Welcome back to Blogletters!
Today I’m interviewing Melanie who has a LOT of experience in the bookish community online so let’s get to it!
I’m Melanie. I’m the co-ower of TBR and Beyond, which is a blog, Facebook group and now a book tour company as well. I live in Canada with my three dogs and a million books. I am permanently disabled, I identify as pansexual and I’m crazy about everything horror.
Hi Melanie! What inspired you to start a book blog?
I was running the TBR and Beyond book group, but I didn’t have a space where I could just go really in-depth or post my reviews on books. I saw so many people that had these amazing blogs and I wanted to have a space of my own to give myself a bit of a voice that wasn’t in a group leader type of setting.
Also, I’m a massive horror fan and it’s really niche in the YA fanbase and I wasn’t really talking about it in TBR at that time, so I wanted a place where I could yammer on about it all I wanted. Ok, confession – I also wanted to do all those top ten lists and wrap ups and hauls and stuff. I don’t know why – they just looked really fun to me and I’m weirdo that likes listing things a million times in a hundred different lists.
You’re the admin of a large Facebook bookish group. Can you share your experience with starting and managing it? Has it added to/changed your blogging experience in any way?
Creating TBR and Beyond has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It started out as just wanting to create an inclusive, safe space for people to talk about their passion for books and quickly grew from there. We’ve been able to amplify and promote so many authors of minorities and have them in for live chats with our members – so many have become friends and are members in the group now.
I have an amazing team of co-admins and moderators that have been working with me for a long time and those friendships have become some of the most important in my life. I just love them all so much – I think some people just think that is for show but we truly all get along and have so much love and respect for each other behind the scenes. TBR started out as a small venture and now has over 6k members – something we never imagined could happen. It’s been a crazy amount of work, a true passion project but I learned so much about the book community and they’ve always been so supportive of us.
Probably the biggest way it added to my blogging experience is that I was very lucky in that I had a built in audience from the get go and I know that is so incredible and I’m so grateful for that support.
I should also mention that as someone who is chronically ill, I am home all the time by myself and this group has given me a sense of belonging. I had to give up school and my job a few years ago due to illness and it was insanely difficult and I dealt with a lot of depression over it. The book community and the group made me feel like I had worth again during a hard time and gave me a social life when I couldn’t really keep up with one in my personal life.
What does being a book blogger mean to you?
It means I get a space for myself to have a voice in the book community that is just mine. It’s hard sometimes not censoring myself or trying to say something in the book community in a few sentences – blogging gives me a space to share my thoughts and feelings about books, controversies, anything really. It is also another way for me to be a part of the book community and book bloggers are some of the nicest and most supportive people that I’ve ever met.
Do you think having social media profiles is important for book bloggers?
It’s almost essential at this point if you want to have subscribers and be seen at all in the community and that is a blessing and a curse. It seems expected at this point though. I try and keep up with Twitter and IG, but I fall short all the time – it’s just a lot. However, you can meet some many great people and get much more involved in the community if you are active on places like Twitter and IG. Downside being burn out and it affecting your mental health. Places like Twitter can be fantastic but they can be equally as stressful and negative and really put you in a bad place mentally and to be expected to always be active on there isn’t really reasonable.
You’re also part of a blog tour company. How has your experience been with that?
Thank you for mentioning that! Yes, we just started TBR and Beyond Tours and it’s one of the most exciting ventures we’ve taken on. We’ve worked with a lot of authors in the TBR group and branching out to creating a book tour felt very natural to us. It’s honestly been incredible – we’ve gotten so much support from bloggers, authors and publishers and we’ve worked really hard to get to this point.
I think that the fact that all of us on the TBR Tours team are bloggers (many International) has given us an interesting perspective on how to run the company and how to pick the bloggers for each tour. We know it can be a complete pain in the ass and feel defeating trying to sign-up for book tours when you are just getting started and don’t have a lot of followers but we’ve been on that end and we encourage smaller accounts to sign-up as well – we always make sure to pick a handful each time on every tour. We also prioritize bloggers of color and those who identify with any of the representation in any of the books. It’s crazy important to us to help arcs into the right hands of ownvoice bloggers.
What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of blogging?
My favourite is just creating my own content. I love writing and ranting and gushing about all my favourite books and authors. I love interacting with readers and other bloggers – it’s just super fun.
My least favourite is trying to keep up with the comments on other bloggers pages. I feel like I’m always coming up short and it’s never ending. I think most bloggers struggle with this – I want to comment on everyone’s page and show support to everyone but there just isn’t enough time in the day and I wish there was. It gets frustrating when you can’t get everything you want to done.
How would you describe your blogging identity? Is it different compared to who you are in real life?
Right now I feel like my blogging identity is not there yet. I was making a space for myself, but I got a little lost and now I’m in a place where I’m trying to figure out exactly what I want that identity to be. I think I stay pretty true to myself – I read the books that I want to and do topics I’m interested in. Right now, a lot of stuff is for the tour company and I am not getting any time to do my own posts and that will be changing again soon. I’m a big lover of horror and middle-grade and that has separated me a little from some of the other YA readers and I’d like to focus on some of that when I come back again.
Do you think being a disabled blogging changed your blogging experience in any way?
Oh completely. It’s made things more challenging. As someone with chronic illness, it means that I fall off the planet with my blog and IG sometimes because I just can’t keep up. I’m not a very organized person, but I have to force myself to plan ahead a lot to even begin to juggle as much as I have going on in the community. Sometimes I’m too tired to deal with things that are urgent but I just don’t have anything left in me, so I have to give myself the slack to not always be on top of everything at every moment. I’m a perfectionist and I’ve had to let that go and ask for help from my team at TBR a lot.
It’s also sometimes exhausting just explaining to people why you couldn’t do something or why you’ve been gone for months yet again. It can be embarrassing and get me really down on myself. Sometimes I’m active and sometimes I’m not. Then there is what is going on right now which is semi-active and a complete hot mess while I figure out what I want my blog to be again.
Do you have any advice for new bloggers who are starting out?
Don’t compare to others! Blogging should be for you! I know that sounds cheesy but book blogging is a labour of love and it can take awhile to get into the community and grow your subscriber base. If you aren’t doing it mainly for you then you’ll come to hate it. Also, never go into blogging for free books – many bloggers do not get that opportunity and when you do get it, it becomes a lot of work because you have to read them all and review them.
If you do want to really get into the community quicker, I would highly suggest joining Top Ten Tuesday and make sure you comment on tons of blogs for it weekly, you’ll get lots of new people that way. Also, joining in on groups or read-a-thons can be a great way to get your feet wet.
My biggest piece of advice though is read what you want and not what you think others want you to read. I know it’s incredibly frustrating that reviews of the most popular books get the most views but do the stuff you love, even if it’s more niche or older – you will find your audience and they are more likely to remember you.
Name some bloggers who inspire you!
I could list a hundred people here, there are just so many good bloggers out there that I truly enjoy. I’m guessing that would bore everyone, so I’ll just name a couple off the top of my head that I adore.
Destiny @ Howling Libraries
I’ve known Destiny for years and we have a very similar taste in books. She has worked so hard in the book community and it shows. I love how she doesn’t just do the YA basics on her blog – she reads all over the map. I particularly love all her horror recommendations and have done buddy reads with her. She’s just an amazing person and blogger.
Leelyn @ Sometimes Leelynn Reads
I can’t mention bloggers that inspire me without giving a huge shoutout to Leelynn. She is such a light in the community and always giving spotlight to authors of color. She helps run the book tour company Hear Our Voices, which everyone needs to check out. I’m so happy I can call her a friend and I just love her so much.
Sammie @ The BookWyrm’s Den
Sammie is one of the most supportive bloggers in the book community hands down. She is always a cheerleader for everyone and her reviews are always so well thought out and insightful.
Thanks for doing this interview, Melanie!
Melanie is really into the book community and has pretty much made a brand with all her channels. So make sure head on over to one of her channels and support her!
There are more interviews with amazing bloggers coming up so watch this space for them. You can also bookmark at this page where I will be updating links of all the Blogletters interviews as they go up.
Talk to us!
What prompted you to start your blog? What is your favourite aspect of blogging? Did anything make your blogging experience easier/harder? Tell us in the comments!