Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A BOA with Mandy Buehrlen of YABC Books

My original intention for the series of interviews I do here was to focus on agents (BBCHAT) and successful authors (SAT). In the course of internet wanderings though, I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

Today's BOA is a little different than usual, as the site I'm focusing on is more of a community of readers and reviewers, with a blog on the side. But YABooksCentral has a lot to offer, and I jumped at the chance to Mandy Buehrlen. Catch up with all the YABC news and reviews on Twitter at @yabookscentral and @YABCkids

BBC: So, you run an excellent site over at YABooksCentral.com  What made you decide to take the approach you do there?

MB: Thank you! Author Kimberly Pauley founded the site back in 1998 as one of the first review sites focusing on teen books. It grew by leaps and bounds until we had a staff of volunteer book reviewers, reviewing ARCs for major trade publishers. Then Kimberly thought it would be a great idea for readers to share their reviews on the site too. That’s where the YABC community started. When I took over the site a few years ago, I developed the social network a bit further to incorporate not only reviews, but the ability to start book clubs on the site, host discussions, enter giveaways, host blog tours, have live author chats, and more. YABC just keeps growing!

BBC: You're a prolific blogger! How do you recommend fledgling bloggers become seasoned pros like yourself?

MB: We certainly do have a lot going on at YABC at all times. In addition to posting our staff reviews, we host blog tours, live author chats, book club chats, tons of giveaways, cover reveals and lots more.

My advice to fledgling bloggers is this: Don’t worry about having to post something everyday. Just focus on making quality content. If that means you can only post once a week, then do that. Don’t post mediocre content just to fill the gaps. It can be tempting to compare your blog to someone else’s and feel like you have to do SO MUCH MORE. But try to keep your eyes on your own path. Even if your goal is to make a living running your blog one day, remember: Slow and steady wins the race.

BBC: You’re a huge reader. How do you find the time? And because I love a challenge – how many books do you think you read in a year?

MB: Oh wow, I haven’t found much time to read lately at all! My staff reviewers read a TON though. YABC wouldn’t be as awesome as it is without them! Most of them read several books a week. They are super human, I’m sure of it. I’m constantly in awe of their reading skills.

I, on the other hand, spend most of my time keeping YABC running, which is a full-time job. But I generally sneak in about two books a month. One for pleasure reading, and one for our monthly Book Club Chats. I’m always wishing I could find more time to read, especially since I see all these amazing books cross my desk each week!

BBC: Have you ever given a bad review? Why or why not?

MB: Oh yes, we don’t shy away from bad reviews. BUT we have a strict no-bash policy. YABC is a fun community, and we want readers to find the books that are right for them. With that in mind, we always find positive things to say about each book we review. We believe every book is someone’s favorite book, so why discourage readers just because it wasn’t our personal taste? Also, another unique thing about having a staff of reviewers is that not all of us agree. One of our staffers might absolutely love a book, while another might not get the appeal at all. I think there’s a certain beauty in that. We each have our own opinions, and I think it’s valuable to know how to express those opinions in a respectful and helpful way.

I always try to remind reviewers that the Internet is a very public place. Don’t write anything in your review you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someone’s face. Leave that to private discussions with your BFF over coffee. :)

BBC: How do you decide what you’re going to read next?

MB: YABC has a pretty unique way of deciding which staffers review which book and when. First, I put together a Book Haul video each month, showcasing all the books we received from publishers. From the video, my staff picks out the books they’d like to review. If there are any left over, I’ll send them to the reviewer I think they’ll fit with best. Then we schedule to read books in order of release date. We know how important it is for publishers that we post our reviews the week of release, so that’s what we strive for.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for readers to be exposed to debut authors?

MB: I think Internet savvy readers, or readers who engage in social media, have the biggest advantage here. Debut authors are all over the Interwebz, especially Twitter and Facebook. Publishers do a lot of promotion for debut authors on social media, so they’re easy to find. But I know a lot of readers who don’t do social media. It’s much harder for them to know who the next up-and-coming authors are, because they have to rely on word of mouth. For them, I would suggest asking a local librarian or school librarian. They are a wealth of author knowledge!

BBC: As a book blogger, what’s your advice to writers on getting themselves out there?

MG: Above all, be professional. Develop meaningful connections and friendships in the business. Have real conversations with book bloggers, don’t just self-promote. There is an endless sea of self-promotion on the Internet, and most people tune it out. It just doesn’t work. So be real with people and form relationships. If you’re the real deal, you’ll stand out. I firmly believe that growing a fierce and loyal readership slowly, from the ground up, is the best way to go. Quick hype fades, but loyal readers never say die.


Myra McEntire said...

YABC is so amazing, and Mandy is even more so! I love that Kimberly broke ground with something so long ago that's still relevant today, and that Mandy is committed to keeping it just as classy and fresh.

Anonymous said...

I like the advice to new writers about being real and being professional...it's not just about self-promotion.

What a great post!

Thanks for this : )

C.J. Redwine said...

What a fabulous interview! (Of course, Mandy is amazing so I expected no less.) This showcases perfectly why I love participating in the YABC community!

Jill said...

Great interview!! I'm so honored to be a YABC staff reviewer & even more honored to have been BFF's w/Mandy since 1st grade!! The site & blogging community is so blessed to have her!!

Shannon Messenger said...

Yay--loved this interview. YABC is one of my favorite sites, so it's so fun getting to see a little more about what goes on behind the scenes!

Jen said...

I'm thankful for the community at YABC and all it has to offer and of course, Mandy is made of ALL THE AWESOME! Great interview!

Anonymous said...

Really wise and excellent advice. As writers, we can often get frantic about SELLING BOOKS, etc., but I try to remind myself that the writing biz is different from other types of businesses. It's personal and emotional. I think it's important to take your time, as is suggested here, and welcome the ways an online community can be honest, supportive, and, yes, LOVING.

Thanks for this. Truly appreciated it.

NLockwood-Tilghman said...

You won't find many people in this world more committed to being genuine and real than Mandy, and for that reason she has made the perfect "boss" and leader of YABC. Being a book nerd, at it's core, is about connecting with others (be it authors, other readers, or characters) in a deep and meaningful way.

Kim Baccellia said...

Great interview! I love being one of YABC's staff reviewers! Mandy has gone above and beyond with all she's done with the site. Totally love her dedication.

Also great advice on blogging and reviews.

Claire said...

YABC is an amazing community of authors, readers, bloggers, etc. I'm thankful for the new friendships I've made through this site and the wonders of twitter.


Miss K said...

So proud to be part of the YABC crew...Book Haul Day is one of my favorite days of the month!

Kimberly Pauley said...

I couldn't have left YABC in better hands! I'm so glad Mandy took it on! I'm really proud of what I started and where it's gone.

Mindy McGinnis said...

A huge thank you to Mandy for dropping by my blog, and to everyone from YABC! Clearly it's a tight-knit positive community!!

MG Buehrlen said...

Thanks, Mindy! And thanks, y'all, for the super kind words. I really enjoyed doing this!