Hello everyone! I am super excited about today’s Woven In Books because I have one of my favourite people on the blog today! Shealea from Shut Up, Shealea is an inspiration to so many of us for all the work she does for the community and how she is consistently doing excellent work. Today we talk everything about books, blogging, writing reviews and lots of fun stuff.
Woven In Books is a series which aims to hype diverse books and creators. Check out the previous Woven In Books posts HERE.
Hello Shealea and welcome to Woven in Books. I am so glad to have you on the blog today as you’re an inspiration to me and so many others for all the amazing work you do in the book blogging community. You were one of the first people I followed when I started my blog, which was since your Bookshelf Bitch days, and I am so glad you agreed to this!
Thank you very much for inviting me to your blog, Krisha! I’ve been a (shamefully) silent fan of your Woven in Books feature, and it’s such a huge honor to take part in it. I’m very excited to get started!
What would you say is the greatest satisfaction of being a book influencer? Also, what are the difficulties of being a book influencer?
There are so many things to love about being a book influencer, but what sparks the most joy in me is the effortless ability to find and connect with like-minded readers (and even authors!). Honestly, I don’t have a lot of friends (especially college friends) who avidly read the way I do, so prior to blogging, there was no one with whom I could bond in that way.
It’s also immensely satisfying to know that my opinion carries some kind of weight. I’m definitely not the community’s leading expert on book recommendations, but followers — and maybe even casual readers or visitors — of my platform trust what I have to say. In some capacity, at least. And the trust that’s been gifted to me has been incredibly humbling.
Of course, there are highs and lows to being a book influencer. In one of my recent blog posts, I discussed some of the difficulties that are specific to book bloggers. But anyway, I think the biggest hurdles are the systemic issues that book influencers face, regardless of their platform. Inclusivity and accessibility remain to be huge, pertinent problems that disproportionately affect marginalized, especially BIPOC, bookish influencers.
On a more personal level, the line between being a reader and being a bookish influencer can also be challenging to navigate. To the point that it takes a toll on a person’s mental health and well-being. I definitely believe that we need to have more nuanced conversations about this type of struggle. As a community, we need to be more open and more vocal about what it means to be a bookish influencer, the importance of setting boundaries, and how to separate our public platforms from our personal identities. Otherwise, more and more of us will suffer from burnouts, which may lead to more people abandoning their platforms.
I love reading your well-written reviews. What are some of the review tips you would give people on how to write a good review?
Aww, thank you! My reviews take days to finish because I’m embarrassingly sluggish when it comes to writing. So, it warms my heart whenever they’re appreciated (🥺).
First and foremost, experiment until you find the structure that works best for you. Obviously, there are so many different styles and approaches to reviewing books. I used to structure my review based on specific elements (e.g. characters, world-building, writing style, and pacing); however, I eventually found this approach to be very limiting. It was also unnecessarily time-consuming because my mind tended to blank on some of these “sections.” For example, what if I don’t feel like talking about the author’s writing style? Or what if I don’t want to describe and evaluate every major character in the book? My current reviewing style is much more flexible, which has really helped me in consolidating my thoughts more effectively.
Second, make sure that your review is reader-friendly in length and in format. No matter how well-written your review is, no one will bother to read it if it’s poorly formatted. As much as possible, outline your review and break it down into smaller, less intimidating sections. Headers and page breaks are your best friends and best tools! You can also use font sizes and typefaces (i.e. bold, italics, underline) to highlight and emphasize the main points of your review.
Third, jump straight into reviewing. Personally, one of my pet peeves is reviews that start by rephrasing the book’s entire synopsis. I think it’s really unnecessary since there’s already a ready-made synopsis available. It’s even more tiresome when the review contains the synopsis and a rephrased version of it. Because you’re essentially asking your readers to process the same information twice. You don’t need a lengthy introduction. Just jump in and present your points.
Finally, provide a brief conclusion or overall summary of your review. In other words, what’s the bottom line? After all of the positive and negative points that you’ve made, would you recommend the book? And if applicable, to whom would you recommend it?
In our constantly busy lives, it can be very difficult to stay motivated. What would you say motivates you?
This might come as a shock to everyone, but I am not as stats-focused or stats-oriented as people might assume. I like numbers, but I’d like to believe that I don’t really strive for them. If that makes sense. For instance, years ago, I posted a book review that only garnered 60 views, and it didn’t hurt my feelings or anything.
As much as I enjoy tracking the performance of my platform and content, that’s really just my nerdy side being nerdy. Honestly, I’m very passion-driven. And it’s the passion that I feel about what I write — be it about books, media, or lifestyle — that sustains me and keeps me motivated. And it also helps that writing stuff down actually improves my mental health. I’ve always found comfort in writing, and I’ve always found enjoyment in sharing what I know — and these definitely play a role in my motivation as well.
What are three things you would say to someone wanting to start a book blog/bookish platform?
I recently wrote an entire blog post about that. Outside of what I already mentioned, the three things I’d say would be:
One, the ‘right’ way of blogging depends on what your goals are. If you’re blogging to just scream about the books you love, then you don’t need to have a gigantic audience for it. And the size of your platform doesn’t invalidate what you’re trying to do. If you’re blogging as a hobby, then you don’t need to jump through hoops for ARCs — and even more so, you shouldn’t measure your blog’s worth by the number of ARCs that you receive. If you’re blogging to build a legitimate, influential platform, that doesn’t make you less genuine, less honest, or less passionate.
Two, know your worth. The publishing industry treats its influencers very poorly, with book bloggers receiving the brunt of poor treatment. Additionally, book blogging does not perform as well as other popular blogging niches. Creating content under these unfortunate circumstances will take a toll on you every now and then. And it’s understandably easy to feel disillusioned or disheartened. But I hope you know that your worth is intrinsic, never extrinsic. In other words, your value and the value of your work aren’t defined by outside forces.
Three, find your support system within the community. To be honest, I truly believe that without the close friends I’ve made throughout my blogging journey, I wouldn’t have made it this far.
You’ve been in the community for 4 years now! What would you say is the biggest difference between then and the present day?
I know. I feel… really old. It’s surreal.
I think the biggest difference is the rising popularity of emergent bookish platforms, such as bookstagram, booktube, and for better or for worse, booktok. On one hand, it’s really great to have so many avenues and channels where you can lovingly yell about your interests, connect with like-minded people all over the world, and express yourself through creative content. But on the other hand, there’s a steadily growing preference towards social media platforms over independent platforms like blogs, which can understandably be disheartening for bloggers. Nonetheless, I believe that blogs are still relevant and that there’s more than enough room to accommodate everyone.
Now onto something less serious!
Which fictional characters would you want to take with you to an amusement park or a day out?
Lan and Hilo from Jade City can definitely take me out. In every sense of the word. But seriously, Lan and Hilo have starkly contrasting personalities that guarantee a chaotic and fun-filled time! I can easily imagine Lan cautioning Hilo and me from eating sugary treats before riding a rollercoaster, and Hilo and I working together to sneak away from Lan’s supervision.
Which book has had the most influence on your growth personally and as a book influencer and why?
Without even thinking twice, my answer is The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. As evidenced by my creative shot in my graduation photoshoot.
Where do I begin? The Bone Witch was my accidental introduction to the very niche genre of Asian-inspired fantasy. Moreover, this was the book that sparked a thousand questions — What makes good storytelling? What narratives are forced upon us? How impactful can representation be for people who have never seen themselves in literature? — and these questions ultimately shaped me into who I am as a reader, as an influencer, and as a person.
Which are your favourite dessert and favourite drink?
I love, love, love ice cream. I always joke that a good date needs good ice cream. As for my favorite drink, iced coffee is my poison of choice.
Which is a trope which will make you read a book immediately? And which trope do you stay away from?
I have a huge soft spot for the found family trope! I also enjoy unlikely alliances turning into something more, be it fiercely platonic or heart-stoppingly romantic. In contrast, I avoid white savior and accidental pregnancy tropes.
Lastly, shout-out your Top 10 favourite diverse books!
First to come to mind:
- The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – This trilogy is the cornerstone of who I am as a reader and as a bookish influencer. It’s really made me more critical of the stories and content that I consume.
- Jade City by Fonda Lee – This made me fall in love with adult fantasy.
- With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – Hands down my favorite contemporary novel. I also have a strong, inexplicable connection with its main character, Emoni.
- Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay – This is an incredibly poignant and timely YA contemporary for Filipino readers, and I really hope more people pick it up.
- The Wolf of Oren-yaro by K.S. Villoso – This is a character-driven adult fantasy that is extremely close to my Filipino heart. I love it so much.
- The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee – I reread this recently, and oof, phenomenal doesn’t even begin to describe this duology.
- Slay by Brittney Morris – I cannot believe that it took me so long to pick this up. Slay made me so emotional. (Also, more books celebrating Black joy and culture please!)
- Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan – For readers who like painful duologies.
- Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan – For readers who like painful duologies.
- Start Here anthology edited by Brigitte Bautista – An anthology of meet-cute short stories centering queer Filipino characters? How can I not recommend this?
- A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna – An Indian-inspired space opera that deserves more love, hype, and adoration
Thank you so much for this, Shealea.
Shealea likes sunflowers, research, and diverse books. She is the brain and heart behind Shut up, Shealea, which is focused on literary, media, and lifestyle content. Her other projects include the Asian Bookish Creators Directory, Caffeine Book Tours, and Year of the Asian Reading Challenge.
Did you find Shealea’s tips helpful?
I love Shealea’s recs and these books are also some of my faves too! Have you read any?
Tell me about it!!