Tag «blogging life»

SERIESous Tips: Post Templates

I have a set way I like my posts to look.

I knew very early on when I created my blog that I liked my posts to look uniform. I didn’t want my readers to have to search for the details throughout the post or have to read a different format all the time. While my blog is a blog, I’ve always viewed it as a bit of an archive for series reviews so people can use it as a resource for all their book series needs. Which is why consistency is a huge thing for me.

Of course, over the years my blog has changed its formats. Series reviews used to be big chunks of text where I described what I liked about each installment in different paragraphs. Now, they are broken up into various component subheadings to provide more of an overview. The stats about each novel (like publishing date, author, etc) now appear at the top of the post, as does the book’s synopsis. I’ve also included new graphics along the way and updated the colours scheme.

Writing blog posts can take a long time; especially book ones!

You’ve got to include book images, synopsis and stats; and if you’re doing a blog tour, there are certain aspects you have to add as well. So how do you make sure you include everything in your posts?

Answer: Templates.

I started creating and using templates back when my blog was still on the free WordPress.com platform but I continue to use them even now that I’ve become self-hosted because they are so easy!

I know that self-hosted blogs have various plug-ins to help you blog faster–especially ones that import from sites like Goodreads–but I have a certain look I like and I just find it easier to add the details myself.

>> SERIESous Tips: My 5 Favourite WordPress Plugins

Which is why I use a Word Document to keep and create my master post templates. I do have my basic templates as a saved draft on my blog for when I don’t have access to Word, but the master copy is a Word Document. I use Word for a variety of reasons:

  1. I can create Headings that make it easy to jump to a particular template
  2. I can access the document without WiFi
  3. I can access the document anywhere via my OneDrive Cloud
  4. It keeps things in HTML format
    • There is a setting to make sure the ” ” marks are correct so be aware!
  5. It’s easy to Find and Replace things in bulk
    • Perfect for updating annually!

Here’s an example of the template I use for my standard Series Review posts:

A portion of my Book Series Review Template.

Everything is written in its HTML code so all I have to do is paste the full template into the “Text” section of the WordPress processor (I’m not sure how other blogging platforms work but that’s the HTML coding section for WordPress). It includes all the styling I want (like heading styles or if the text is italicized); image placeholders for covers; review heading images; and also includes the default internal links I use. Anything that needs to be customized to the specific post is written in CAPS so that it is easy to spot within the code or if I am looking on the “Visual” page (the post builder that shows what the HTML looks like).

Once the template it in, I just build everything accordingly!

I also use Word templates for other, everyday things I do/use on my blog including:

  1. Code for updated reviews
  2. Review Conclusions
  3. Subheadings for DNF or Nonfiction Reviews
  4. Text Disclaimers for Cross Posting on External Sites (source is author/Netgalley/etc)
  5. Disclaimers for conversions of reviews (formerly a post about first book…)
  6. Netgalley Notes to the publisher (when blog post is released; cross post to other sites)
  7. Reading Challenges

Everything is in that one Word Doc with the appropriate heading so I never have to search for it. I’ve shrunk every template to a single page to make for an easier select and copy. And while I compose my posts, I often have my template document on my second screen (I have a second monitor attached to my laptop) so that I don’t have to minimize and maximize the windows all the time. It makes it easy to move back and forth.

I also have template documents for my Series Recap pages and custom HTML codes for plug-ins that get updates and change.

Why do I love Templates?

Templates are great for a forgetful person like me. I never have to worry if I’m forgetting to add something to my Blog Tour posts (though I do use checklists in Trello as a double-check) or if my end signature is included.

It also saves me a ton of time because I don’t have to code/format everything from scratch every time. Instead, I just put the bones of my post down and fill in what needs to be filled. And by making it obvious what I need to fill in, it’s great for creating drafts that I will be finishing later on.

Do you use templates for creating your blog posts? What tips do you have to share?

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SERIESous Tips: Book Blogging When on Vacation

Finding the right balance between relaxing and being productive while on vacation isn’t always easy.

I’m a huge fan of travelling. I love exploring the world and experiencing new adventures. I’ve been very fortunate to see so many things over the last few years and I always try to go some place new every year.

I do a lot of prep before I go on a trip. Of course I do all the stuff pertinent to my trip (like packing clothes and printing itineraries) but I also get my reading and blogging habits in order as well.

>> SERIESous Tips: Picking the Perfect Travel Read!

My Philosophy:

I didn’t travel across the world (or wherever) do to things I do at home. I want to embrace everything about the place I’m travelling to and that means busy itineraries in order to see everything that I can. I travel with the philosophy that I might never return to that place and I never want to regret not doing something.

So that means I won’t be spending hours blogging or reading like I would at home. Sure, I do that stuff in my downtime or while en route to a new location while away; but I don’t plan for me to have those moments during my trip. If I do manage to get some stuff done it’s a bonus.

Basically, my blog gets neglected in the sense I’m not visiting daily while travelling but I do think about it and my content while I’m away.

Here are some of the things I do before and during my vacation to keep up with my blog’s content and reviews:

Scheduling Posts

I schedule all the posts on my blog well in advance of their posting dates. I’ve been doing this since my first year of blogging and it has paid off immensely. As I write this (February 2018), I have posts scheduled well into October 2018! (And at the time that this is published in October 2018, I have posts scheduled well into April 2019). That means I can leave my blog for a few days and not worry about posting new content on a regular basis (or getting internet access to do so). You probably didn’t even know I was away because I had been posting regularly 😉

Learn More: Scheduling Blog Posts |  How to Start Scheduling Posts

So of course, I recommend that you schedule some planned posts while away on vacation. Sure, they can be reviews but I recommend special content like tags or memes instead. This is the stuff that isn’t necessarily date specific and you can write well in advance and keep in your draft folder until you need them. It will require a bit of planning and time on your end to write some extra posts but you’ll thank yourself later when you find out you won’t have the time to hit “publish” while away.

Access to my Schedule via OneDrive

I keep track of all the book deadlines I have as well as my blog’s posting schedule in one Word Document. If anyone but me opened that document, they’d probably be confused out of their minds but it makes sense to me!

>>SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized

OneDrive is basically a cloud for Microsoft products–it’s like DropBox or Google Drive. Now that I’m no longer in school, I don’t use it as much but I still use it for my blog. In it, I have my blogging templates, common book themes, book summaries/recaps, and my master schedule. It syncs anytime I have internet to any of my devices and I can also access it via the web. I can even access the documents offline on my phone if I need to.

My point here is that I like having my Master Book/Blog schedule handy so that I know what books to read and when. Can I start a random book or do I need to read something else for review purposes? Having that document handy wherever I go has really helped me be more productive when it comes to reading both before and during my trip.

I do have post templates saved as draft posts on the blog as well but the master/most-up-to-date file is the Word document.

Avoid Deadlines / Posting Commitments

Most of the time, you know well in advance when you are going to be on an extended vacation. Sometimes you don’t but that’s ok. My point here is make sure you don’t schedule yourself for any blog tours or promotional posts while you are away. I make sure to keep track of all tours/ARCs I’ve requested so I have a general idea of what I might be committed to reading and posting in the future.

>>SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized — ARCS

Not only will you create pressure for yourself by creating a deadline to read something but you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle in terms of content. While most blogging tour groups provide you the necessary media and such a week in advance of a tour, some don’t! So take that into consideration before you hit request–especially if your time and/or internet connection is up in the air! You might not be able to fulfill your reviewer obligations and that may dampen future opportunities.

>>Discussion: Lessons Learned from Doing Blog Tours

Jot Down Reviews/Thoughts After Finishing a Novel

One of the biggest factors in terms of blog maintenance is my internet connection. I don’t always have one wherever I go or one readily available at all times. That means I can’t access my blog or even the Goodreads App on my phone. In the last two years, I’ve come to rely heavily on the Goodreads App to jot down some of my thoughts after finishing a novel so I have a base to create my review. But without an internet connection, I can’t really do that.

What I started doing was using my Note App on my phone and writing my thoughts there. I’d mark my start and end dates; write some common themes; note some similar reads; and write my full review. Basically, I’d do everything I normally would do in a post just without the HTML and the book’s metadata. Then, I send that to myself via email when I return home or have internet connection and copy and paste into my templates.

When I came back from my trip in February, I had 7 reviews to write. Normally this would take me hours and I would be pulling my hair out because I wouldn’t remember everything about the books I read. However, thanks to my notes, I was able to churn out reviews like a boss. All I had to do was paste in my thoughts (tweak them a little but not much) and format the post accordingly. What should have taken me a full day only took 2 hours! Amazing!

Keeping Up With Emails / Requests

I don’t get a lot of emails pertaining to my blog but I do subscribe to a lot of email lists for blog tours, book deals and author newsletters. I never realized how many until I didn’t check my Gmail account for a few days and found my inbox stuffed!

One of the nice things about Gmail is that you can separate your inbox into 4 folders that emails are automatically filtered into upon arrival. I’ve sorted mine like this:

  • Primary: Publishing contacts; request submissions on my blog; other
  • Social: commenting feeds; Bloglovin’; Hellobar updates
  • Promotions: author newsletters; book deals; giveaways; Netgalley
  • Updates: blog tour lists; review opportunity lists

I’ve found that this helps me tackle my inbox when I have to go through lots of emails. First, I glance through and delete anything that has “expired” (ex. deals for a specific day). Then I go through and swipe my way through all the emails and star anything that needs follow-up. Then I do a massive delete and work my way through the ones that need my attention.

I have a plug-in for Gmail called Boomerang which lets me pause my inbox (though I’ve never used it). I also use that plug-in to schedule emails to send out. This is especially helpful when I have some review opportunity follow-ups that require the emailed links when the post goes live.

Creating a Worklist via Trello

I’ve praised this online tool before but I wanted to share how I use it while I’m away. The great thing about Trello is that you can use it offline. I’ve got it on my phone so I can create review cards and file them accordingly offline and they will be synced when I get an internet connection. That way, I have a worklist of sorts to complete when I return and I know what I need to do for my blog.

>>SERIESous Tips: Using Trello to Keep Track of Reviews


I hope you found some of my tips and tricks helpful!

What do you do while away on vacation when it comes to reading and blogging?

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SERIESous Tips: Cross Posting Reviews

To Cross Post or Not to Cross Post, isn’t that the question?

 

In my early days, I used Goodreads a lot to discover new blogs to follow. That’s how I found out that book blogging was a thing actually. So I always made an effort to at least mention my blog somewhere in my review and give a link back just to get the word out once I started blogging.

But actually cross posting? Like many blogging/reviewing things, it was something I never really thought about until I started doing review copies on a regular basis. It was always “encouraged” that you posted your review on book buying sites and Goodreads in addition to your blog post to help get the word out. Makes sense right? That’s why I started to be more proactive and conscientious about it.

Does cross posting work?

I think from a publisher/author point of view it does. When buying books I think people like to see ratings and reviews before making the decision. More reviews means more people who have read and likely enjoyed the title, thereby increasing the chances that the purchaser will actually buy it. I know I glance at the reviews before deciding a book is worth the investment of my money to see if it will be enjoyable.

As a blogger, I’ll be honest and say that very (and I mean very) few of the “referrals” to my site are from Goodreads. I get more hits from search engines and blog tour participation links than anything else in the grand scheme of things. In other words: it doesn’t increase the traffic to my blog.

That being said, I still make an effort to cross post my reviews on a regular basis because I believe that the exposure (for both the book and my blog) is important. I mean those few hits linking readers to my site still got people to my site!

What Do my Cross Posted Reviews Look Like?

I think this is the biggest thing people struggle with. Do you post your full blog post? Do you just show off the highlights? Do you simply leave a link to your blog?

Given the format of my reviews (series reviews meaning multiple books generalized within separate headings), I’ve never** posted my full blog post on third party sites. It just doesn’t look nice and it doesn’t always work as an individual review. So I usually leave condensed reviews on Goodreads. Usually these reviews are just a few sentences describing my initial thoughts after reading the novel and marking the book as “finished” on Goodreads.

The other reason I do condensed reviews is because of something I read in a Goodreads 101 blog post by Brittany @ Book Bumblings. In that guide, she emphasized the idea of “repurposing” your reviews on Goodreads in an attempt to drive readers to your blog. The idea is that the shorter post will catch the attention of Goodreads users and it leaves people wanting more so they will hopefully visit your blog. Again, I don’t think this has really worked for me (if you look at my referral numbers), but I like to hope my shorter reviews and links appeal to people enough to visit my blog for more or at to least see what else I’ve reviewed.

>> I don’t know about you but I love having the reviews of my friends on Goodreads when I look up a book title. I often look at those reviews to see if it’s a book I’ll like or to see how others felt about it once I finish reading. That’s why I make an effort to post on Goodreads no matter what because I find those reviews (no matter their length) to be extremely helpful!

**The only exception to this condensed rule is for review copies. Because I’ve been asked to write a review, I try to make it as full as possible for Goodreads and book retail sites. If the book I’m reading is a sequel for a review on my site, I often post a condensed version on my own blog instead in the hopes of reducing spoilers but use the full review everywhere else.

>> Tips: How I Use Trello to Keep Track of Cross Posting Reviews

When do I Cross Post?

For a little while, I tried my hardest to cross post all my previously published blog reviews on sites. But after seeing it didn’t have a huge impact on my stats and discovering how much time it took up, I stopped with my backlisted reviews.

Now, as soon as I publish a review on my blog, I cross post it on all the sites so I don’t have to dedicate hours of time to a cross posting blitz in the future! If it’s a review copy, I cross post to all the sites on release day or the due date.

Where do I Cross Post?

When it comes to cross posting, my methods for posting my review vary depending on the site. So I thought it would be easier to break it down by website and explain what I do and why.

The only one I didn’t explain was Netgalley since that is just you submitting your review (which is the same as my Goodreads one minus the HTML portions) and the links to your cross posted reviews.

Goodreads

What I Cross Post: All reviews regardless of source
How I Cross-Post: Full reviews for ARCs and Owned reads; mini reviews for others & sequels; links to blog

Posting on Goodreads is a little complicated for me given the nature of my blog. You see, because my blog posts are usually one review for an entire series, I don’t often have individual reviews for each book in that series.

One way I’ve attempted to solve that problem is by writing a mini review of my thoughts after finishing every book I read. That way, I’ve got a few lines I can use as a base for sequel reviews and add my links to read the series review on my blog. For inaugural novels, I pick and choose lines from my series review and put them together for a little fuller review (without spoilers of course).

The only exception is when I review ARCs. I always write full reviews because that’s what I got the book for!

When do I Cross Post: As I submit my ARC review on Netgalley; when blog post goes live

I always follow the publishers/providers guideline for posting reviews. If they don’t want that review going live until two weeks before publication, I follow that. Otherwise, it’s as soon as my blog post goes live (or within 48 hours of it).

Riffle Reads & LibraryThing

What I Cross Post: All reviews regardless of source
How I Cross-Post: copy and paste the review’s HTML code from Goodreads review directly to site
When do I Cross Post: As I submit my ARC review on Netgalley; when Goodreads review is live

Riffle Reads is a site very much like Goodreads though it has a smaller user base and community. It doesn’t have a ton of bloggers on there yet so I make an effort to leave reviews for anything that I can so people can learn more. Thankfully, it follows the same coding scheme (for the most part; it doesn’t do images) as Goodreads so I simply copy and paste my Goodreads review when it goes live.

I do the same thing for the site LibraryThing. I just joined that this year but it’s a site similar to Goodreads and Riffle Reads. They have an Early Reviewers program that does look at your review postings so I make an effort to put my reviews there as well. I was also able to import all my Goodreads reviews when I joined the site so that helped immensely.

Amazon.com (Amazon.ca)

What I Cross Post: ARCs & Owned Kindle Titles

Amazon is a bit of a stickler for reviews. They have a pretty rigid review policy so I try to be conscientious of that when I post reviews. I know from some of the review groups I belong to that they will take down your reviews if they don’t comply with terms. So, I make it a point to only add reviews for titles I’ve received for review purposes as well as titles I’ve purchased for my Kindle in order to keep the reviews “legitimate” in Amazon’s eyes.

How I Cross-Post: copy and paste Goodreads review with unique disclaimer

Basically, I remove all the HTML from my Goodreads review (you can’t have links to your blog in an Amazon review which is what my HTML portions are) and post the text. I then add a disclaimer that multiple authors/publishers have told me to use at the bottom of my review. In case you’re curious, here is the disclaimer I use:

**I received an ARC/review copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.**

When do I Cross Post: As I submit my ARC review on Netgalley or when book is published or blog post is live

If I finish my review before the book is published I have to wait to add my Amazon review. Once the book is live, I make sure I go back and post my review. I also add my Amazon link to my Netgalley review (even if I’ve already submitted it) to show that I have actually cross-posted for the publisher as I mentioned I would in my notes upon my submission. Otherwise, I wait until my blog post is live and cross post to Amazon when I post to the other third party sites.

Kobo Books

I rarely cross post on Kobo anymore. Only if it’s a review copy and it has been requested that I do so by the provider do I make the effort. I own a lot of Kobo books so I always rate them when I’m finished but it isn’t linked with my blog so I never write full reviews for them. I find Kobo doesn’t have the easiest reviewing system for someone like me who is posting a lot and so I don’t do it.

Audible

What I Cross Post: All audiobooks provided via Audible
How I Cross-Post: copy and paste Amazon review with unique disclaimer
When do I Cross Post: when my Amazon Review is live

Audible has a great way of providing copies for review purposes. So when I review most audiobooks, I get them via Audible with a special gift code to add the book to my library for free. That way I’m able to review the copy as if I owned it. Audible also has a prompted review option (with headings you answer to) but I always do the freestyle review box and paste my Amazon review.

Twitter

What I Cross Post: All reviews regardless of source; blog posts
How I Cross-Post: built in tweet option on WordPress; tweet archived-post plug-in
When do I Cross Post: new posts are published; updated series reviews; daily archive throwbacks

This isn’t something I consciously do thanks to plugins that make the whole thing automatic. That being said, you can definitely use platforms like Tweetdeck to schedule tweets for promotional purposes if you don’t have a WordPress.org blog.

Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Google Play and Other Retailers

We don’t have Barnes & Noble in Canada (we have Indigo-Chapters) so I don’t see the point in my posting there as a Canadian. As for the other retailers, I don’t use their sites so it’s not of any benefit to me unless I’ve been asked to by a publisher/ARC provider.


Do you have any tips for cross-posting reviews?

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SERIESous Tips: A List of Blog Tour & Review Opportunity Groups

Back in February I created a discussion post where I talked about the lessons I learned in the past 2 years of being a blog tour host. In it, I listed some of the tour organizers I’ve used in the past. But those are only a fraction of the groups out there and that didn’t even include groups that only provide review copies.

So I decided that I should create a comprehensive list of companies to help my fellow bloggers out. These are just some of the few I’ve stumbled upon over the years (and in most cases, I literally just stumbled on them by blog hopping or Googling). I’ve sorted them into Publishing House Catalogs, Review Opportunity Groups and Blog Tour Companies just to make it a little easier. I’ve also included some comments about my personal experiences with these companies.

**NOTE: There are no affiliate links on this page and these are in no way endorsed by the respective groups. My comments are based on my personal experiences and research. All the images link to the group’s homepage for you to bookmark or learn more about. Also, all of these distribute ARCs digitally. Some of these groups do provide physical ARCs but not all do. I didn’t include any programs/groups that focus exclusively on physical ARCs.

Publishing House Catalogs:

These are independent sites that publishing houses use to distribute eARCs to readers.

Image result for netgalley logo First To Read

Edelweiss

I have never tried Edelweiss (it seems really complicated!). I’ve had the best intentions to check it out but never seem to find the time.

Genres: All
Formats: ?
International Availability?: ?
Limited Copies Available?: Majority but some instantly available
Blog Required? ?
Deadline: ?
(If you have these details, leave a comment below and I will update this!)

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Netgalley

I use NetGalley though I try to limit the number of titles I get on there for my own sanity. It really is a great source for digital eARCs and the interface is very easy to navigate. The keys to Netgalley success (ie not getting declined for requests) is to check Publisher Criteria (a lot need the reviewer to have X number of followers or limit international availability) before requesting and to update your Profile on a regular basis. Also, keeping your review ratio high by completing your reviews is a HUGE aspect. Even if you didn’t finish or like the book, submit your review!

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: Yes though there are clearly label restrictions
Limited Copies Available?: Majority but some instantly available
Blog Required? Not Required
Deadline: Publishing Date or Archive Date set by publisher

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via Netgalley.

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>> Check out this super helpful How-To: NetGalley and Edelweiss for Newbies post from The Book Bratz to learn how you can get started with these two sites.

First to Read

I don’t have anything to say about First to Read because it is only open to residents of the United States (and I live in Canada). But it’s an ARC system for Penguin Random House. It looks like they add books at least once a month and members are emailed when new titles are available.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: United States Only
Limited Copies Available?: Yes (first come first serve / draw)
Blog Required? No
Deadline: ?

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***Don’t forget that you can often sign up for email review notifications for your favourite publishers and/or authors as well! Check out their website (or even Twitter) to see if they have a review newsletter you can join. They often include sign-ups for ARC and Street Team recruitment a couple times a year.***

Review Opportunity Groups:

These are groups that offer ARCs/review copies of titles for the express purpose of having reviews on book-based sites. Usually it’s authors or smaller publishing houses that provide the copies with the intention of having the reviews posted by a certain date.

    Booksprout  

Review 4 Me ~

 Audiobook Jukebox

New Adult Book Club

The New Adult Book Club is a group on Goodreads that focuses on the New Adult (NA) Genre as a whole (contemporary, fantasy, etc). They have this great Read It and Review It (RiRi) program for its members. Each week, they have a limited number of copies for 2-3 NA titles and give you a deadline of 3 weeks to post the review on Goodreads (& sometimes Amazon). They also do monthly RiRi titles as well where you have until the end of the month to read the featured title (and, usually, be entered for a giveaway).

Genres: New Adult (all subgenres)
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF) (some are sent directly to Kindle only)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Yes (some exceptions)
Blog Required? No – Goodreads Account (Occasionally Amazon)
Deadline: 3 Weeks

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via the RiRi Program

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Hidden Gem Books

Hidden Gems Books is a great site I only just discovered in the last year. They have ARCs for nearly every genre (romance, cookbooks, horror, etc) and you can pick and choose what genres you get notified about via email. Again, they have a limited number of copies and you have to sign up within 48 hours of the notification to be considered. They also have this great dashboard feature that helps you keep track of all the titles from them you have on the go and what are still available for request.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: No
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – Amazon Account Only
Deadline: 7 – 14 Days (clearly specified when signing up)

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via Hidden Gems

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LibraryThing

LibraryThing is a site I’ve only just discovered this year. They have an Early Reviewers program with select publishers for its members (which is free to join). Every month they release a batch of books (with limited quantities) for review. Your odds as getting the title you’ve requested is a mixture of chance, availability, number of reviews on LibraryThing (which you can boost by importing your Goodreads ones) and other factors. They have a variety of genres available and a variety of format options (audiobooks, eBooks or paper books). Availability varies by country but it is clearly indicated in the title information and they have great sorting options so you can see only titles for your location. Reviews are expected to be posted within 90 days pending the arrival of the book. They have a great FAQ section to help you understand everything as well.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF), physical, audiobooks
International Availability?: Yes though there are clearly label restrictions
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – LibraryThings Account
Deadline: 90 Days after receipt of copy

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

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Audiobook Boom

Audiobook Boom is a review program for audiobooks (they also send out audiobook deals as well). Once a week (on Tuesdays), you receive an email about new audiobooks available for review from the genres you have pre-selected. In their emails, they tell you about content warnings (like violence, sex and language), length of the title and even provide you a link to listen to a sample. You then have 30 days to post a review on Audible, Amazon and/or GoodReads.

Genres: All
Formats: audiobooks (usually Audible versions)
International Availability?: Not specified
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – Audible and/or Goodreads Account
Deadline: 30 Days

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via Audiobook Boom

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Booksprout

Booksprout has two main features that will appeal to readers. One is an app for your phone to follow your favourite authors and be notified of new release and/or book sales. Their website however has an ARC catalogue that you can browse (no email alerts for new additions so you have to check regularly yourself). You can’t sort by genres so you will find yourself scrolling through page after page. BUT, if you do end up requesting multiple copies at a time, they have great sorting features for books you’ve “promised” to review, ones that are due soon, DNF’d and completed reviews. Before you request the book for review, they give you the details of when and where to post the review (some authors only want it on Booksprout, others want it on Amazon as well) as well as note from the author about their book (or what type of reviews they are looking for like beta reviews).

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub or PDF)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Unsure
Blog Required? No – Booksprout and Amazon or others specified
Deadline: Usually two weeks or whatever is specified

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Book Review Buzz

Book Review Buzz has books of all genres available for request. Some of their titles are listed on Netgalley while others are just files sent to you. I’ve never used the site but I subscribe to their weekly newsletter (which also includes a list of eBooks on sale as well so read carefully!). I couldn’t find any information about the timeframe for your review but they want you to review on Amazon and Goodreads for the most part.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF) (some via NetGalley)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Unsure
Blog Required? No – Amazon or Goodreads
Deadline: Unsure

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Review 4 Me

Review 4 Me is a review request website where authors post their books for review. The copies provided are in eBook format and in a variety of genres. I don’t know how long you have to review the titles but they do have a mailing list you can subscribe to when copies become available.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Unsure
Blog Required? No
Deadline: Unsure

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Solid Gold Reviewer Program

Solid Gold Reviewer Program is an audiobook review program hosted at Audiobook Jukebox. They have a catalog of a variety of audiobook genres (minus erotica) that you can request titles from. They will then contact the publisher/author on your behalf. There are some international restrictions but they are clearly listed as such in the postings. Reviews need to be posted within 3 months of receiving the title and there are a few other basic guidelines to follow. They don’t have an email subscription list so you will need to check this on a regular basis and they don’t follow up with you if your request has been denied.

Genres: All (except erotica)
Formats: audiobooks
International Availability?: Yes though there are clearly label restrictions
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – GoodReads or LibraryThing otherwise
Deadline: Publishing Date or Archive Date set by publisher

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Blog Tour Groups:

These are groups/companies that organize blog tours for publishers and/or authors. In addition to organizing blog tours, they also host promotional opportunities (like Blitz and Cover Reveals) and some also provide review opportunities year round.

Companies I Have Experience With:

YA Bounk Tour Button ButtonXBT  

I’ve had great experiences with all these companies in the past. Some of these groups have their own little niches. For example, YA Bound Book Tours and Chapter by Chapter mostly do Young Adult titles; Audiobookworm does audiobook tours/review opportunities. A few of these provide copies via Netgalley which can count towards your feedback ratio.

>> Examples: past blog tours I’ve hosted

Note: Some of these groups look at your blog statics (like Rock Star Book Tours) to determine who can be a host for a particular title. Signing up for a tour doesn’t mean you will automatically be accepted so just be aware of the requirements for each company (they usually ask any time you sign up for a tour or when you first subscribe to their email alerts).

Other Companies:

Jean BookNerd Pump Up Your Book Tour HostBuoni Amici Press, LLC  Goddess Fish Promotions Related image Image result for bewitching book tours 

I didn’t even know some of these companies existed until I did a Google search for blog tours while compiling this post. A lot of them have some great opportunities so be sure to check them out! I know I’ve signed up for a few 😉


Why Request a Review Copy or Join a Blog Tour?

For me, the most rewarding aspect of joining blog tours and review opportunities has been discovering new authors and titles that I might not have otherwise seen. There are so many books out there and sometimes it can be hard to find them. And now with the growing popularity of self-publishing, there are a lot of amazing titles just waiting to be discovered. I’ve also been very fortunate to have some great networking opportunities with publishers and authors arise from doing blog tours as well. All and all, I see blog tours as a win-win for everyone involved and I plan on continuing to do them in the future.

>> Always remember to disclose the fact that you received a copy in exchange for an honest review! For more information, check out this great post about FTC compliance by Briana @ Pages Unbound

Did I miss any groups or companies? Leave me a comment below and I will add them to the lists!

PS: If you can fill in any of the blanks on the review opportunity groups, please leave a comment and I will fill the information in for others to see!

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SERIESous Discussion: DNFing ARCs


SERIESous Discussions: Every once and awhile I will post my random ramblings about a bookish or blogging topic. Feel free to join in by making a comment below or linking back!


To DNF or not to DNF ARCs

Back in 2016, I wrote a post about how I wanted to DNF more books. Not that I wanted to go out of my way to stop reading books; more like I wanted to be comfortable saying “this book isn’t for me” and putting it down without feeling guilty for doing so.

And I have to say, since I’ve created that post, I’ve come a long way. I DNF’d a lot of books in 2017 and I went through fewer reading slumps because I wasn’t pushing myself to finish a novel I wasn’t all that interested in. I’ve come to live by the philosophy “you aren’t going to enjoy every book you pick up” and I don’t get so down on myself for not finishing something. But not every reader feels that way.

Views About DNFing vary from blogger to blogger…

This is something I’ve noticed a lot when I read various discussion posts around the blogosphere.

…especially when it comes to ARCs/review copies.

ARCs and review copies (but simplicity sake, I’m going to refer to anything you get for review purposes as ARCs) are always a delicate subject to bring up but it gets even dicey-er when DNFing is brought up.

I get why lots of people don’t DNF ARCs. You are given the copy with the expectation you will provide an unbiased review upon completion. Giving out copies costs authors and publishers money, and not finishing it seems like a waste of their investment.

I want to argue that that isn’t the case.

See, you received that ARC in exchange for providing an honest review–a review that should not be influenced by your source or your means of obtaining it.

So isn’t DNFing a book your honest review?

Like I said above, you aren’t going to like every book you pick up. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t like this book despite the promising synopsis or cover or author, but that’s OK. You were asked to write an honest review and your honest opinion is that you didn’t enjoy it.

I’m one of those people who has DNF’d ARCs in the past. I don’t enjoy doing it by any stretch of the imagination. It sucks because all the books I pick up for reviewing purposes are books I’m genuinely excited to read. I go in wanting to love the book and sometimes that just doesn’t happen. And I never want to force it.

Remember: you aren’t obligated to give a positive review.

You are obligated to give an honest review for the novel you’ve been provided a copy of. Honest can mean positive or negative feedback. And it’s important for titles to have both available so potential readers can make a decision on whether or not to read it.

I still write full reviews for ARCs I DNF, though I rarely give them a star rating. I look at the book from a critical angle and try to articulate what worked and what didn’t work for me. That’s why all my DNF reviews on my blog have a different format than my usual reviews so I can highlight certain aspects. I also try to recommend who I think would enjoy the book given the features I saw/

Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean someone else won’t and I want my review to showcase that.

Do you DNF ARCs? Why or why not?

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SERIESous Tips: Using Trello to Keep Track of Reviews

*I want to be clear that this post isn’t affiliated with Trello in any way, this is just my personal experience!*

I first talked about how I use Trello in 2016 during a Keeping Organized Tips Series I ran. At the time, I mostly highlighted how I use Trello to keep track of ARC Requests and only briefly mentioned my Review Board. That’s about to change here!

Back in university, a co-coordinator for an event I was running showed me Trello as a tool for keeping organized. The list-maker in me loved it and I used it a lot while organizing various things. But I never thought about using it for book blogging until I read a post by Brittany @ Book Bumblings about Trello. After that, everything just clicked and I created my own boards to keep track of things!

>> Check out Brittany’s guide here!

Trello is great for a number of reasons. First off, it’s free (there is a premium version you can buy with more features) and the options are endless for the free version. It is a very fluid web-based program. It’s super easy to move things around and has a ton of customizing features (which I’m going to highlight a little more below). It also has an app for your phone so you can use it on the go if you are so inclined.

Let me introduce my Review Board:

Every post that is created for my blog has a card on this board. I have 7 main lists I use to keep my reviews/posts organized depending on what stage they are at.

What are you looking at?

These are my lists I used to keep track of reviews and blog posts. I’ll break it down for you:

  1. To Do
    • This is my brainstorm list where I keep track of ideas for blog posts I might want to do in the future
  2. ARCs
    • This is where I create review cards for Request copies I have received
      • I’ll detail what’s on those cards below
  3. In Development
    • These are reviews/posts I am currently writing
  4. Started
    • These are reviews that are finished, they just need something else before they can be published
  5. Cross Post
    • This is where review cards go after I’ve finished writing my blog post
    • This is where I keep track of what other review sites I need to post my review to
  6. Pending Sequels
    • These are drafted series reviews that I’m holding off on posting until I’ve read all the available sequels
  7. Done
    • This is where all review and post cards go after I have completed all their requirements

As I’m sure you can predict, when I’m writing a post from my To Do list or from my ARCs list, they get put in the In Development column. After they are complete, they either get put in the Cross Post, Pending Sequels or Done columns depending on their posting requirements.

What’s On a Review Card?

An example of a review card for an ARC request

There are 4 features I use the most when it comes to creating my review cards.

  1. Labels (colour codes)
    • This is great for seeing things at a glance. I colour code all my reviews based on their source (ARC or Blog Tour), if they require a Recap, if I need to Cross Post or if I need to Update a previous review and/or stats. I also have a special colour for Promo posts like blitzes.
    • If a card gets a certain label, it usually has an accompanying checklist (see #3).
  2. Due Date
    • This is the date I plan to post on my blog, not necessarily the book’s publishing date.
    • This is super handy because you can sort lists by their due dates chronologically. I do this for posts that I have to cross post to external sites.
  3. Checklist — My FAVOURITE Feature!
    • We do a lot of repetitive things when it comes to blogging and sometimes it’s hard to remember them all.
      • See the section below for more details!
  4. Comment (not pictured)
    • I use this mostly for post cards for Tags or posts inspired by other blogs and I want to remember the source or ideas for the post

Why the Checklist Feature is the BEST!

Certain reviews require certain things. For example, when I write a series review, I need to make sure I’ve added a recap section (if applicable) to my Recap Page and put the series on my Series Sequel Spreadsheet. If it’s a review for Netgalley, I need to make sure I’ve added my review to the site as well as the links to my cross posted reviews. I even have a list for those cross posts! And the lists go on and on…

What I love about Trello is that you can create unique checklists for every card and you can see at a glance how many items you’ve completed from that list.

But the greatest thing is that you can copy checklists from other cards to your current card!

I have a card I’ve titled Master Checklist. On it, I’ve created all the checklists I use on a regular basis and when I create a new card, I import the lists from this card. If I need to make a change, I do it on this list so that a new cards going forward have this newly changed list.

Other Notable Features:

  • Assign Tasks by Team Member
    • This would be great if you have multiple blog contributors!
    • You can leave notes too for each other on the card and see what others have done.
  • Calendar
    • You can enable a calendar that will put your cards on those respective dates
      • I don’t use this feature as I use a Word Doc do keep track of my dates for everything (posts, library due dates, etc). Learn more here.
  • Tracks Activity
    • Any changes you make to a card (and when) are noted at the bottom

This way, I always know where I am when it comes to my reviews!

While I try to do a little bit of blogging each day, I don’t always get the chance to with my job. But Trello makes it easy for me to pick up where I left off and to see what I need to get done and when. It truly has become an essential tool to my blogging experience.

>> See how Carrie @ Reading is My Super Power was inspired by my other Trello post!

How to you keep track of the reviews/posts you have in the works?

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SERIESous Discussions: Lessons Learned from Blog Tours


SERIESous Discussions: Every once and awhile I will post my random ramblings about a bookish or blogging topic. Feel free to join in by making a comment below or linking back!


Truth: I didn’t know that blog tours existed until my 2nd year of blogging.

Embarrassing, I know, but I was in such a bubble during my first year of blogging (2013) that I didn’t know what was out there. Anyways, I started slowly with taking review requests in 2015, joining Netgalley and then in 2016, I officially joined the community of being a tour host.

I thought about making this a tips post but I really think this is more a reflection on my experiences being a tour host and how two years of hosting blog tours has changed my blogging and reading habits.

Lesson #1: I LOVE Helping Authors!

There are so many great books out there, from big-name publishers to self-published, and I love the idea that my blog post might help one person discover a book they never knew about. Exposure is everything, especially for those debut authors who are just emerging onto the scene. Just getting the email sign-ups for tours has exposed me to a lot of books I might never have seen otherwise.

More often than not, I often get to connect with these authors after the fact and I love that! I’ve had some great discussions and fantastic opportunities present themselves as a result. Those interactions remind me why I love blogging and reading in the first place: a shared passion for stories.

>>Some Blog Tour Organizers: Audiobookworm Promotions |  Lola’s Blog Tours  | Chapter by Chapter | Social Butterfly PR | Xpresso Book Tours | YA Bound Book Tours

Lesson #2: Keep an Eye on the Number of Requests

I’ve talked in the past about some of the tactics I use to minimize the feeling of reading as a chore but it is so easy to sign-up for blog tours when you are getting emails daily. Like I said, there are a lot of interesting books out there and it can be hard to resist clicking the “request” button for every title that gets your attention. But you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by creating more deadlines and commitments than you can handle.

I personally aim to do no more than 2 requests (blog tour or review request/opportunities) per month. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail but I find that ground rule keeps me from requesting all the books.

Using a calendar to keep track of all my posts allows me to see the bigger picture. Can I fit that tour in on those specific dates? Have I already applied/committed to review something that day? You have to be careful because most blog tours want their post to be the “top” post of the day and that may mean shuffling your schedule around to meet that requirement.

>>Tip Posts: Using Trello to Keep Organized | Organizing Requests | How to Start Scheduling Blog Posts

Lesson #3: Read the Book ASAP!

Most blog tours give you a month or more notice before your scheduled date and you often get the review copy a few weeks before the posting date. When I put in my book deadlines on my calendar, I aim to have the ARC finished at least a week before my tour stop…but that doesn’t always happen.

Reading the review copy at the last minute can have some unfortunate consequences. For one thing, you might not be able to finish the review on time. For another, you might end up DNFing the book or are unable to give it a favourable review (which defeats the purpose of a promotional tour though you are always encouraged to post your review later). Or something comes up and you just can’t post anything for the tour.

All the touring groups I deal with are great with recognizing that you won’t like every book you read and are very accommodating with changing the date or type of tour stop and/or making alternate arrangements. But my point here is that it can be stressful for all involved if you leave your reading to the last minute and arrangements can’t be made. You have to remember that it is a privilege to be awarded a spot on a tour, not your right as a blogger. If you are hard to work with or can’t make your commitments, it might affect your opportunities with that company later on.


Those are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the last year. Although blog tours can be a bit of work, I’ve found them to be extremely rewarding! I’ve discovered a ton of amazing books and authors over the last two years and I hope you have to by following my blog.

Do you participate in Blog Tours? Why or why not?

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Self-Hosting: A 6 Month Reflection

tipsSELFHOST

In February 2016, I made the decision to move my blog to a self-hosted site. It was a big decision for me and one that came with a lot of learning curves.

Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to do a 6-month reflection and see if I am happy with my choice.

What I Love

–Manipulating my Theme–

One of the biggest reasons I switched was the desire to have full control over my theme. I really wanted to be able to customize it however I wanted and after a lot of searching I found the theme that works.

I’m not sure if I totally love it but it’s pretty close to what I want. Over the last few months, I’ve had to work out some kinks (like a grid system that cuts off images or why my images weren’t lining up straight) but I think I’ve got a good handle on it all now.

–The Plug-ins–

There are SO MANY PLUG-INS! It’s a little overwhelming! And trying to find what I’m looking for exactly can be difficult. I’ve tested out quite a few until I found the ones that work best but sometimes, it’s touch and go.

I don’t really have any plug-ins that help with my actual blog-posts though. One reason is the fact that the good ones cost money that I don’t really want to spend. The other is that I enjoy inputting the meta data for my posts and because I follow a pretty specific format, the ones currently out there don’t meet my needs.

–I can have HTML Sliding Galleries!!!–

You might have seen it on my home page but I am super excited I have more freedom with embedded features like video, slideshows and the like!

The Bummers

–Getting Followers–

One thing I wish I thought a little more about was “follow” buttons. I really took for granted the fact that as a blog on WordPress.com, it automatically pops up for users when they view my blog.

Yeah–not so much on a self-hosted blog!

I learned how to get a WordPress.com follow widget and now I have that. I’ve also promoted following my blog on Bloglovin’ more.

Since I made the switch, my follower numbers have stayed the same. Honestly, it sucks. However, I’ve seen growth on my Bloglovin’ followers which is great. But my main concern is that my blog lacks the options for people to follow.

–I Forgot my WordPress.com Blog Still Exists!–

My domain was originally purchased through WordPress.com where domain mapping (essentially rerouted people from my wordpress.com address to my .com address) was a part of my package. So in April (when it expired), my old wordpress.com blog was popping up! What really sucked was that I had a form for contacts and people had contacted me on that and I didn’t know!

So I scrambled to make sure everything was rerouted so people weren’t following a “dead” blog!

–Issues with CommentLUV–

While CommentLUV seems to work on my blog for commenters, I’ve run into issues while commenting on other blogs because of how my blog feed is set on my page. Because my blog opens on a home page and not my feed, sometimes CommentLUV struggles to find my latest post.

Am I Sticking With It?

Well, I paid for a year so yes 😛

Honestly, I’m a little on the fence. We’ll see how the last half of my year goes (I’m going to adulting soon by joining the workforce) and how much of my time I can allot to blogging and reading.

I know I don’t use self-hosting to its max in terms of the tools available for book bloggers so that influences my experience. I’m also really cheap and would rather spend my money on books (especially once I lose my library card for where I go to school).

But at this time it’s a wait and see.


I’m happy to say, I’ve (finally) launched my mini-guide to self-hosting complete with help links!

Check it out here:

selfhost


What are your thoughts on Self-Hosting?

What problems have you run into?

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SERIESous Tips: Scheduling Blog Posts

tipsSCHED

Why Schedule Posts?

When I see another blogger mention that one of their goals is to schedule their posts, I’m always a little taken aback. I’ve been scheduling posts since I started blogging 3 years ago and have never looked back–it’s just routine for me now!

I get it though. There is something so satisfying about writing a post and immediately sharing it with the world. Your thoughts and feelings are still fresh on your mind and you get that satisfaction of unleashing them on the world.

But sometimes, I don’t have that luxury. School eats up a lot of my time so I don’t always have the chance to write something the same day I would ideally like to publish it. Scheduling posts has saved my ass quite a few times when it comes to making sure I have content regularly on my blog. Especially if I go through a “blogging spree” where I just churn out posts like a boss. (Ironically, this is always around exam time :P)

I don’t like posting something everyday simply for the sake that I couldn’t possibly write that many posts in a year (props to those that do!). I like spacing out my reviews and my features. I don’t like having 5 discussion posts in a row nor do I like scheduling two brand new series reviews on the same day or week. I also have features that I only do on a monthly or seasonal basis so I need to make sure I stay on top of those. It’s also really helpful to know when I can squeeze in a blog tour or two 😉

Basically, I like having a posting schedule to make sure I have a decent number of posts on a weekly (and therefore, monthly) basis. It helps me stay organized and makes me feel better and less frazzled when it comes to my blogging (especially when I know I won’t be able to create new posts during the week).

How I Schedule My Posts:

I know lots of people use a pen and paper method to keep track of posts and books to read, but I found that too hard to maintain. Partly because I always lose my planner somewhere on my desk and mostly because I change my posting dates all. the. time. Since I schedule posts well in advance (usually 2 months later), I often move those posting dates around when I get new requests and the like. My planner becomes a disaster of crossed-out or heavily erased marks and the neat-freak in me can’t handle it.  I needed something that was easy to change when I needed to change it.

And so, I created a Word Document that uses a calendar template:

monthlyagenda

At first, I just used it to keep track of posts and library due dates. Then, when I started requesting from NetGalley, I had to keep track of those dates as well (see my post on tracking ARCs). So it has definitely become more colourful over the last few months.

Different colours mean different things (ex. purple means it is a post I have to finish writing whereas black means it is good to go) as does the position of the title (ex. centred at the top means a library/request title whereas bottom left is blog post).

I also really like that I can see things as a whole month. It makes scheduling posts so much easier because I can see the bigger picture and not just what I have posting later in the week. AND, it makes meeting reading deadlines a lot easier too. Now that I’ve reduced the number of books I get from the library and my ARCs, I can take a glance at my calendar and see what books I need to read in the next week or so. If you follow me on Goodreads, you might see that my “Currently Reading Shelf” has at least 3 books on it. Normally, I’m not reading 3 books at a time; rather, these are the books that are next on my reading schedule as per my Word calendar.

It’s probably complicated for someone who isn’t me (trust me, it took me a while to get use to it all too) but it really has become a part of my everyday blogging routine. Like I said earlier, I have other methods of keeping track of the particulars (like Trello) but this Word Document is definitely my master list of what is happening for my blog.

 

Do you schedule your posts?

How do you keep track of everything for your blog?

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SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized Part 2 – ARC/Requests

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When I participate in Twitter chats, a common question people ask each other is “how do you stay organized” and so I decided to share my methods with everyone (not that anyone asked me specifically). Normally, I post this sort of thing as a guide but I wanted more interaction and felt like a post would be better.

I’ve separated this post into the various sources I use: library (Part 1), ARCs/requests (Part 2-today) and purchases (Part 3–tomorrow) as well as scheduling posts (Part 4–day after). Each part will be posted over the course of four days.


 Part 2: ARCs & Request Copies

*I want to be clear that this post isn’t affiliated with Trello in any way, this is just my personal experience!*

To keep track of my ARC requests and reviews, I use Trello first and foremost. For those who don’t know, Trello is basically a virtual to-do list board that allows you to create different categories and cards to put under those categories. In addition to tracking ARCs and reviews, I also use a Trello board for site maintenance and reminders.

My first board is the one I use to track all NetGalley Requests, Blog Tours and Other ARC Requests:

trellonetgalley

As you can see, I use it to keep track of books I want to request from NetGalley (don’t you wish NetGalley had a wishlist feature?), books I have placed a request for (this is really helpful when thinking about signing up for blog tours and the like), books I have received for review as well as books I have reviewed. The “no longer available one” is basically for me to remember what books I saw on NetGalley and want to read now that they are published/removed.

I have different coloured labels that mean different things (mainly the source of the book) and I note the publishing date or the date I have to have the review published. That last part is what is helpful when trying to sign-up for Blog Tours or ARCs because it gives me a rough idea of how many review posts I have for that week/time-frame.

Once I get approved for a review copy, I move that title over to my “Review” Board:

trelloreviews

This is where I keep track of all my posts for my blog. I write down various ideas in my “To-Do”column, note the ARCs I have to review, what reviews/posts are in development, cross-posting and a few other boards.

What I really like about Trello is that each card can have mini checklists, a due date, a place to write notes and of course, coloured labels.

trellochecklist

The checklists feature is really, really helpful when it comes to cross posting my reviews on other sites or making sure I hit all the requirements of a blog tour post. It’s also super easy to copy checklists from previous cards so I don’t have to rewrite all my checklists every time I add a new card.

Because it is a web-based system, I can access Trello anywhere so long as I have internet. I can get it for my phone and tablet so that makes it super easy to add cards while on the go.

I also keep track of all my review posting dates on my master list which I will be talking about in Part 4 of my series.


 

There you have it! Join me tomorrow when I explain how I track my eBook purchases.

Do you have a specific way for keeping track of your ARCs/requests?

Let me know below!

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