but when I receive an ARC and love the book, I buy a finished copy to keep in my collection and support the author.

Dana Wright said...

I started blogging to share a love of books. You are so right when you said it takes a lot of work to get "free books". I can't tell you the hours spent networking on all manner of social media. Why? Because I love to connect with people and share my love of books. I love to support authors in their work. Someday I hope to be one of them. Savannah is right about Netgalley. Awesome site.

Bibliotropic said...

I managed to get my first ARC about 5 months after I started blogging, and I didn't do quite as much work on my blog then as you did, or as I do now, so I consider myself pretty lucky, but the book I got offered was one in a genre I didn't tend to review. I certainly was interested in the subject matter, and so I accepted and reviewed it, but that, and a few other incidents, have demonstrated to me that sometimes PR people just solicit random blogs for random books in the hope that one of them will bite. I got lucky. But I've learned since that it takes a buttload of work to get interest from authors or publishers you want stuff from, and some of that is still luck-of-the-draw. It's worth it, but it's not easy.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Melissa (darn good name, I must say...), do be careful what you wish for.. if you don't want blogging and reading to take over your life.. get out now! It is a lot of work and PJ has some great advice here!

Chrystal said...

I didn't start book blogging to get free books either. I just knew that I liked writing book reviews through another online book reviewing site that I once participated in. It was more adult content and I had started to read more YA - so I started searching for books I'd like and happened across a few peoples book blogs and knew right then that I would begin a book blog. The books that I receive are from things like you mentioned -,, and sometimes I have asked for copies of books (this was hard for me to start doing - I was nervous) and also from giveaways.

I do this for fun and because I love reading NOT because I want free books. The blogs that do it because they love it are the ones I like reading compared to the ones where people do it just for the freebies.

I'm glad you tackled this topic the way that you did and explained how long it took for you to get out there. I have reviewed many self published books to get my name out there and I still do... I've found quite a few great books and auhtors this way. :)

ParaJunkee said...

@Tynga - Great points and thanks for the advice. That is good practice to purchase the book, support those starving artists!

@Savannah - 6 months seems to be the magic number. I only request books if I have something going on, like this Paranormal Spring Break.

@Dana - Netgalley is a good suggestion, but I think you might have to have an established blog to get approval, if I'm not mistaken.

@Bibliotropic - Sometimes I do get requests for books that are so off topic I'm like "Really, really? Have you looked at my blog?" LOL

@Melissa - Spectacular name LOL. Thanks so much.

@Chrystal - You know I've kind of really struck out with self-published. I've like maybe 1 of 5 of the self-pubs I've read so I've stayed away. I know, terrible to stereotype. But with the self-pubs comes the fact that they count on a very good review, so the times I've given a bad review they have also been the ones that get the most upset. Burn me twice and all that jazz.

Alison said...

Part of me wonders if Melissa is for real. Can anyone really think it's that easy to get free books? Everyone knows there's no such thing as a free lunch. I wonder if she's pretty young. Have you gotten this question a lot from other people?

Dana Wright said...

Good point. I know bloggers, booksellers and librarians are at the top of the list. :)

Amethyst Princess said...

I ended up taking a break from blogging itself, I work retail and the Christmas season just go so crazy for me. I could not afford to do this with out my job so I had to say, back burn it for a few months. And I will get back to it when life calms down. And just recently I have and hopefully next Christmas I will have a real job and not be working retail so that I don't have to put it on hold. But I never stopped reading and reviewing just put a hold on the blogger, I kept up with goodreads, just the one site not goodreads, my blog, my facebook (though that was a given), my twitter (though I did tweet and keep up with some authors). I just took a social mayhem cool down.

But just the other day (Like the same day I made complete future plans) I got an offer to review an ARC of what I would call a real author not a self published so I was really excited. And now that I am up and running with set plans for by the end of summer this will be good for my reading habits.

Louise said...

I think it's quite safe to say that book blogging is nothing to do with free books but more to do with obsession and having something take over your life that you love doing and want to share with people.

I work full time, read at least 3 books a week, in order to increase the amount that I can review I've started to download audio books as well so that I can listen to them when I'm in the office. I blog because I want to share with people what I think about books and my family are sick of hearing about them from me. I'm new to book blogging so a lot of my time is spent just making my blog look presentable and trying to get my head around all the fiddly code bits that are needed. I know this means that other things on my blog slip and I can't see a time when this would ever take up less than a couple of hours a day. Free books would be nice, but I'd rather have books that I want to read instead of books that I have to read.


Danny said...

The mystery of free books.... Well, they ARE Not free just like you said. You have to work for it before and after - period!
We get now, after a year of blogging unsolicited copies to review and the first real ARC we got half a year after blogging. But, we also worked hard to get there. Made contacts, heavy amount of networking was involved and .. of course our Reviews and having a blog that get's updated regulary is a must.

As many of you I started blogging not because of free books, (I didn't even know about ARC's back then...) but because of the love of reading.

And... I know read much more than before which also means I also buy many more books.. You can't have real content just with "free" books....

Your response was perfect :)

Juju at Tales of said...

Amen on "we may not pay for them but we do work for them"!

ParaJunkee said...

@Alison - sometimes I do wonder if people ask questions just to see how I will answer it. She might be though...especially if you are just discovering these book bloggers and you keep seeing the FTC statements and Amazon Vines...etc.

I’ve gotten a few, mostly though how to receive ARCs. These are really few and far between though, most questions I get are Book bloggers that really want to know best practices --- and of course how to do things in HTML which make up the better part of the questions I get.

@Dana - I don’t know what the criteria is, but they do want reviews and a good reviewing outlet.

@Amethyst - Congrats - and welcome back to blogging. I completely understand how real life can get in the way ;) gotta pay those bills.

@Louise - I do the same thing with audio books. I just started my audible subscription five months ago and I already have over 30 books in my library! Over spending! There is never enough hours in the day BTW.

@Danny - 6 months seems to be the magic number. Have to remember that. I really think people that start blogging because of Free Books might quickly get out of the game once they realize that it’s really not that easy. Thank you, BTW.

@Juju - yes we do. LOL

ParaJunkee said...

Comments that came through the google form:

Well, if you want to get some books for free I would suggest checking out Shelf Awareness ( Honestly, I've got tons of books through there, but it's not just one genre it's all genres. Sometimes they offer to send you an ARC or you can enter giveaways. I'm a fan of a lot of different genres so I love it, there's almost always a book being promoted on there that I would love to read. They don't require that you write a review or anything but since they're going through the trouble of sending me an ARC (or sometimes a finished copy) I ALWAYS write a review and send an email to the publisher telling them what I thought of the book and where they can find my review. But like she said, I really like getting the books because I love writing reviews and I know I am helping out the author and publisher by making sure my reviews reach as many people as possible. - Jamie

SusanKMann said...

Another excellent Blogging 101 post. I get very few "free books" I review ones I win, buy and a lot I get from tours. But any I do get for free I am grateful. It's not as easy as people think. x

Enamored Soul said...

Another amazing post - I really like the whole concept of Blogging 101. I was completely clueless when I began, and I wish there was someone there to guide me, and I'm glad you are there to answer people, and their questions.

First of all, I completely agree with you. Regardless of if you have a blog or not, it should never just be about scoring free copies. For me, it is foremost about the love of literature, and wanting to share it with the world, and not just hoarding it for your own good. The book bloggers don't just giveaway books because they want you to pad your personal libraries, they do it in promotion of the books they care about.

As for publisher solicited ARC's and their reviews - they are even more difficult to come by, because the publisher needs to know and confirm that they can trust your opinion on it before just sending you a copy of the book. They send it to you in hopes of you promoting that title, and not just reading it and being happy about it. And believe me, promotion of a book (or any kind, for that matter) is difficult work. Also, I despise when people think blogging is merely someone picking a free site and writing a bunch of posts. Guys, it's HARD WORK - it takes time, effort, diligence and a lot of PR. So get that ridiculous notion out of your heads, please. Lastly, I completely agree with Tynga...gosh, I had NO idea what an ARC meant until 4-5 months into my quest too! It was hilarious when I did find out what it meant, I felt like a complete doofus! lol :P

Thank you for sharing this post with us! :)

Enamored Soul said...

Oh, and like Amethyst mentioned, I was a blogger until life got in the way as well. It's the last year of med. school for me, and I am busy studying for my licensing boards, so now I am just a regular on other people's book blogs - and of course, the incoming of books has taken a serious down-turn, but I am just glad being in the presence of fellow bloggers! :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for answering my question! I do appreciate your perspective and will take your advice. =)

By the way, I agree with you about "free" books. One reason I do not solicit or accept ARCs from publishers and no longer join contests for ARCs is that I realise the obligation involved to review the book as soon as possible. My blogging is very relaxed; if I received a Paranormal Romance ARC today and didn't feel like getting to it because I'm currently on a Retro YA kick, I'd probably neglect the ARC. =P It's just my blogging style and I'd like to keep it; and if the "cost" of keeping it is giving up "free" books, then so be it!

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for answering the page jump question! I'll be trying to implement that this weekend now that it's spelled out for me =)

Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog

My anxious life said...

OK this may be a dumb question but one of the posts you posted above mentioned jumping. As a new blogger I have no idea what jumping is. Can you elaborate?


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