How to Become a Book Reviewer for a Publishing Company

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Back when I started my Bookstagram, I hadn’t really put much thought into where I wanted to go with the whole thing. I knew I had a lot of thoughts and opinions about the books I had been reading, but I had never really done much more than drop a star-rating on Goodreads and be done with it. It wasn’t until I really started to delve into the Instagram community that I started to realise that running a blog could actually be a lot of fun! I started out writing my own content, “write what you know” as they say! So I wrote a lot of what I like to think is fun bookish content,  which included some how tos, book hauls and of course, reviews!

Once I had got some content onto my page, I thought about all those Bookstagrammers I had seen who were receiving books from publishers in exchange for honest reviews! I was so envious! Thinking that this could be something I do as more than just a fun little hobby, that maybe one day I could make it something more. That’s when I decided to really research how to become a book reviewer for publishing companies. Because there didn’t seem to be a lot of information out there, I ended up chatting to one of my Instagram friends who was incredibly helpful! But incase you don’t happen to have one of those friends, below are some of the things I have picked up along the way!

MAKE YOUR BLOG LOOK PROFESSIONAL.

First up, I recommend taking the time to set up a professional looking website! I am lucky enough to have a friend who is an incredible graphic designer, who was able to take my crazy, nonsensical ideas and come up with a really beautiful blog banner that fits my personality perfectly! I suggest getting something done professionally or even using the Canva app or website to try and create something yourself. You don’t have to do this step, but I honestly think it helps!

CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT!

Whether this is your instagram or your blog, you want to be as active as possible, so that the publisher can see you’re serious about what you do. I had had my Bookstagram running for about two years when I started getting serious about wanting to start a blog. It meant that I already had a great place to cross promote the blog too! Most publishing companies want to see that you have been posting consistently for about 6 months before they will add you to the blogger database!

ACTUALLY REVIEW BOOKS.

This goes without saying and ties in with the previous paragraph, but you actually need to be reviewing books you already have before you ask a publisher if you can be added to their database. It’s a really great way to get practice at reviewing books anyway and it helps show the publishers your style! A big part of becoming a reviewer for a publishing company is, well, actually reading and reviewing the books! So as long as this is something you’re able to do, you can go ahead and…

CONTACT THE PUBLISHING COMPANIES PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT.

Once you have your blog up and running and have been consistently creating content  for 6 months or more, go ahead and contact the publishing companies you’re interested in reviewing for. The easiest way I found was to jump on their website and send them an email. Make sure you are professional and courteous! A few things to remember to include in your email are:

  • Your website URL
  • How long you’ve been running your blog for
  • The amount of views your blog gets each month and
  • Links to your social media as well as the number of followers you have

And remember, be yourself!

FINALLY, DON’T BE DISCOURAGED IF YOU GET KNOCKED BACK!

Sometimes publishing companies have a set number of places to fill for bloggers, so don’t be discouraged if you get knocked back initially! Often times if you check back in a few months time they have positions that have become available!

Good luck on your blogging journey and happy reading everyone! If you ever want to chat books or blogging, hit me up here or on Instagram @readingsumpton.

Farewell To The Local Bookshop

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On Love Your Bookshop Day (August 10th 2019), along with a good friend of mine, I decided to head to the local bookstore we both know and love, to peruse the shelves, tell each other we really won’t be buying any books and then, of course, leave with a couple anyway. However, as I approached the store, I saw a large red banner covering its signage. “Stock Sale” it read.

My local bookshop has been open for twenty-one years. Twenty-one years. That feels like a lifetime, and I suppose for some, it is. Upon entering the store it was clear something wasn’t quite right. The once meticulously stocked shelves looked bare and unkept. The staff seemed forlorn. The store was closing down, they were given two weeks to get all their stock out the door. 50% off everything. That’s a pretty great deal, if only it didn’t come with a side of heartache.

twenty-one years. That’s more than half of my time on the planet. Now we won’t just be saying goodbye to the ink and pages that make this small corner of the shopping centre what it is, but also the potential new friends we could have made after spotting them contemplating the purchase of one of our favourite books or the cheerful look on the staffs faces when they are able to order you in that book you’ve been wanting desperately, but can’t for the life of you find anywhere else. We’re saying goodbye to an incredible independent bookstore.

Now, I can only speculate that this is possibly the result of higher rent within the complex, something a small, indie bookshop probably wouldn’t be able to compete with. But it also feels like a result of us. Supporting your local bookstore is important. I think this may have been the busiest I have ever seen the store. 50% off. What a steal, eh? Yet maybe, if we had chosen to shop there to begin with and paid the slightly higher prices, rather than bi-passing them in favour of large online stores or the chain department stores that are able to offer us cheaper goods, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

All I can really say is please, if you have a local independent bookstore near you, support them. Because it’s heartbreaking when they have to close down.

#supportyourlocalbookshop

My Bookish Confessions

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Every now and then I do something while reading that I just know would be looked down upon by a more sophisticated reader than I. So I decided to write them all down, show everyone and run the risk of being shamed for it. HA! Below you will find a few of my bookish confessions.

I never pay attention to the map in the front of a book. Ever.

I love fantasy! I adore it! It’s easily my favourite genre. It’s also easily the most likely genre to have/need a map printed in the front due to all the world building that takes place. But do I ever look at the map? Well, with the exception of Holly Black’s ‘The Folk of the Air series’ (and only because it’s pretty) no, I never read the map. I don’t even really care much about where places are in relation to one another, I just read it and move on with the story.

I’m a spine cracker.

Ok, so I draw the line at dog earring a page, I hate that! But I will 100% crack that bad boys spine. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I love the feel of a paper back book, folded over itself to be made easier to hold one handed. It’s great! The perfect life hack for leaving the other hand free for coffee and/or snacks. Please don’t kill me!

I skim over words.

If I don’t know a word, I’ll just say “sfbuyerbfjk” in my head as I skim over it. Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh, I am the worst. If I can remember, occasionally I’ll look the word up to learn it. But more often than not, I just skim right over it and see if I can make sense of the the sentence as a whole.

I make up names.

I’ve actually spent the entirety of a series calling a character the wrong name. I didn’t learn how it was correctly pronounced until well into the series (I’m looking at you Chaol Westfall from the Throne of Glass series.) So I’ll either pronounce the name wrong for the whole series, or, if the name is particularly weird or misleading with its spelling, I’ll remember what it looks like and just do as above and “sfbuyerbfjk” over it. For those wondering, I called Chaol ‘Coal’ the whole time! For some reason my brain didn’t register the spelling at first and just made up a new name. It’s actually pronounced like ‘Kale’. It blew my mind the day I found out!

I will judge a book by its cover. Ruthlessly.

If it has a persons face on the cover, I struggle to pick it up. This is my most hated cover style. I’ve written a whole blog post about YA books that were given terrible covers to begin with, and most of them are terrible because they have models on the front cover. I really hate being shown how a particular character is meant to look. I’d much rather use my imagination and develop my own sense of the characters appearance. Movie covers are another one I absolutely hate, for the same reasons as above.

I prefer female protagonists.

I’m not saying I won’t read a book with a male protagonist, but I do prefer reading from a female point of view. But I suppose as long as the story is gripping, I’m not too fussed. Still, if I had to choose the same story but from a male or female point of view. I’d always pick female!

So that’s it, to name a few. Do you have any bookish confessions? Let me know in the comments or find me on bookstagram (@readingsumpton) and tell me all your secrets!

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Blog Tour: We Are Okay By Nina LaCour

we are okayFirst of all, I’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Aussie YA Bloggers and The University Of Queensland Press for giving me the opportunity to be part of this blog tour! This book really hit home for me in terms of dealing with grief and trying to find your way back to the person you were prior to being impacted so heavily by the tragedy of death.

Synopsis:

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even far away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
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Rating: ★★★★.5
Find it on Book Depository

This. Was. Beautiful.

“But I know there’s a difference between how I used to understand things and how I do now. I used to cry over a story and then close the book, and it all would be over. Now everything resonates, sticks like a splinter, festers.”

This book was so relatable for me in terms of dealing with grief and navigating those horribly deep, dark waters back to some semblance of who you used to be before you were touched by tragedy. Reading it took me back to a time just after my brother passed away and had me feeling so much love and compassion for the main character. I don’t want to use the words “I loved it” because honestly, it felt deeper than that. It felt like it stripped me a little raw, and got me thinking about all those times I too wanted to run away and fall into that all encompassing grief.

We Are Okay follows Marin, a grief stricken college student who, after losing the only family she has ever truly known (her grandfather) decides to up and leave her old life behind. She not only walks away from the house and possessions she shared with her grandfather, but she also walks away from her best friend, Mabel. This book takes an emotional dive into what it is like to be Marin as she navigates her way through love, loss, loneliness and betrayal, and how the strength of those who love us most, can be the most powerful and healing tool of all.

This book has some really beautifully done LGBTQ+ representation and executes the raw emotional state of grief perfectly. I was undone so deeply several times while reading this as the way in which Marin sees the world at the beginning of this book and the way she feels throughout was all too familiar for me. I could really get on her level and understand that deep, hollow feeling you get that comes with the loss of someone you love.

In terms of plot, this book almost bypassed the need for one. It focused so intently on character interacts, emotional connections and self growth that it didn’t feel as though it was lacking anything at all. The connection between Marin and Mabel was perfection, their relationship was just beautiful to read. Their love and compassion for one another and their deep understanding of one another was what really made this book for me.

Overall, this book was fantastic, some may find it a little slow or lacking in plot, but as I said, this wasn’t really an issue for me due to the incredibly deep and fleshed out characters. We Are Okay had me in tears several times throughout and really took a good look at grief and the impact one person can have on another. I finished this book in one day! The words flowed so perfectly that it felt like I could continue reading Marin’s story forever. Because of this I am giving We Are Okay 4.5 stars.

Thank you again to Aussie YA Bloggers and The University of Queensland Press for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour!

Book Review: The Price Guide To The Occult By Leslye Walton

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Rating: ★★★
RRP: $16.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight “original” settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns’ supernatural powers. That’s perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she’ll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her. 

In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author—Nor’s own mother—looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

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So I really wanted to love this book. That cover, that synopsis! It all looked and sounded like something I would thoroughly enjoy. It started out really promising and the author has an incredible knack for creating atmospheric worlds. I honestly felt like I could smell the fog and feel those cobblestone streets beneath my feet. But when it came to the characters, something was really lacking for me. I would also like to point out that there is also a fair amount of self harm either happening or being talked about in this book. If this is a trigger for you, I would recommend steering clear of this one.

The Price Guide To The Occult follows Nor Blackburn, the latest witch in a line of cursed witches, and her fight to keep the ones she loves most, safe from none other than her own mother. Nor’s mother is hell bent on getting exactly what she wants and she doesn’t care who she has to kill, or how much black magic she has to use to get it. Nor finds herself with more power than she should rightfully have which is both terrifying and may be the only way of destroying her mother for good.

As I said, I couldn’t fault the world in which this is set, it is beautifully written. I loved it. It had this fantastic witchy, dark, mysterious vibe that I could definitely get into and enjoy. However, when it came to the characters, this was when it went down hill for me. It was such a shame that the author was able to create such a rich world, but filled it with cardboard, one dimensional, cliched characters. I found that some, if not all the supporting characters felt completely unnecessary and were there purely to guide the main character from one plot point to the next. The romantic sub plot felt just as unnecessary and bland. Some of the characters were so glossed over that it almost felt intentional, like I was supposed to be waiting for a plot twist that may have involved them. It didn’t come though, they were just bland characters with very little backstory.

The plot itself was interesting, if not a little rushed. I found that I didn’t find the antagonist all that foreboding, despite all the horrendous things she does throughout the book! Again, this could be because I lacked a connection to any of the characters and wasn’t really that concerned that they may not survive the whole book. Due to the story feeling rushed, it felt as though there was no real struggle for the main character. As if this was mostly just a way to start the story and bridge it over to what this series will really be about.

Overall I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. Parts of it where interesting, original and fun and other parts where unoriginal and felt rushed. The part I most enjoyed was actually the prologue more than the story itself, I wouldn’t mind reading more about the formidable Blackburn matriarch, Rona Blackburn. Despite this, I probably will continue the story and read future sequels.

Once again, a huge thank you to Walker Books for the opportunity to review this book.

Book Review: Truthwitch By Susan Dennard

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads synopsis:

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

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Have you ever had a book sitting on your shelves for years, maybe you’ve tried picking it up before but it didn’t quite capture you at that time so you put it back on your shelf for another day? That was my life with Truthwitch! Although I am glad I gave this novel another chance, I am finding it hard to review due to it feeling like the first section of one very long book with no satisfying conclusions to any of the characters storylines. Due to the length of this series, it feels as if I have barely touched the surface of what this series is truly about.

Truthwitch was definitely more “adult fantasy” than my usual YA reads. However I found that the world building usually found in adult fantasy was lacking. It wasn’t a huge deal for me due to the fact that I am not a huge high fantasy fan and often find dense world building tedious. However if you enjoy high fantasy you may find this novels world building murky and unsubstantial. There were also several characters that had names I couldn’t, for the life of me, pronounce! I found myself either skimming over them or creating completely new pronunciations in my head.

The story itself was great, maybe a little slow to start with, but it picked up after a while and I started to really enjoy the character interactions. The two main characters Safiya and Iseult (this is one of the names I made up a pronunciation for) have an incredible friendship, which I loved reading. They would follow each other everywhere, trust each other completely and die for one another. It was also really refreshing to see that when a romance was introduced, it did not affect their friendship in anyway. Speaking of which, the romance was alright, I do love a good snarky, “at each others throats” romance. However it did feel a little bit like “love at first sight.” I get the feeling this could be explained further down the track as having more to do with their magic causing an irrational instant bond (hopefully ha!) I am a total sucker for a romance though, so although it felt “insta lovey,” I still enjoyed it!

Overall, I really did enjoy this book. I loved the politics of the Witchlands and I am interested to see what happens next. I am hoping that the next book will flesh out the storyline a little more and hopefully it feels less like everything and nothing is happening all at once. Because of the time it took for me to really start enjoying this book, I am giving it 3.5 stars. I will continue the series, but for those of you who enjoy more in-depth fantasy, I’d give it a miss!