Blogger Interview: Meet Sandra Valente – Book Blogger Extraordinaire

I enjoyed getting to know blogger Laura Thomas recently on the blog. Today, I’d like to introduce you to someone who’s become an online friend of mine, and a woman I hope to sit down for a cup of tea with one day, either in her neck of the woods in South Africa, or mine. Want to know how bloggers really feel when you send a promo request and fail to address the blogger by name? Read on. 😉

Sandra, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live?

I sure can. First things first, though. Thank you so much for having me over on your blog, Emma. Yours is one of the blogs I frequent on a regular basis, so I’m super chuffed to be making an appearance on it!

My name’s Sandra, I’m forty-something (anyone can check on Goodreads, haha), am married, have an eighteen-year-old son and two Chows. Don’t know why I must always mention my doggies, but I guess I just love them to bits. And if anyone is interested; one is female; Skye, and the other male; Milo. They’re gorgeous! 🙂

Love their names, Sandra. Why did you start your blog: Simply Sensational Book Fanatics?

Thank you! It was one of those light bulb moments (I rarely missed Oprah when she was on, and she always went on about the ‘light bulb moment’), you now which I mean. I’d always sit and read this blog or that blog, checking out who had what to say about a certain book, and one day I decided I’d try starting one up myself. Why couldn’t I share with others my thoughts on the books I read? So, I canvassed around and noted options available to me (didn’t have a clue what it all meant at the time, by the way) and the rest is, as they say, history. I’ve loved every single moment of it – the good and the bad – even the long laborious hours of putting things together. In the end, it is more a labour of love than anything else.

It was originally called SSBookFanatics, which stood for Sandra and Suzanne. I just went on ahead, excited as all get out, and roped my book fanatic friend in. Yep, she had to review as well, lol; I didn’t give her a choice! Silly me! After about a year, I got that writing reviews wasn’t something she was interested in and to be fair, it was all my doing. Don’t get me wrong, she loves books and is probably more of a fanatic than I am, but writing what she thought of a book was just not her thing. Then, it was just me. I seriously thought about changing the name and came up with a really cool one (I think so anyway hehe, and if anyone is ever stuck for a book blog name – I’ll share :)), but then everyone asked me why I’d want to do that. Eventually, I decided against it and stuck with it, turning the SS into Simply Sensational. It worked, and Bob’s your uncle. Thought I’d throw this in here. LOL

Cool. I didn’t realise there were two of you initially running the blog. I know bloggers get inundated with book review and promo requests. How do you handle this, and how do you think authors should approach book bloggers like yourself?

Yeah, as I said, I didn’t really give her a choice, lol. I’m just glad I wasn’t stubborn enough not to notice she didn’t really want to be a part of it. You know how you sometimes become so excited about something you rope someone in without even checking that it’s cool with them? This was one of my most backward moments.

Now this is one question I’ve been dying to answer for a very long time, probably because sometimes (not all of the time) it is a frustrating situation. I’ve actually been asked to write a blog/guest post about this very thing, which I will do in due course. But, to answer your question as nicely as I possibly can (because you know I’m a nice person :)), here goes.

BLOGGER interview-page-001

In answer to the first part of your question; I became (as do all bloggers) so inundated with book review requests, I experienced a feeling of overwhelmingness. So much so, a few months back I took matters into my own hands and pulled down my review request page. The thing is that although I’d love to read everyone’s book, it’s just not possible. Sadly (or maybe not!), there is only one me (cloning could be a possibility), with one set of eyes and most importantly… a family that comes first. The second most important thing I decided to take into consideration was the fact that the books I wanted to read – books I chose myself – were being shoved aside due to accepting review requests. It eventually drove me crazy, and one of the reasons I wanted to throw in the towel. Why was I being the person I never wanted to be? The person who couldn’t say no? It was simply not fair on both me and the author. I hate rushing through books even though when given half a chance, I can read one in a day. This hasn’t happened in a freaking long time. I had a chat (with myself) and decided I would only take on books I really wanted to read, books for authors I’ve previously reviewed for if I could fit them in, and books for authors who afforded me equal respect, time and patience.

I had to insert a note in my About Me page recently to say I’m not taking review requests, but they’re still coming! So come on, tell us what really makes you mad. 🙂

I know where you’re coming from, Emma! I went so far as to place a graphic on the right side of my blog stating just that. Guess what? They still come through, lol. I guess patience is going to have to play a part to some extent. Patience has never been one of my virtues, but I’m getting better at it – sort of.

You ask, and you shall receive, lol. Here goes. What really makes me mad is rudeness. It makes me so mad at times; I want to scream bloody, rotten murder. It does. Here’s the thing. When I visit a blog, I take the time to click here, there and everywhere in order to find out more about the author, the person behind the blog, what they like, what books (if any) they’ve published, what they are working on, or anything that’s taking place on their blog. I also, most importantly, find out their name! I’m already getting worked up, and I haven’t even fully answered this yet. LOL What I’m trying to say is simply this: if you are going to approach a blogger to either review your book, promo your book, do a cover reveal for you, it makes no difference… find out their name! Address them by their name. Show them that you have taken the time to learn about them, that you’ve checked out their blog, and that you know what they are all about.

I constantly receive e-mails where I’m addressed as either of the following, one is cool, the others not so much:

(Blank – nothing) : I get told, “Here’s all my stuff. I look forward to the promo.” Really? Nah. I’ll ignore you. You don’t even know what the word ‘manners’ means. Look it up, it will be a revelation!

(Hey) : Now, I know loads of people start off speaking to someone they’ve never met this way. Sorry, but I don’t. I was brought up with, yes, manners. If I don’t know your name and I’ve not been able to find it anywhere on your blog, I’ll be sure to ask you when I e-mail you. It’s honestly not that hard. Make the effort!

(Hi) : I don’t really have a problem with this one, except for the fact that we’ve never spoken before. My name’s not ‘Hi’. If someone has introduced us, then sure, start off in that manner. If you’ve taken the time to peruse my blog where you surely found my Promo page, you’d know my name was Sandra. Heck, if you’ve been to my ‘About Me’ page, it’s there. It’s actually in quite a lot of places on my blog, so no excuse whatsoever. Once we’ve spoken at least once, you can then ‘Hi’ me until the cows come home. I’ll be cool with it then. What I don’t mind right from the beginning is, “Hi, Sandra.” Here’s an example, which applies to both this paragraph and the next: Not two days ago, I received an e-mail requesting a feature/promo. It started off with, “Good morning, Sandra.” My smile beamed all the way to Timbuktu. Thereafter, it’s been, “Hi, Sandra.” My kind of person.

(Sandra; Hi, Sandra; Hey, Sandra.) : Yes! OMFW. Someone, thank God, has taken the time to actually click on my Review Request page, Author/Book Promo page, About Me page – who cares – they’ve found my name (which isn’t at all hard), has read everything I took the time to write regarding promos and knows, by having read to the end of the page, how I hate people with no manners. These people get my full attention, and time. You’ll see by my reply how much I want to promote your book, how much I want to go out of my way to promote your book. I don’t know what’s up lately, but rudeness is apparently the ‘in’ thing. I won’t stand for it. Whether people like me or hate me for it, it’s who I am. Tough.

You go girl. My name is in the title of my blog, so people usually get that right when they’re requesting something. I’m a little more forgiving if people email me and it shows they’re not exactly sure who I am or what I do. I was probably guilty in my very early blogging/publishing days (all the way back in 2011 🙂 ) of being one of those writers who didn’t approach bloggers in the right manner.

🙂 Things happen, and we all make mistakes in the beginning, but eventually learn from them. If someone isn’t sure how to go about something, ask someone. People are willing to help out more than we think.

To end this off before I get carried away, once I’ve spent hours (yes, hours!) putting together your post to which I always include graphics I make myself (time consuming to say the least, but something I love), reading and re-reading to make sure it’s all as perfect as I can make it and something the author will be chuffed with, do not then disappear off radar. I not only put all of this together, I tweet, I share on FB, and I share on Google+. You need to do the same. I mean, for crying out loud, it’s your work; your book; your labour of love (I hope), so I can’t fathom why some authors just don’t give a crap. It’s more like, “Well, she’s got all my stuff, so let her do the work.” Nope. It doesn’t work that way. How hard is it, truly, to pop in, view your post and leave a comment for the blogger? Pop in again later on in the day or even the next day; see if any readers have left you a comment and reply to them accordingly? Sorry, but it boggles my mind. Keep in mind that I do not charge a single cent to prepare and put together promos for authors. If you read my page, you will see that all I ask for is a blog follow, or an FB like. It costs nothing. Perhaps, only a minute of your precious time. You know what? My time is precious, too, and I took way longer to put all your stuff together than it will take you to do either of the above mentioned! I regard it as a ‘thank you’ gesture. I’ve asked time and again that authors/book marketers read my Author/Promo page carefully (http://ssbookfanatics.blogspot.com/p/authorbook-promos.html#.UdSNUjtkS5w) before sending me anything. Seven times out of ten, they don’t. And I know this, because it clearly comes across in their e-mail. Here’s an example: I ask that all documents be sent as a .doc file and not .docx. What do I constantly receive? The latter. I want to scream like there’s no tomorrow. If I asked for a particular file format, it’s because I can’t open the other one. Seriously, I’m busy, just as busy as you are, so please don’t make me waste any more time in e-mailing you back, asking for something I’d already asked for in the first place. See why I get frustrated? Here’s a tip: not everyone has the latest version of Windows. In fact, most editors state that only .doc files should be sent. So, from now on, never send a .docx file to anyone. Less hassle.

Life, anything in it, is about give and take, but most times… it’s all take. This is another thing I won’t stand for anymore either. As a side note, I know for a fact I’m not the only blogger who feels this all-consuming frustration at times. Not even a month ago, I witnessed yet another blogger giving up. She’d had enough. How sad, especially after all the time and effort she’d put in. This happens every day.

I hope authors are listening to this. Thanks for sharing today, Sandra. I hope you don’t throw in the towel next time you wake up to fifty review requests in your inbox. Just remember, it’s okay to say NO!

You’re very welcome, Emma. LOL. I am most certainly trying not to give up. I’m hanging on to faith, and I have now learnt to say no. It is okay. I just didn’t believe it for a long time, and felt awful even considering it. 🙂

***********

If you enjoyed meeting Sandra, hop on over to her blog, Simply Sensational Book Fanatics, to say hello. Come back for part two of the interview later in the week where Sandra discusses how to handle writing a review of a book you didn’t particularly love.

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About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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30 Responses to Blogger Interview: Meet Sandra Valente – Book Blogger Extraordinaire

  1. Thank you to two beautiful ladies for giving us a little more insight into the mind of a bookblogger. Our bread for author marketing!

  2. Emma, thank you so much for your time in putting this interview together, and having me over for a visit on your wonderful blog! Although I freaked out some, lol, I loved answering your questions. The post looks super, as all your posts do. 🙂

    Have a super week.

  3. Mae Clair says:

    Thanks to both of you for such an informative interview. I’ve always been of the opinion that a book reviewer should be shown the same professional courtesy and mode of address an author extends to a publisher, editor or agent. I certainly wouldn’t submit my manuscript to an editor or agent without researching their submission guidelines and (most especially) their name! I do the same when I approach book reviewers. It’s nice to hear that time taken in a little research is appreciated in kind. 🙂

  4. Sandra, it amazes me how rude some people are. I get requests for reviews from authors who don’t even write in genres I read. I’m an author, not a reviewer, and it makes me not want to do ANY reviews because authors see those reviews and assume I’ll review their book. I agree that authors should check to see who someone really is and what they read. And, as you said, their names. 🙂

    I really loved this interview. It lets authors know what reviewers really want and that it’s important to RESPECT those reviewers (although that should be common sense and courtesy). Thank you Sandra and Emma for sharing with us. Now I’m going to pop right over to Simply Sensational Book Fanatics!

    • I feel the same, Lauralynn. It’s makes me sad, actually. Oh, boy. Why do people do that? I totally understand how you feel. At the end of the day, they just end up infuriating the author, review – whoever. But, I do believe some are chancers, and know full well we aren’t taking on review requests and so on. They still try, though.

      Thank you! I’m so happy you enjoyed reading it. Emma sure asked me questions I’ve been dying to answer. You said it, “…should be common sense and courtesy.” From your written words to everyone’s eyes! LOL

      You’re very welcome. I appreciate your time in sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    • Emma says:

      Hi, Lauralynn. I’m glad you’re popping over to Sandra’s site. She runs one of the best book blogs I’ve come across.

  5. Thank you, Sandra, for your insights and your love of books. Thanks you, Emma, for posting this great article!

    I think we are of the same generation, Sandra, and I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said. Too often authors and people in general skip important steps in contacting others. I had a blog at the beginning of the year that fell apart. The tour host had personal problems, so I was left trying to contact all the bloggers who signed up for my tour. I was surprised how many bloggers did not have their name posted on their site. Trust me, I searched everywhere, and I just said, I can’t find your name in my email to them.

    It was awkward, but I think that was better than starting with “Hey you,” lol. Some times it is difficult to know how to handle situations, but first and foremost, I try to think how I would want to be approached.

    I am sorry there are so many rude authors out there, Sandra. I really do appreciate the time and effort all bloggers take to read and review, or promote my work. You are the way authors get there work out to readers, and I hope at some point people will start listening to you.

    Once again, great article. Thanks for sharing.

    Warm regards,

    Christie Rich

    • You’re so welcome, Christie! 🙂 Yes! I do believe we are of the same generation. That’s exactly what I do. And it’s really quite easy to tell them we can’t find their names, hence why I’m shocked on a daily basis how people can be so darn rude. Oh, absolutely! Way better than saying, “Hey, you.” LOL I’m sorry that happened to you, though. Awful when one puts so much work into something, and due to unforseen circumstances it goes south.

      Thank God my parents don’t have a clue how to go on-line, because if they had to witness the lack of manners – they’d be shocked beyond belief. I was taught to not only respect my elders, but EVERYONE, always. It’s how I was brought up, and obviously why it irks me so much. The general population has forgotten this: Treat others as you’d want to be treated. Well, respect others as you’d want to be respected. Same thing. What happened to this? Tsk, tsk.

      Christie, despite there being those who clearly don’t have any respect or manners, not only for bloggers, authors, or anyone in general, there are WAY more people – such as everyone who has commented on this post (including you, Emma, :)), who are super fabulous, who make me want to forge on, brush the rest away and continue to do what I absolutely love doing. 🙂

      I was really worried I was going to be shouted at for being honest about how I felt! So, I’m not only relieved, lol, but you’ve all put a smile on my face.

      Thank you for your time and comment, Christie! Much appreciated.

      By the way, thank you so much for visiting my blog, and for following. YAY.

      • Hi Sandra,

        Thank you for your kind comments, and I’m happy to follow you! Loved what I saw of your blog 🙂

        I think people don’t teach respect anymore, which is such a shame. It’s funny because nearly every time we go out with our children, people comment on how polite they are. We even had an elderly couple in a restaurant approach us and tell us how much they appreciated our kids’ behavior.

        I’m stunned sometimes at what kids are allowed to get away with. It really is a shame. The truth is, the first time my son threw a fit in a restaurant I took him out to the car. He never did it again :).

        Your thoughts were actually refreshing to see, as not many people will lay them out like that. I think it’s good for authors to get a glimpse of the other side of things. Kind people aren’t that hard to find, but manners have lapsed when it comes to the internet.

        And thank you for visiting my blog and following. That was such a nice surprise.

    • Emma says:

      Ha ha, Christie. I’ve come across a good number of blogs where I couldn’t find the name of the blogger either. I went into their About Me page – nothing, checked their comments on their own blog and found only the blog title and not the person who wrote it. Maybe some of them want to be anonymous, or don’t want to be contacted in the first place – in which case, well done. ;).
      I’m sorry your blog tour fell apart. They’re not always reliable. People miss their posts, forget to post….

      • Thanks, Emma! It worked out okay, but it was stressful. I have since decided to expect problems on tours. That way I won’t be disappointed, lol.

      • Christie, I agree with everything you’ve said. Kids have little or no respect for anyone or anything anymore. No wonder the world is kind of a mess. I’m sure we could discuss this issue for weeks. 🙂

        Thank you so much. Trust me, I wanted to get it out, but was having a fit at the same time!

        You are very welcome, and I’m glad I popped on over. I was going through your posts and no, I will not to buy another book until I’ve caught up, lol. This is what I say now, but always lapse somewhere along the way. 😀

  6. beckyday6 says:

    Fantastic interview both of you! I can’t wait for part two, I’ve had some experience in that area recently and tried to be as polite and kind about the whole situation as I could, but the author only continued to be rude etc and completely ignore my well thought out comments.

    I own a book blog but have yet to put up a review request page for a few of these reasons you’ve mentioned. I’ve thought about doing it a lot but have decided against it for the moment as I already have too much to read.

    All the best with the blogging Sandra!

    • Thank you so much, Becky! 🙂 See! Case in point. You’ve experienced some unpleasantness, too. I can’t begin to imagine why the author continued to be rude to you, for crying out loud, especially as you took the time to write thought out comments. You don’t WORK for her. You simply want to work WITH authors when you have the time. I’m sorry that happened to you. 😦 It’s these types of situations that make us really not want to take anything on which is sad, because as I’ve said earlier, there are amazing authors out there – authors who go the extra mile. I’m lucky enough to know quite a few, as I’m sure you are, too.

      One thing I’ll tell you. The weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders since I took down my Review Request page is beyond exhilarating! For now, I don’t see myself putting it back up for a while yet. I’ll see how I feel when the time is right. The thing is, as you’ve said, we end up with so many books there is no way we can keep up with reading them all. It becomes too much. See how you feel in a month or so. As Emma told me in an e-mail, we are the bosses of our blogs, so we can do what we want. I totally agree. 🙂 If we aren’t happy with just one element on our blogs, it ultimately affects everything else.

      Thank you for sharing, your comment and for stopping by, Becky!

      • beckyday6 says:

        I know!! And I’ll tell you it took me forever to write a review because it was a terrible book, I mean, so bad I literally had no idea who was who, what was going on in the plot etc. So from now on I will ALWAYS demand a sample few chapters first before even considering someone’s book!
        Yes it is sad, it has sure made me more wary. There are those out there who put a lot of effort into their self published books with research etc and then there are those who don’t and their books can be unreadable. There are both pros and cons to self publishing, lol!

        I’m glad you feel a weight has been lifted. 🙂 Blogging should never feel like a chore (unless you are getting paid considerably) and if it does feel that way, something is definitely going wrong!

        Happy blogging. 😀

      • Emma says:

        We are the Boss!! 🙂

    • Emma says:

      I’d love to know who that author was . 😉 You’re too polite, Becky.

  7. Story Addict says:

    This may sound a little sadistic, but it’s always great to hear someone else sharing your pain, lol. Thanks for the great interview, Emma and Sandra. I definitely know how hard it is to juggle all that, so I look up to people like you who keep making it happen.

  8. Pingback: Meet Book Blogger Sandra Valente: Part Two | Emma's Ramblings on Supernatural Fiction

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