Book Blogger, Kim Ukura
I’m excited to have Kim Ukura as our inaugural interviewee here at Wordstroker. I came across her article Chazen shares role he played at fashion giant and was immediately intrigued with her writing style, and inspired by the story.
When I read her bio and discovered she is a book blogger, I went to her website, and spent hours reading through her material. I knew I had to connect with her. I drafted my pitch email, sent it off, and within 24 hours she graciously accepted.
Kim Ukura is a community newspaper editor by day and an avid reader, blogger, and freelance writer by night. Her blog, Sophisticated Dorkiness, was voted the best nonfiction book blog by fellow bloggers in 2010 and 2011. She is a regular contributor to Book Riot, occasionally active on Twitter, and is working on a project to read an essay a day in 2012.
In our discussion, she shares information on how to pitch a blogger, how book bloggers impact the landscape of traditional publishing, and what makes a bestseller.
Janet Thomson: What is book blogging/blogger?
Kim Ukura: A book blogger is someone who writes a blog about books. I know that sounds simplistic, but I think it’s hard to be more specific than that. Book bloggers are of all ages, and write about all sorts of different kinds of books. Some write formal reviews, some just write more informal thoughts. Some accept books for review from authors/publishers, and some prefer to just read what they want to read. It’s a varied and awesome community.
JT: How can an author determine if the book blogger (reviewer) is right for their book?
KU: The best way is to spend some time reading the blog. Check out what other books the blogger tends to read (either by reading posts or looking to a review archive). See how they write their reviews (If you don’t like the review style — too snarky, too critical, too sarcastic, too nice — don’t pitch your book to that blogger). See if the blogger has a review policy and check whether your book fits that policy.
JT: Why should book bloggers be taken serious?
KU: Well, probably for the same reason any reader’s opinion should be taken seriously. For the most part, book bloggers are passionate readers who love to talk about books on- and off-line. They just happen to put those thoughts on the Internet for other people to read and react to.
JT: How should an author or publicist pitch a book blogger?
KU: Politely and personally. Take a few minutes to make sure you know the bloggers name before sending them a pitch (I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve just deleted because they’re addressed to ‘Ms. Dorkiness’ or ‘Dear Sophisticated’ or something to that effect). Like any pitch, take a minute to share why you think your book would be a good fit for this blogger, and be sure to include a link to more information about the book. And if you’re thinking about including some sort of line like, “I know you say in your review policy that you don’t read X, but…” please, just don’t. For every kind of book that, say, I don’t read, there are many bloggers who do. Find them.
JT: How should you be pitched?
KU: Basically the same as above. Tell me about your book and why you think it is a good fit for me. Give me a link so I can go read more about the book before I make a decision.
JT: What types of books do you prefer reviewing and why?
KU: I read a lot of nonfiction, usually narrative nonfiction. I also read literary fiction, but not as often. I tend to accept more nonfiction books for review because I feel like I have more interesting things to say about a nonfiction book than I do about fiction.
JT: How has book blogging change the traditional book review landscape?
KU: I think more books are being written about and considered than there used to be. Traditional book review sections in newspapers or websites have a particular audience and usually write about a particular kind of book. Blogs are opening up a space for reviews of less-represented genres like romance or science fiction or chick lit that just don’t find much space in more traditional outlets.
JT: Many authors are self-publishing nowadays, and find it hard to get reviews from traditional avenues such as the New York Times. Why do you think this is the case?
KU: I couldn’t tell you why the New York Times doesn’t review self-published books. I’d guess it has to do with the amount of space they have for reviews and the amount of time they have to screen books and decide what to review.
JT: You have adopted a similar model at your blog. Do you think you would change this policy in the future? If so, what would warrant such a change?
KU: I could perhaps see this policy changing, but not in the near future. I would need to see evidence that the overall quality of self-published books is improving, that more self-published authors are going through a process of working with an editor and putting out a product that I can be confident will be reasonably good. The self-published book landscape is too uneven right now, and I just don’t have the time to sort through it to find gems. Blogging is my hobby, and I’d rather spend my time reading and writing over sorting through books.
JT: Have you reviewed any books that have become bestsellers?
KU: I don’t think you could say that I wrote a review of a book that helped bump it to becoming a bestseller. My blog is too small for that to really be true. I have reviewed books that are bestsellers, and I know that I’ve convinced other readers to pick up a book based on my review/gushing about a particular title. I’m an evangelist for Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, and know I’ve convinced people to buy and read it.
JT: What makes a bestseller?
KU: That’s a tough question that I don’t feel really qualified to answer. Books that many mainstream sales lists are obviously bestsellers, but I think there’s a way you could call books that saturate a smaller audience bestsellers too.
JT: Please elaborate what exactly do you mean — you could call books that saturate smaller audiences bestsellers?
KU: What I meant is that there are some books that just have a smaller target audience — books from university presses that target an academic group or books in a particular genre — that can saturate that audience and be considered a bestseller. Not every book is going to be The Hunger Games, a bestseller that it seems like everyone in the world knows about, but a book that targets a certain audience and gets read by a majority of people in that audience could also be a bestseller.
JT: What are you currently reading?
KU: I just started reading Possession by A.S. Byatt and Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
JT: I’m sure your reviews will be insightful, and thanks for your time.
You can connect with Kim at Twitter and Tumblr