Awards Rewards Prizes: #bookblogging vs #writing



Awards? Rewards? Prizes?

What’s the difference?

I did a little digging…

An ‘award’ is given to recognize personal achievement (e.g. scholarship, completing 100 hours of community service, etc.), whereas a ‘reward’ is compensation or incentive for doing something (e.g. completing household chores or returning a wallet). A ‘prize’ is something offered or won as a result of victory, as in a competition or contest.

When I was ten years old, I won $18 in bingo. The $18 was my ‘prize’ for having won. Recently, I won the BookSparks 2015 Summer Reading Challenge Grand Prize. More on that in a moment… But first, let me say this:

I love book marketing. 

Love everything about it.

I love reading books, love blogging about books, love connecting with readers.

I love connecting with fellow writers, love promoting fellow writers, love learning from fellow writers.

Readers, writers, books. I love them all.

My time as a book blogger has been so rewarding, it’s difficult to put into words. As I reflect on my work as a book blogger, I feel a sense of achievement, and that is my (personally felt) award.

So now that it’s 2016, and I’m entering my fourth year of writing, editing, reviewing, blogging and social media marketing-ing . . . I thought I’d pause a moment to take stock.

A (Very) Brief History with Much Left Out


2013: I launched “Julie Valerie’s Book Blog” with a reading campaign to “Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks.” I finished the year having read and reviewed 55 books in my genre. I attended BEA and other writing conferences; connected with readers, writers, and industry insiders; and learned A LOT about social media marketing, offline publicity, and what makes certain authors’ book marketing campaigns tick – while others fall flat. For me, 2013 was a year of firsts where much was learned. I finished the year with a solid understanding of how the industry works and a marketing plan for when my first novel is released.

CourageJacketWeb2014: Read and reviewed 67 books in my genre while finishing my first novel. Also launched a series of blog events, and a popular Wednesday “Hump Day Books” series that focused on the craft of writing and book publicity. What I learned from the “Hump Day Books” series? The value of building quality content. That Wednesday series brought my average website visitor reading time to over 17 minutes. Average page views per visitor to my website? Eight. That’s some crazy great stats in a crowded blogosphere and I’m grateful. Perhaps I’ll revive that program in 2016 . . . the verdict’s still out.

My proudest accomplishment in 2014? My short story, LLL, was published in A Kind of Mad Courage: Short Stories about Mothers, (S)mothers and Others.

2015: Read and reviewed 75 books in my genre while editing my first novel and continuing the many additional series and programs launched through my website. Big in 2015 (for me, at least)? The launching of the Fiction Writers Blog Hop and the 85K Writing Challenge.

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Also big in 2015? Winning the Grand Prize for the BookSparks 2015 Summer Reading Challenge. If anyone knows how to launch a great social media campaign promoting books and book reviews – it’s the folks at BookSparks. Fabulous. I won a beautiful vintage suitcase, vintage luggage tags, and a $300 gift certificate on Southwest Airlines. Still pinching myself. Thank you, BookSparks! A mighty fine prize. Much better than my $18 bingo winnings.


When I reflect on the 55 books I read and reviewed in year one, the 67 books I read and reviewed in year two, and the 75 books I read and reviewed in year three, I now realize I’ve read and reviewed 197 books in my genre. At the time of this post (January 25, 2016) I’ve read and reviewed two books in 2016 and will read and review one more before the month comes to a close . . . bringing my grand total of reading and reviewing to:

200 books in 3 years

Here’s some fun math:

If each book averaged 85,000 words – I read 17 million words
. . . and then sat down to write about those words through my 200 book reviews.

Folks, when it comes to reading and reviewing, I gotta say, it was fantastically rewarding, and even resulted in my winning a (grand!) prize. But I’m exhausted. Grateful and proud, happy to help, but exhausted because I’ve been reading and reviewing while also launching other programs and trying to focus on my personal and professional writing. The ultimate ‘award’ I’d like to achieve with my life is to connect with readers through my writing. So I think I need to set the ‘prizes’ and ‘rewards’ of book blogging aside for a bit and focus on achieving that personal ‘award’ of connecting with readers through my own work.

As the month of January tends to be a month for proclaiming New Year Resolutions, in 2016, my focus will be the launching of my own writing career (getting that finished début novel into the marketplace) and writing my second book.

So from this point forward, I plan to channel my energies into writing a book a year (the inspiration behind my launching the 85K Writing Challenge) and I’m looking forward to serving on the Communications Committee for James River Writers. I’m going to continue running my Fiction Writers Blog Hop series (last Wednesday of every month) and see about launching the 85K Writing Challenge out of the Facebook group platform where it is now and onto its own self-sustaining website so it can grow and become whatever it is meant to be.


My things-to-do list for 2016:

  • Introduce Book #1 to readers. (I’m currently exploring options in publishing.)
  • Spend the first three months (January, February, March) writing Book #2 while also hosting the 85K Writing Challenge.
  • Spend the second three months (April, May, June) editing Book #2.

Come July 2016, I’ll reassess and make plans for the second half of what I hope will be a great year.

But I must say, as far as awards, rewards, and prizes go, I’m proud of the 200 books on my book-review bookshelf. When I look at them, I smile, remembering the places I traveled and the lives I lived through the pages of those books.

I am forever grateful to the writers who wrote the 17 million words I read. The pleasure was all mine. A truly awarding, rewarding, and prize-worthy experience.

Thank you.

Oh, and, a little something I like to say that’s especially applicable at the moment . . .


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Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP click here:

Fiction Writers Blog Hop – Join us! #amwriting #amreading

Fiction-Writers-Blog-Hop (1)

Fiction Writers Blog Hop


Are you a writer, reader, book blogger, and/or fan of books and blog hops?Hopping along the Fiction Writers Blog Hop is super easy. Simply click on a square below, then enjoy being whisked around the blogosphere reading great articles and meeting interesting book people.

Want in on the action? Creating a square and linking an article from YOUR website to the hop is easy.


  1. Click on the blue, rectangular “Add your link” button below to add a link to your website.
  2. Add this sentence to the blog post on your website so hoppers can find their way back to the master link list: Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

That’s it!

But wait. There’s more!


To celebrate the New Year – I’m throwing in a $20 Amazon Gift Card for one lucky participant. So click on that blue “Add your link” button and join us! UPDATE (January 30): The drawing is complete. Scroll down to see who won!

NOTE: When leaving comments for others on their websites – if you don’t see a comment box right away – click on their headline/title. That usually opens up the full features of a blog post. 

TWITTER COUNTS: As many of you know, Twitter decided to disable their “counts” from social media Twitter buttons. So although the Fiction Writer Blog Hop ALWAYS generates more than 100 outbound tweets from this page (not to mention tweets written and circulated by other means) – we won’t have the thrill of actually seeing the numbers climb. But trust me, it’s a fun day on Twitter when we “hop” so thank you!

Mark you calendar. I host this blog hop on the last Wednesday of every month.

Share the fun. If you feel so inclined, hit a few of those social media buttons at the bottom of this post to share the fun. (Much appreciated!)

Okay, that’s it. Let’s hop!

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And the winner is: Pauline Wiles! Congratulations, Pauline, and thank you to everyone who participated in this month’s Fiction Writers Blog Hop. Always the last Wednesday of the month – our next hop will be on my birthday – Wednesday, February 24. Hope to see you then. Cheers everyone! (And, no. Those are not my fingernails. They belong to my daughter who helped me draw the lucky winner. :) )

Fiction Writers Blog Hop – Back for another year!

Fiction-Writers-Blog-Hop (1)Happy January 2016!

Fiction Writers Blog Hop

Whatcha doing, whatcha writing, whatcha reading?

Tell us on the first Fiction Writers Blog Hop of 2016. Always the last Wednesday of the month, the Fiction Writers Blog Hop is back for another year of staying informed and staying connected.

To celebrate the first Hop of the New Year, I’m kicking in a $20 Amazon Gift card for one Blog Hop participant. Simply add your link this Wednesday then enjoy hopping to participating websites. Complete details here.

Fiction Writers Blog Hop – this Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Are you a writer, reader, book lover? Join us!


Want to see how it works? Here’s a peek at previous months:

Fiction Writers Blog Hop – September 2015
Fiction Writers Blog Hop – October 2015

(We skipped November and December because the last Wednesday of the month landed on a holiday.)

Top Trends in #BookTitles

All the Books We Cannot See: When Book Titles Follow Trends


I talk books with a whole lotta people, and usually, I can navigate discussions without completely embarrassing myself. But not so long ago, while musing about book titles over email, I failed to make the connection that my book companion was talking about ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, you know, that 531-page World War II novel by that multiple award-winning author, Anthony Doerr. That one. That little-known, rarely talked-about book, that oh, let’s see . . . WON THIS YEAR’S PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION.

That one.

She had just finished reading it. Me? I must have been tired (was it a late-night email exchange?), or maybe I was distracted (so many books, so little time) . . .

Doesn’t matter.

I so utterly failed to realize that what she was talking about was THAT SPECIFIC BOOK that I completely confused and cluttered our conversation, until finally, she realized the synapses weren’t firing in my brain, and very politely indicated that she was referring to Doerr’s novel.

Oh. Duh. (“I totally knew what you were talking about!”) Not.

How embarrassing.

And frustrating! Because I know this book – heck, it’s sitting on my desk waiting to be read. So why did I flub up the conversation? Was there something wrong with the neurotransmitters in my brain? Did the receptors across my synaptic cleft suddenly decide to take a freaking nap?

Maybe it’s not my fault.

All three of these books released in 2014 within 90 days of each other, all with very similar titles, and very similar covers. Two of them are even about war.


And then there’s this:

the girl on the trainthe boys on the boat

And how about this? Two books by (very) different authors, both titled: THE DOUBLE. But thanks to book cover design, one Double, really is double. So together, they read: The Double, The Double, The Double. Which, to my mind, is a triple. Or maybe it’s six. I don’t know.


Here’s two books living lives after life. When placed side by side, you can read them this way: Life after life after life after life.


(Hat tip to Emily Temple’s March 8, 2013 Flavorwire “The Doubles: 10 Pairs of Great Books With the Same Titles” for catching the LIFE AFTER LIFE and THE DOUBLE similarities. Photo credits belong to that article.)

My point is, I don’t think it’s entirely my fault that I momentarily “spaced out” about a book title. Especially when some writers do it to us intentionally.

The way Jojo Moyes does it, AFTER YOU, sounds almost polite. Or maybe not, if you put both of her titles into dialogue.

“After you?”
“No, me before you.”

after youme before you

So I’m not crazy. Am I? The trouble with some book titles, especially when done to chase a trend, is that they create a crowded marketplace filled not with: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, but all the BOOKS we cannot see.

But don’t take my word for it. Almost two years ago (so the list is still growing), published “The Book Title with 91 Imitators” based on an article that originally appeared in the February 3, 2014 issue of New York Magazine. The article chronicles the mind-blowing flood of books with the word GIRL in the title. The list is astonishing. Nearly 100 ‘girl’ titles and counting.

Here’s a sample:

I’m thinking this girl should find another hobby. She’s clearly not good at flying.

Now, don’t get me wrong. They look like fabulous books. My apologies to the writers who are experiencing their third incarnation of the same point – first in New York Magazine, then in Vulture and now on my book blog. But doesn’t it make you wonder what Stieg Larsson would say about all of this? He’s probably spinning in his grave because he was the boy who was the first GIRL. But then, wait a minute. He’s part of the problem . . .

thegirlwiththe dragonthegirlwhoplayedthegirlwhokicked

Or, maybe, Stieg’s not the problem. He was simply the first to brand it.

Stieg was Swedish. The above titles were chosen for the English-language market. The original title for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTO is: Män som hatar kvinnor, “Men Who Hate Women.”

Too bad for the men who hate women. The word GIRL sure sells a lot of books!

Just ask JoJo. That girl sells a whole lotta books. But with all this AFTER YOU and ME BEFORE YOU going around, it seems someone got left behind . . .


Great news! I found her. She’s at the Barnes & Noble.

Many thanks to the astute readers of this blog post who are leaving great comments in my comment section, causing me to return to this post to add:

David Benoit at the The Wall Street Journal chimed in on this topic back in November (11/16/15). Here’s his spin on the matter: Loved the Novel About a Girl on a Train? You May Have Read the Wrong Book: Thrillers with similiar names cause some confusion; ‘THIS is not that book!’


Thanks for bringing the WSJ article to my attention, Wendy Janes. And thank you, Pauline Wiles, for pointing us to this August 27, 2015 BookBub article by Hannah Reynolds: What Are the Most Popular Title Trends in Your Genre? Reynolds created word clouds for titles in each genre. Interesting to note, the words ‘love,’ ‘bound,’ and ‘cowboy’ all feature prominently in the erotica genre. I feel bad for the cowboy taxed with servicing an entire genre. With all of these girls on the bookshelves, he’s bound to get tired.

Although, he best stay clear of this one . . .


I suspect once we’ve exhausted THE GIRL ON . . . THE GIRL WITH . . . and THE GIRL WHO . . . titles, we’ll eventually declare that title structure to be over, and done with. Or, gone, so to speak.


Or maybe we’ll simply toss that ‘girl’ toward the back end of the title, rather than the front, as seen in ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL by Jess Andrews.

Now that [BLANK] and [BLANK] and the [BLANK BLANK] book I just mentioned has been made into a motion picture, even the moviegoers – who may not be aware of the book – will become attuned to that type of grammatical construction for popular titles.


Dedicated followers of title trends, take note: the [BLANK] and [BLANK] and the [BLANK BLANK] title construction, and the [BLANK] and [BLANK] and [BLANK] and [BLANK] construction may soon be gracing your bookshelves on a slew of new books.

etta and otto and russell and james

I thought it looked fresh when I reviewed Emma Hooper’s ETTA AND OTTO AND RUSSELL AND JAMES. Although, it’s sometimes hard to remember which name comes first. Is it James? Or Otto? No, wait. It’s Etta. Etta comes first. (Great book, by the way.)

Unfortunately for me, who sometimes lapses into moments of faulty synapses over all the books I (apparently) cannot see — like the aforementioned Pulitzer Prize-winning ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE — I sure hope the coming year brings all the right books, IN ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. So I can see them. Otherwise, I’m going to need new glasses.


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#BookReview: What Jennifer Knows by Wendy Janes @WendyProof


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Folks, this is Wendy Janes. One of the nicest, most supportive writers/editors in the blogosphere. And this is Wendy’s book, her solo début novel, What Jennifer Knows. Wendy also wrote the following short stories: ‘Verity’ in A Kind of Mad Courage (anthology) ‘The … Continue reading