Blogging with Presenting Lenore

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 guest is Lenore Applehans of Presenting Lenore, who runs an absolutely stunning book review blog, as well as being a debut author herself! Her book, LEVEL 2, will be available from Simon & Schuster, January 15, 2013. For her fantastic cover reveal and trailer, check out this post on her blog. And to make her even cooler, she's a cat person.

So you run an excellent blog over at Presenting Lenore What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

Originally I envisioned PL as a place to talk about my work in advertising (hence the title), but after attending the SCBWI pre-Bologna conference in 2008, I repurposed the blog to discuss books. In the early years, my reading was a lot more eclectic, but gradually my focus narrowed to YA since that’s what I mainly write.

I know a lot of aspiring writers who are intimidated by the idea of blogging. They want to, but they are worried it will cut into their (already precious) writing time. You're a prolific blogger - how do you recommend one be both a successful blogger and writer?

Blogs are a ton of work, no question. In 2009, at the height of my blogging, I wrote and published a post every day – with probably about half being book reviews. These days, most of that creative energy goes into writing fiction, so I’m lucky to have time for one or two posts a week.

One thing I think helps keep a balance is having specific goals. For 2012, for example, my two main goals are to stage my two dystopian/post-apocalyptic theme months (February and August) and to promote my fellow debut authors in the Apocalypsies via my Apoc Love! feature. I also have the very reliable Cat Tuesdays as an easy filler post.

I used to accept more blog tours and scheduled events, but I’ve drastically cut back on anything that has a firm deadline. It’s just too stressful. Having a calendar really helps though!

It looks like you’re a big reader - do you set aside time for that?

I have to set aside time for reading and I consider it part of my job as a writer. It’s essential not only to know what’s out there but also in terms of improving craft. I have learned so much about how to pace and plot YA from reading hundreds of YA novels over the past couple of years.

You do a lot of reviews. Have you ever given a bad review? Why or why not?

I’ve written critical reviews, yes. Book reviews are for readers and if they’re not honest, they are worthless. What I think a lot of authors don’t really get is that vaguely positive reviews pass from a reader’s consciousness in a matter of seconds while an in-depth, thoughtful review, even if it has its criticisms, forces a reader to engage with the material and really consider reading it.

Despite my firm belief in the value of critical reviews, my Apoc Love! book reviews are a bit different. Since these debut authors are essentially part of my support community, I use this feature to accentuate the positive, only talking about what I love about a book and not bringing up what I don’t. I’m still being honest, but my readers know that I’m only discussing the good aspects of the book.

Do you think blogging is a helpful self-marketing tool?

It can be, for sure. When I asked, in a recent survey attached to a contest, where visitors had first heard about LEVEL 2, I’d say 70% answered that they’d heard about it via my blog. Granted I was a blogger long before I was an author, but the contacts I’ve made just by being an active part of the blogosphere all these years (leaving comments on other blogs, engaging people on twitter, joining in events like read-a-thons, etc) are so valuable. At Book Expo America this year, I couldn’t walk two feet without running into someone I knew.

What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?

I’m a huge fan of the link round-ups at YA Highway and Cynsations and I check in at least once a week at Verla Kay’s blue boards. I also subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace and the free newsletters from Publisher’s Weekly and Shelf Awareness. I find myself clicking on a lot of links from authors, agents and editors on twitter. Always lots of wisdom to be found there!

It can also be very educational to follow some of the more critical reviewers in the blogosphere to get an idea of what type of story element resonates and what repels. A few of my favorites are: Forever Young Adult, The Book Smugglers, GalleySmith, StephSuReads, and Stacked Books.

What is your genre, and what led you to it? Does your genre influence the style of your blog?

I’d say LEVEL 2 falls mainly into the thriller genre, though it does have some dystopian elements.  My blog isn’t dystopian most of the year – just in February and August! But I am also blogging on the group blog The League of Extraordinary Writers, which focuses on sci-fi.

Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?

Hard work pays off. Maybe not today, but someday! Hopefully soon :)