Welcome to another Blogletters interview!
Today I’m interviewing Saniya, whom I’ve had the opportunity to interact with recently. They’re pretty awesome, which I’m sure you will realize through the interview so let’s get to it!
Note: there is usage of explicit language in this post.
My name is Saniya (they/them) and I’m a 24-year old, queer, Indian-American, teacher and reviewer. I love romance, fantasy, fluffy fanfiction, venti salted caramel mocha frappuccinos, binding my own sketchbooks, painting and drawing all sorts of things, and wreaking mild havoc wherever I go 😀
Hi Saniya! What inspired you to start a blog? Did you have any grand vision or expectations in the beginning?
Multiple things were the lead up to my blog. I had a booktube for a hot minute but editing and filming are utter ASS lemme tell you. With my level of procrastination and teaching lifestyle? Nuhuh can’t do. Then I got engaged in the bookstagram and book twitter scene and somehow I ended up on the book blog side of book twitter and thought why the hell not. I ended up asking Fadwa a LOT about starting a blog and whomp I had a blog. That was around May of this year??? Yeah you could probably attribute the start of my blog to Early Corona Quarantine Productivity too.
I started out talking about my 2020 resolution which was to read all the books I own or have on hold before I put anything new on my TBR* or buy another book. The hope was that I could keep track of it and maybe motivate myself some more because I had spent five months barely reading. Two years of reading 100 books annually and the second I decided to read what I own my brain nope’s out. It hasn’t really improved but I’m actually looking forward to writing about books so there’s that. I’m surprised that I like it because I absolutely loathe writing. You learn new things about yourself every day.
*To Be Read list
How would you describe your blogging identity? Is it similar to your offline personality?
I prefer my blogging identity and voice to match with my offline personality. I had previously tried to have a perky attitude during my early booktube days but it took so much energy out of me. It felt like socializing at a frat party, high energy bursts for short takes but repeated so many times you’re left drained. So now if I post a video it’s a one take stream of consciousness. Forces me to stay on topic under a time limit.
Blogging specifically is a little more lax, since I can type in my pyjamas but again crafting a polished writing style is so exhausting. I have to rethink my sentences multiple times to sound ~high brow~. Nah not for me. So I blog and Instagram the way I speak and I think that’s crafted a unique enough blogging voice that I like putting out content.
Blogging the way I talk has also eased the pressure of writing in general. College really broke my spirit lmao. I came to realise academic writing is elitist as fuck and I don’t want to feed into that. I try to write in an accessible manner using plain language, contemporary references, and simple thought construction. Or at least I think I do. I myself have such a hard time decoding academic analyses, they’re so BORING. Professional book reviews make no damn sense to me, like what are y’all even talking about half the time? I want to write and discuss books so other people feel like the content is easily accessible. So I value maintaining my offline personality with my online one.
I also barely edit which has its positives and negatives. I think my blog posts tend to sound like a conversation because of the lack of editing. Unfortunately the typos are ASTRONOMICAL but I leave those in. I’m sure y’all can forgive a couple of mistakes. It helps also to remind myself that language is a classist construct so I do what I WANT grammar can get fucked.
The only time I edit is when I write posts for blog tours. That’s out of professionalism, respect for the tour hosts, and the authors who want to start release week on a strong foot. I also do a sensitivity read through as best as I can by asking myself, “will you get decked in the nose for being a jerk if you leave this in?” If the answer is yes, then I cut it out. Why leave in something offensive when you can just not. Be problematic where no one else has to painfully witness your trainwreckery.
You’re active on both Twitter and Instagram. Why did you make those accounts and how do you think they work with blogging?
My social media presence for blogging was not consistent. I didn’t promote any of my bookish profiles on my main social media platforms. I tend to keep life and blogging relatively separate so I can be gay on main with the book community lol. Bookstagram came about because I felt like I was annoying friends with book photos. Book twitter wasn’t so much an active choice. I just ended up following a lot of the bookish community from other socials on there and eventually my feed just became all book stuff. So I changed my handle to fit with the rest of my blogging socials just because I had the same people across all platforms anyways.
At this point, I do mention booktube videos I make on Instagram and on Twitter, same goes for my blogging but I don’t use them for a cohesive reason. The more organised book bloggers are really good about having a consistent system for promoting their recently made content and having a cohesive theme across all platforms. If my design degree has taught me anything, it’s that keeping a uniform identity across all your socials is essential if you’re aiming for traction and recognition at a fast pace. I find that giving energy to a coherent blogging identity and aesthetic wipes out my energy and creativity really fast. I’d rather devote what I have to reading and reviewing. Then if I have energy to spare, I’ll give some to some sense of blogging consistency.
Each one of my socials at this point has a different purpose. Twitter is for conversations, the blog is for reviewing (coherently or not it doesn’t matter), and booktube is for when I care enough to film. Instagram out of all of my social media platforms gets the most consistent effort. I have the largest number of followers on there plus it’s what I plug for publishers. I can post a well crafted photo with a pretty lax caption plus whatever else the publisher requires and do my part. Beyond that it’s just chaotic shit posting.
All in all, it’s about indulging in my hobbies and that’s about all I’m going to do with it. It’s stress free and I don’t push myself to think about logistics, numbers, or a social image beyond that.
Do you think having social media profiles is important for book bloggers?
Depends on what your priority is, doesn’t it? If you made the blog simply to write and have literally zero expectations for engagement, then no you really don’t. The blog is simply for you to think your thoughts and maybe friends, family, or the odd internet urchin might see and engage with your post. Lowkey is best key.
If you’re wanting to hone your hobby into a recognizable ~thing~ then yeah, get yourself a Twitter and Instagram and start gassing yourself up!!!!!!! Depending on how you like to engage with a community, a Twitter or an Instagram is probably your best bet. After seeing how overlooked bloggers are in the publishing/reviewing world, it’s become a necessity just to prove you’re engaged with the bookish community in general, privy to ~disk horse~ and know how to get the word out about a book.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a tedious task though. The real requirements of social media for the sake of publicity is that you can talk about a book when it’s out and that you can talk to other people about other books. Whatever that means to you in its bare bones simple form is enough, in my opinion. I’m operating off bare bones myself, or at least it feels like it. Once a month photoshoots for the books, retweets, and keyboard smashing when I live tweet a book. Literally nothing I wasn’t already doing. It’s just directed at a specific audience.
Evaluating if it’s worth it is tricky. A community has biases and that can and will affect your engagement if you’re aiming for rapid results with maximum effort. I really crapped out on that early which led to my ~lmao just here for a laff~ attitude. Frankly, this suits me better. I’m not expecting anything in return for my effort aside from the gratification of knowing I put effort into something and I’m mildly pleased with it. Don’t sweat it if you don’t want to.
Do people who know you offline know that you have a blog? If yes, how did they react? If not, why not?
Depending on the group of people you ask, they might or might not know about my blog/bookish online presence. Having my social media profiles also cross over with my non blogging life means they definitely see me shitposting about books. I’ve consciously only told like 6 people but I’m sure people who follow my Bookstagram and Twitter have seen blog posts. Interacting with the posts is a whole other ordeal. None of my friends are going to sit and read my rant on a book they barely know. I don’t ask for their support knowing that they don’t engage with books and the bookish community like I do. I don’t mind that I’m not getting overwhelming amounts of support. I like things lowkey anyways.
My family might have a vague notion of what’s going on in the back of their minds. They accidentally happened upon my old youtube videos but it’s been years. They know I take photos of books and read a lot and I’m sure if they took like five minutes to connect the dots they’d find me out but they haven’t yet. I much prefer to keep them in the dark since my bookish profiles are very openly queer and I’m not out to them. I also am currently being bombarded with the whole “let’s find a Nice Indian Boy™ for you” (GAG) sooooooooo… it’s fine I’m pretty sure this is the case for a LOT of queer folks online.
There’s a freedom in separating your online blogging community from your in person folks. It’s liberating to be an absolute nutjob online and not have that affect how you’re perceived in real life. Not that my personality is all that different but the excess energy that I have when it comes to reading has a place to dispel itself without disturbing the peace.
Of course, if you’ve got a through and through supportive network then PLEASE ask for their support because they’re going to keep you afloat if you hit a rough spot with your content output.
If you did not blog about books, what would your niche be and why? Do you ever want to change?
I’m quite happy with my bookish niche. I’ve fret over what I wanted to blog/Instagram/Youtube about since high school and it’s been consistent for a long time. I think it would have become an issue if I’d cornered myself into a genre but I know how fickle I am with my preferences so I know to keep my options open.
That self directed grace also extends to potential changes in my entire blogging preference too. If sometime down the line I lose interest in book blogging then I have set up zero restrictions for that. Change my blog bio, instagram bio, etc and start fresh. I only really have an obligation to publishers who ask for posts and blog tours but beyond that? World = oyster and all that jazz.
Again, this freedom tends to be impacted by audience demands but, and I’m going to be honest here, I don’t have the engagement on any of my platforms to have audience pressure that directs my creative output. I don’t have a consistent schedule to post, a particular format, or a predetermined hiatus period. I just disappear then reappear and no one bats an eye.
Art history and fine/graphic arts in general would be something else I could possibly venture into blogging about if I had the time. All of that takes research and time but unfortunately I don’t have the patience to do long term research. I’m still recovering from undergraduate research hell. It’ll take a bit lmao.
What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of blogging?
Acquiring books is my favourite part of blogging, whether it be through personal purchases, NetGalley ARCs, ARCS directly from the publisher, etc. I talk a lot of shit about consumerism but boy do I love watching my stacks of books get taller and more precarious.
I also love the weird zone I get into when blog posting. It’s a surprising amount of focus I can muster for a blog post. It takes a bit of dragging to get me to sit and start but once I’m there I lost four hours in one go. It feels like ten minutes but it’s literally HOURS.
In that same line of writing, I weirdly love word vomiting on posts. I don’t have to adhere to the structure of academic writing. I’m sure my content would be a touch more refined with some research and formal writing style but like…who’s grading this blog? No one. I LOATHE writing professional things but when I get the chance to loosen up on the grammatical and linguistic formalities and use casual references to explain my thoughts, I’m far more likely to write than I am a whole ass researched thesis. I like it when I do it of my own volition for content and topics I am truly interested in analysing and broadcasting.
Friends are also a fun part of blogging but I think for me that comes from twitter and Instagram. I don’t think I have a high enough engagement to make friends from my wordpress blog. I wish tho.
I hate editing. I literally never edit anything I write. The only exceptions are blog tour posts and this interview but even then it’s like maybe a maximum of two read throughs. I am exceedingly embarrassed of reading my own writing for literally no reason. I write well. I laugh at my own jokes. I make sense sometimes. I just can’t look at it too many times. This editing loathing extends to photo editing, video editing, caption editing, the whole nine yards.
If you could change ONE thing for everyone in any bookish platform, what would you change and why?
I would probably change how marginalized authors and reviewers are treated. It’s weirdly such a small and big request at the same time. All the people I engage with online are so incredibly hard working and generous with their time and passion. Yet they’re hit time again by obstacles and bigotry and road blocks. It’s a little discouraging to see how every step there’s something to fight to hold on to what people have rightfully earned in the bookish community. I want all these people to get the recognition they deserve for everything they do in the public eye and on the back end.
On a lighter note I would flex the shit out of my god complex on wordpress’s really annoying blog editing feature. I literally cannot figure out how to change the menu button colour for my blog and I can’t find the CSS editing anywhere. Stupid red button when by blog is lavendar. I can’t be arsed to sit and figure it out though so it’s just going to be ugly and red 😦
What advice would you give to new bloggers?
As someone with a useless sense of priority, obligation, and motivation, my advice for all of you is to do what the fuck you WAAAAAANNNNTTT. Evaluate why you’re starting a blog, and if at the bottom of it all, you’re doing it for shits and giggles then you literally owe no one anything (unless of course you enter an arrangement in which you agree to do something as part of a fair exchange… then you owe it to the other party and your sense of integrity to follow through within your bounds of comfort). Have fun venting, chatting, reviewing, and discussing. I guarantee you there is some goofball out there willing to love your stuff.
I have no regrets about going into this process blind. I usually look to other bloggers about protocol if I have concerns in that department but the bottom line is this is MY blog so I can structure it however I want. Just remember that even though I do what I want I’m not going to be a shithead. Watch where you step and educate yourself when talking about topics you’re not knowledgeable about, be willing to take criticism, sincerely apologise when you’re confronted with your transgressions, and keep reading about relevant topics you blog about. Past that, just have fun. This is a hobby.
**I don’t think I need to harp on about being safe with personal information online but please don’t forget that**
Lastly, name some bloggers you are inspired by!
I’m going to be honest. I’m quite shit at reading all the blog posts from my WordPress, Twitter feed, and email updates. I really need to diversify the bloggers I read even more. I have like a grand total of ten people I follow smh.
Here are the few folks who I do check in with with mild frequency thanks to email updates (in alphabetical order).
Fadwa: They are an absolute legend at blogging. Their #ColourTheShelves project is making a huge impact on highlighting marginalised authors, big and small.
Maha: Pint sized powerhouse of romance recommendations.
May: Incredibly thorough recommendation posts with perfect elevator pitches for books to read.
Rameela: Iconic TikTok cosplays, concise reviews that hit all the essentials and ideal for my unfocused and wandering attention.
Shealea: Her tour company is iconic and her blog is flawless. She’s the one you need to look up if you’re looking for thorough blogging advice.
Sumedha: If her extensive review index doesn’t do it for you maybe the insightful discussion posts will.
(Sumedha: :’) <3)
Thank you so much for doing this interview, Saniya!
I think this is the longest interview I’ve had yet. Saniya’s answers are the longest so far haha. But yeah, they are super interesting and chaotic. Highly recommending checking out their various platforms.
This is the 8th Blogletters interview, and the last one of the first batch of interviews. I’ll be giving Blogletters a small break for the next week before coming back with more bloggers. In the meantime, you can catch up on all the interviews posted so far here!
Talk to us!
How would you describe your blogger identity? How do you think social media plays with blogging overall? Tell us in the comments!