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Book blogger spotlight: Babbling Books

Multi-platform blogger Tamsien West shares her eclectic reading tastes across her blog, Instagram, YouTube and book club under the name Babbling Books. She has found that ‘deeply personal stories and content related to my life is what seems to resonate with people most. When I share the most about myself I receive the most in return’. West spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘Book blogger spotlight’ series.

Describe your blog in under 50 words.

Babbling Books is a multi-platform book blog focused on exploring stories. Incorporating a mixture of photography, video and written content, Babblings Books is all about challenging yourself to go beyond the comfortable and discover what is possible.

What makes your blog unique?

The mix of books that I read and review. I dabble in everything, from recent YA fantasy and sci-fi to classics and feminist nonfiction. In 2017 I’m also challenging myself to #readtheworld, and my mission to read and talk about translated literature is definitely something that differentiates my content.

When and how did you get started?

One of my best friends introduced me to the bookish community on Instagram in early 2015. After following along for a few months, and with a bit of encouragement, I started Babbling Books on Instagram in May that year. As my confidence grew, I added a blog and website in July 2015, started the Babbling Book Club in January 2016 and expanded to YouTube in July. I’m always looking out for a new opportunity to connect with different audiences and learn new skills—be it review writing, photography or video editing.

How do you find out about new books?

I hear about new releases through so many different channels it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly where and when I heard about them. The main sources that I check each week are publisher e-newsletters and press releases, early reviews on Twitter, Instagram and blogs, and checking out the new arrivals in the Melbourne Writers Festival office where I work as Development Executive. Publishers occasionally reach out to me personally, and I enjoy working with them, but my eclectic reading tastes mean more often than not I’m the proactive party contacting publicists about books I am interested in.

What audience do you reach?

It’s quite difficult to gauge the demographics of my followers on some platforms, but the one I have the clearest information on is Instagram. I have just over 24,700 followers on Instagram. Unsurprisingly 85% are women, most are a similar age to me at 25-34, and—highlighting the global nature of the platform—the top three cities they live in are London, New York and Melbourne. However, I have been working and playing in the digital space for long enough to see that none of these numbers mean anything without the connections I have forged and the friendships I have made. Even the fleeting connections through individual comments and replies shape the community I share stories with every day, and that’s what brings those numbers to life.

What other book blogs do you regularly follow?

There are so many that I enjoy it’s hard to pick just a few so I’ll focus on fellow Aussies. I love Kate from Lillytales for thoughtful her reviews, Chami from ReadLikeWildFire for her boundless energy and enthusiasm, Margot from Project Lectito for blogging and writing advice, and Danielle from HalfDesertedStreets for her enchanting photography and kind heart.

What has been your most popular post?

Each platform is quite different in what captures people’s attention. On Instagram, my most popular post was a photo of my bookshelves back in January 2016, it received many thousands of likes and hundreds of comments, and even 18 months later it remains my most frequently stolen image. While not wholly book-related, on YouTube a video showing my travel journal from the six months I spent in Europe last year has over 17,000 views and is by far my most popular piece of content in any platform to date! The one thing I have noticed that links all my most popular images/videos/reviews/posts is that deeply personal stories and content related to my life is what seems to resonate with people most. When I share the most about myself I receive the most in return.

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

I love Instagram most of all. It’s where I spend the most time, where I have made incredible friends, and despite some of the more frustrating technical changes it remains the most vibrant bookish community on the internet. In terms of trends, I have seen both authors and publishers become more engaged with online communities over the last few years, and I hope it’s something that continues to evolve and grow in the future.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading three terrific books. In preparation for her panels at Melbourne Writers Festival in a few weeks I’m reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s essay collection Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race. For my book club, I’ve just started Chronicle in Stone by Albanian author Ismail Kadare. And as an audiobook, I’m listening to YA historical novel A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.



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