One of our goals at BookSirens is to help book bloggers get free books from publishers and authors. In order to serve book bloggers the best we can, we started Book Blogger Spotlights in October 2018. Every few days, we have a conversation with a book blogger to learn their story, what inspires them to read and review books, and what advice they have for aspiring book reviewers and authors.
In this episode, we chat with Laura Freestone of LFBooks, one of the leading book review blogs in the UK. Laura has reviewed over 600 books over the last 3+ years on Goodreads and Amazon combined. She is also ranked in the top 10% of reviewers in Science Fiction Fantasy, based on review volume. Below, she shares tips on starting a book review blog, her take on how to write books reviews for blogs, and how to stand out as an author and successfully get your book reviewed. Lets get started!
Many people love to read, but it takes something extra to consistently and honestly review books. What do you think that something is and where do you get that from?
I think it a passion for reading and writing plus a drive to help people, to explore new worlds and help promote them. I was born with a drive to help people.
How did LFBooks get started?
LFBooks got started on 3rd October 2017. I just looked around at the piles upon piles of books on my bookcases, in my bookcases and I thought screw it. I need to read these books. Also, I plan on writing my own books in the future, having a blog means I am not a complete unknown.
Were you blog-savvy when you started? If not, where did you learn about how to start a book review blog?
I was not blog-savvy at all, even today I am still learning. I mainly used Youtube videos to help me get started.
How did you come up with your book blog's name? Were there other good book blog names you considered?
I considered loads of names and I am not ashamed to admit a lot of them were really cheesy (ex. Poisoned Words). Then I just went with what was simple and easy. "LF" -- my initials. "Books" -- well that just a given.
On your blog, you mention you like the "unknown factor" involved in hitting up charity shops and car boots for books. That’s really cool. Can you share a serendipitous experience which led you to find a hidden gem?
Two come to mind. I met R.K. Lander on Twitter and I am now hooked to her series The Silvan. Best books I have ever read. Really gets my heart pounding and so invested in the world she is building. Rachel Amphlett is another author I accidentally found on Twitter, one thing led to another and I pretty much read 6 of her books in a few months. Again best crime books I have come across.
Where do you hope to see yourself and your book blog in 10 years?
I hope to see myself with a few books under my belt. With my book blog I like where I am at with it now, more people viewing my posts and maybe more interaction would be nice but it not a must. It not why I review books.
Do you think you will go the self published route or try to tie up with a publisher? If you have a preference, what are some reasons behind it?
I will try a publisher first, just to get that experience and someone else's expertise. Also, I think it will be a lot less stress on my end because I will have a team behind me. I already have some eyes on some great publishers. If that doesn't work out then I will go the self-published route. Or later down the road, I might self-publish some books, while having some traditionally published.
What, in your opinion, are the elements of a good book review?
Simple. To the point. Honesty. Maybe a dash of humor.
Do you have an example of an author who impressed you with their pitch when they submitted a book for review?
Can't think off the top of my head. Normally, the people who get an instant yes or a close enough to a yes without me reading their details are people who take the time to add personal information. Or fellow bloggers. 'Hi, I noticed you have a rescue dog, I do too.' Simple things like that show they have taken the time to see if my blog is the right place for their book.
What advice do you have for bibliophiles who are thinking about becoming book bloggers?
Organize. From day one keep a journal or spreadsheet of requests, dates and what not. Plan your posts ahead of time = less stress on you, which also leads to knowing your limits. Just because another book blogger posts a post every day, does not mean you have to do the same.
If you could add one feature to BookSirens, what would it be?
A feature where I can see my own profile and information as a book blogger.
If you could pick one author, dead or alive, whom you would like to grab coffee with, who would it be?
None. I would be on the toilet the whole time stressing out.
Go to snack while reading?
I don't like to eat while reading. I tend to burn food if I read while cooking.
If you highlight, what was the last passage you highlighted?
I don't highlight, I do take notes if I come across typos. I did write one line down the other day:
cereal looked like twigs a squirrel had pooped out
Most pages you have read in a single sitting?
Depends if the book hooks me, I can normally read about 100 pages before I need to get up and pee.
Favorite place to read?
Anywhere where it is quiet. Quiet and a pillow.
Thank you, Laura, for sharing your perspective!
If you are an aspiring book reviewer, we hope you picked up some precious nuggets of information about how to make a successful book blog. If you haven't already, we also recommend you join Laura and be a book reviewer on BookSirens. BookSirens is a great, free, way to get a never-ending supply of books, directly from publishers and authors, in the genres you love. You can read as many or as few of these books as you want, for free. All we ask is that you try your best to leave an honest review after you are done.
If you are an author looking for the best book review sites, you can read Laura's review policy here. Also checkout BookSirens's book reviewers list and quickly find potential book review blogs that are currently accepting books in your genre(s). Remember to personalize your request to the book blogger, as Laura suggested.
Till next time.