Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Book blogger spotlight: Sam Still Reading

Blogger Jeanie Misko has been writing about an eclectic mix of books for her blog Sam Still Reading since 2010, with her audience growing to about 2500 people a month. Misko spoke to Books+Publishing for our new ‘Book blogger spotlight’ series.

Describe your blog in under 50 words.

Sam Still Reading is eclectic in the types of books reviewed, yet consistent. (You could describe me the same way!) It’s a collection of what I read, my bookshelves and my thoughts on those books. It’s my life in books and reflects on my mood and preferences at the time.

What makes your blog unique?

First of all, it’s not named after me! I’m Jeanie, but Sam was my childhood pet cockatiel who died while I was toying with the idea of starting a blog. ‘Sam still reading’ sounds like standstill reading, which is what I feel happens to the world when I have my nose in a book.

The uniqueness of Sam Still Reading is that it’s me, stripped much barer than I am in person. I share my thoughts and experiences with my books much more frankly than I do in real life! I don’t pretend to be a superstar blogger—I work full time and study part time, plus I like to socialise—so this is me and my reading life. This is what I’ve read, sometimes it’s a lot and sometimes not so much. Sometimes I love a book and sometimes we just don’t get on. I’m honest. I enjoy a diverse range of books from literary fiction to category romance to time-travel novels. I’m not pretentious.

When and how did you get started?

I had been writing reviews on places like Goodreads since about 2004 that were gradually growing longer and longer. An online friend mentioned that I should start a blog but I was a bit hesitant to invest in the ongoing commitment. Then I had designs of starting a PhD and decided that I had to learn how to type properly. Somehow I decided the way to do this was to write book reviews on a blog. That was back in 2010 and while I never did get around to that PhD, the blog stuck!

Looking back, I didn’t really understand the blogging world. I just wrote for myself as a way of recording my thoughts. Gradually people (that weren’t family) stopped by and I started following their blogs. It just grew from there and I became more interested in the book industry. I find it fascinating, so different to my day job in health (you can be creative!)

How do you find out about new books?

I subscribe to publishers’, bookshops’ and authors’ emails, Twitter accounts and Instagram to find out what’s going on and what’s being released. I read publishers’ and bookstores’ catalogues like they’re going out of fashion! I enjoy reading about books nearly as much as I do reading them. I also love to browse bookstores—you can read social media all day, and still miss some of the great books coming out. I also listen to booksellers’ recommendations. I haven’t had a bad one yet.

I do get approached by publishers, publicists and authors. It makes me feel very special, that I’m a success at something other than work. There are publicists who I trust implicitly with their recommendations as I’ve been taken out of my book comfort zone and found a new author or genre to love.

What audience do you reach?

My main audience tends to be women, probably from their twenties right up to the baby boomers. I reach over 2500 people a month and some of those have been long-term, loyal followers. Most of my readers come from Australia naturally, but very closely followed by America and then the United Kingdom, Canada and Singapore.

What other book blogs do you regularly follow?

I have about 30 book blogs on my feed!

I have always really enjoyed Reading Matters—it’s the first book blog I followed. Kim has wonderful taste in books and her writing is just gorgeous.

The Writes of Woman is also a brilliant blog focussing on women writers, particularly those who fly under the radar.

My Cup and Chaucer is great too, particularly their up-and-coming book previews.

What has been your most popular post?

My review of April Fool’s Day by Bryce Courtenay consistently appears in my frequently visited posts even though I posted it a long time ago. I think it’s a book that’s timeless in a way, but it also demonstrates that the stigma of HIV has (hopefully) moved on.

What’s your favourite social media platform, and what recent trends in social media have you noticed in book blogging?

I adore Twitter. It forces me to be precise in 140 characters, and it’s a great way of keeping up with everything. The list function is excellent for streamlining tweets by booksellers, publishers and celebrities.

Bookstagram (book pictures on Instagram) is now more of a trend—it’s not pretty pictures of coffee, but coffee with books, flowers and colour-coordinated accessories. It makes them look so much more desirable, especially when the person combines it with a mini review. (If Instagram had a buy button for these posts, I’d be broke!)

What are you reading now?

I always have several books on the go. I used to be a monogamist but now I have books to suit every mood.

Currently I’m reading Her Mother’s Secret by Natasha Lester (Hachette), which is just delicious; Ukraine Diaries by Andrey Kurkov (Harvill Secker), which are his diaries of the Euromaidan demonstrations; and Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence by Dr Nathan Emery (Princeton University Press)—I’m trying to prove my budgie is really smart.



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