Photo by Marco van Hylckama VliegAmazing how much I think of Pam—creator of the popularBookalicious blog—as a friend, considering we’ve never met face to face. But we’re only three hours apart by car, so I expect this will happen eventually. Meanwhile, when I needed more exposure for my books, and Pam put together a scavenger hunt giveaway on four popular books blogs, that sure was being a good friend. (By the way, the link was just so you can see how cool it was. Sorry, the contest is over.) This to me is a great example of how helpful bloggers can be to authors, and why authors are wise to hold them in high regard and treat them with respect.
Hell, with a following like Pam’s, even a retweet on Twitter can be a great boon. Which is not to suggest that I only love bloggers for their retweets. More that I like the fact that those of us in the book business really can be a community and help each other out.
So. Pam. A few questions to help my readers get to know you better.
Pam: Bookalicio.us was the blog I started four years ago as a book blogger. When I got my job as an agent I needed to do some separating of work and hobby. My favorite part of my blog has always been marketing books I love, so I started .ORG and invited some of today’s brightest bloggers, industry peeps, and agents to help me make what I have already been doing for years bigger and better.
Me: Tell us about your job as an agent. How much does it satisfy your goal to work with books? Is your plan to be an agent and author, both? Or is the agent work a step in the process? If you could write your own future in the business, what would it look like?
Pam: The agent job is an extension of marketing the books I love. It satisfies my goal to work with books 100% as I am constantly reading new material, working with editors and authors, and building a career with people I am coming to see as family.
My own writing has taken a back seat, but it is something I want to get back to and am trying hard to fit it in my new schedule. Right now I am half way through a middle grade adventure about a school for shape shifting kids.
Me: Anyone who knows you knows your huge influence in the blogosphere. This, of course, is good. But I suspect it’s also a pressure at times. What are the downsides?
Pam: I think it is awesome that people like what I do. I try to be pretty transparent about my life, my work, and my blogging.
The problem with that same transparency is people think I owe them every secret. I get a lot of email, Formspring questions, and Tumblr asks that feature questions I probably wouldn’t ask my own mother.
I’m rarely bothered by these things, I think I am one of the most laid back people in the world. So, generally I answer those questions that other people may balk at.
There was recently a scandal with another YA blogger. I had no urge to speak out for or against her and very little time with my new job to keep up with what was happening. Three days after the news broke I was getting emails and @ replies on Twitter forcing me to take a stance. I still hadn’t sorted out my feelings but people were getting restless so I posted My Plagiarism Manifesto. It wasn’t something I would have normally written about, but I felt forced to do so.
Me: I remember a time, a couple of years back, when an evil rumor circulated, saying that book bloggers who wrote negative reviews would never get their own work published. I frankly never believed this, because (in my opinion) publishing is not cohesive and organized enough to shut someone out. That and the fact that print reviewers have been slashing other authors for years while enjoying publishing deals. But it scared a lot of bloggers, which I’m sure was the idea. I know it affected you. Now that the storm of this rumor has passed, what are your thoughts on why it was done and/or by whom, and what we should think of it?
Pam: That was right around the same time as the YA Mafia rumor. People were saying there was an in-crowd of YA authors and if you weren’t in the crowd you would never get published either. To be honest I got scared. I was finishing my first draft of the first thing I had ever written (and oh my god it was shite, I never even queried). I thought about closing my blog, or stopping negative reviewing, but I did neither of those things because I decided if someone didn’t want me because I didn’t like a book then I didn’t want to work with that person anyway.
There were some ‘be nice’ posts from YA authors going around at the same time and I was honestly disappointed to see those. A negative review doesn’t mean someone is not being nice. It only means that the person reviewing didn’t react the way you wanted them to about your book, which can hurt. I get that, but not everyone likes everything.
[Me, note: I agree very strongly with Pam about this, as expressed a little over a year ago in my Open Letter to Authors. It's essential to the health of the book business that we not constrain reviewers in any way.]
The business is harsh on debut authors, I think having a blog and a good following can only help you be published now. (If your writing is good, it is still always about the writing.)
Me: I have a whole blog category for pets. My pets, my readers’ pets. Pets belonging to my “Author Friday” interviewees. Because I follow you on Twitter and Facebook, I happen to know you have a Jack Russell named Jackie, a new bulldog puppy named Banksy, and at one point I even saw photos of a guinea pig whose name escapes me. Care to tell us a little about them?
Pam: Absolutely! I grew up on farm, so I am used to having tons of animals around. For now I just have the three and I still want more.
We got Jackie when we lived in London. I found her on the Brit version of Craig’s List, a site called Gumtree. We had to take a bus, and the tube, and a train to get to her but it was worth it. The man that sold her to us had brought her in his car inside of a bucket and she was too small to climb out on her own. It was instalove and we made my husband’s company pay for her to be transferred to the US with us when we moved here. She will turn five this December.
Bella the Peruvian Guinea Pig was purchased at Petco by my daughter about four months ago. Adisyn worked for a year solid to prove she could be a responsible pet owner before we allowed her a pet. She is doing chores to pay for Bella’s needs. I have to say I didn’t think that I would fall in love with a rodent but Bella and I hang out all the time. Whenever I am having a stressful day I bring her out and sit her on my computer desk with me while I work.
Banksy is the newest addition to our household. I’ve always wanted a bulldog since I was small but I had to wait until I had the money to properly take care of one. They have a lot of problems like skin irritations. He is the love of my life and the bane of my existence at the same time. He is 14 weeks old now and he has an expensive shoe eating addiction. He shames me at puppy class every week with his stubbornness but I wouldn’t change his attitude for anything in the world.
Me: You have a daughter and a toddler son, as you surely know. Can you talk a little about their relationships with reading? Has your love of books rubbed off on them? Is reading a topic you can share with them, or are they rugged individualists in this regard?
Pam: My toddler loves books. Especially the Llama, Llama series. I can take twenty books and lay them on the bed and he can spend an hour (which is like a year in toddler time) and just look at the pictures and quote what he remembers from the stories.
My daughter however hates reading with a passion. She’s never had a love of books and I try not to be pushy about it. Now that she is moving into third grade I do foist a twenty minute a day reading time on her and I hate doing that with a passion but she has to develop the skill. I take her to the library whenever she asks, and I buy at least 50 books a year that she never reads. I’m hoping for that one book that will change that. She does love science and math!
Me: I noticed you have a post written for those who would ask you for your resume rather than read up on all you’ve done. I like to give my interviewees permission to brag on themselves and their blogs. So, brag. Tell my readers, please, about your extensive industry background and experience.
Pam: I started my book blog and because I can’t just stop at one thing I began doing other things.
The first thing I did was partner my blog with my local bookstore Hicklebee’s. I try to encourage people to order from any indie store (especially Hickebee’s) instead of Amazon to keep these important community beacons alive.
For the past two years I have worked with the NCIBA (Northern California Independent Bookseller Association) to bring bloggers to their yearly tradeshow and introduce them to the local booksellers and foster more relationships between blogs and local booksellers.
I joined the NCCBA (Northern California Children’s Bookseller Association), two years ago and have given classes to booksellers on social media and helped them get Facebook pages and Twitter started. I work on showing them new ways to reach their customers.
I’m a member of the NBBC for the past four years, the SCWBI for two years, and many other organizations that let me share my love of books far and wide.
Me: We all know the Internet can be a nasty and trying place. Like life, only amplified by lack of face-to-face interactions. What kinds of blow-ups and negativity are just all too much for you? What does the blogging community give back to make it worth your while?
Pam: Early on I used to try to get involved with everything and foist my need for professionalism on every blogger so that we could be seen as part of the industry. We are still and will always be the bastard children of publishing but I don’t really care about that anymore ;). Now I tend to not read or get involved with any negativity. I started my blog to bring good books to readers. And that is what the community gives back. I get to talk about books that I love and there are people who listen. That is the best feeling in the world.
Me: Any stories about the best and/or worst you’ve encountered when dealing with authors and PR people?
Pam: I once had a PR company email me with a scheme to get bloggers interested in books. It was the worst pitch I’ve ever received and I wrote about it here. Basically depending on your following you had different options to review their stuff. The whole pitch is here, and after I spoke to him about it we actually worked together to define his pitch.
The best pitch ever wasn’t really a pitch at all. It was a debut author Jay Kristoff who wrote me a few months ago just to say hi. He didn’t mention his book, or that he wanted me to ever check it out, he just said hello and stated the things he liked about my blog. I am now his biggest fan ;).
Me: Will you recommend a few other book blogs you think are worth visiting?
Pam: The book blogs I visit every single day are as follows:
Chick Loves Lit for contemporary fiction recommendations.
Good Books and Good Wine for great middle grade reviews and her voice is amazing.
Hobbitsies for her middle grade recommendations.
Tripping Books for her enthusiasm.
The Book Smugglers for their astounding critical reviews.
There’s a Book for her passion.
[Me, with a note: Danielle from There's a Book is going to be featured on a Blogger Wednesday coming up soon.]
Me: Please write your own question, and answer it.
Pam: How do you feel about Catherine Ryan Hyde?
Honestly, she has become one of my favorite people without even knowing it and without us ever even having met. She is strong, vivacious, and lives her life at full steam. I look up to her more than she knows and appreciate advice she gives and her positive outlook on life. Hell, she even inspired me to stop picking at my cuticles.
Thank you Catherine for having me. This is honestly the most in depth interview I have ever filled out! You’ve inadvertently taught me a thing or two about how to ask questions.
Me: Okay, I had no idea she was going to say that, and I swear no money changed hands. But thank you, Pam. That's my favorite answer ever to that last question. The admiration is mutual.
Next week my Blogger Wednesday interview will be the fabulous Brent of Naughty Book Kitties, so please stop back. He has news, in addition to his usual awesomeness. Be there!
Causes Catherine Hyde Supports
The Pay It Forward Foundation, Marriage Equality (See Human Rights Campaign), the 350 movement to help ease global climate change, LandWatch San Luis Obispo...