Sunday Serenade was created as a way to feature innovative and creative book bloggers. Allison from The Book Wheel has a unique method of connecting authors and readers with her #30authors annual event. I love that Allison is inclusion-focused, dedicated to expanding a reader’s library of authors to read and follow. Allison is also one of the loveliest bloggers you could ever know, so willing to share her experiences and knowledge.
Hope you enjoy learning more about The Book Wheel as much as I enjoyed interviewing Allison!
As for my favorite and least favorite parts, it’s a tough one, so I’m going to cheat and give you two favorites. First is seeing the friendships that bloom between bloggers and the authors they host. When I pair people up, I’m basically playing matchmaker, so when they develop a relationship I get really excited. Second is seeing the successes of the authors who contribute. Most of the authors I pick are authors I have read and loved or that other bloggers have read and loved, so when those authors become great successes, it’s pretty amazing. I mean, book bloggers knew about them before the general public! I think that’s awesome. For example, in 2014 Andi at Estella’s Revenge recommended Cynthia Bond, who joined us and went on to become an Oprah Book Club 2.0 pick. In 2015, Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves was raving about Bull Mountain, so I asked Brian Panowich to join in and he went on to become an Amazon Editors Pick last year.
My least favorite part is 6:30 am every single morning of the event. I know that sounds really bad but every morning for the entire month of September I wake up early, cross my fingers, and hope the blogger scheduled that day actually posts their review. 97% of the time they do and I can breathe a sigh of relief but the other 3% leaves me pestering another blogger to please, please, please double up at the last minute. Luckily, the pros of the event far outweigh the cons and my day is usually great by 7 am!
One thing I was not aware of is that you and the authors in the anthology donate the proceeds – how cool is that! Makes me love the event more, if that’s even possible! I must admit, though, that the 6:30 am wake up call would not be a favorite of mine either!
Recently you highlighted a sponsored post with Buick for its’ Audiobooks integration. Can you tell us about that experience? Do you plan to continue working with sponsorships; what are the benefits and pitfalls?
You know, that whole experience was so surreal. When I first got an email from Buick asking me if I was interested in heading out with a guest to Big Sur, California to check out their new integration with Audiobooks.com, I assumed it was spam. I even called up a few authors who used to be reporters to pick their brains. After a bit of digging, I learned that it was, in fact, legit and said yes. Even so, I was nervous when my husband I showed up at the airport because part of me was still convinced it was a ruse. Thankfully, they let us on the plane!
The trip itself was incredible. When we got to the airport, we had a 2016 Buick Regal GS waiting for us, along with a copy of All the Light We Cannot See, which was the book we were listening to for the trip. I was expecting 100 people looming around a large conference room, chatting about cars, but it was only 10-12 of us at the Ventana Inn, including guests. So we spent our days sightseeing (while listening to Audiobooks.com, of course) and getting to know each other. I met some really great people there – two of whom are joining in #30Authors this year.
As for the future, I’m open to working with other brands, although I don’t actively pursue it. I know that my experience with Buick was atypical and I can’t expect that type of treatment all of the time (although one can hope), but I really enjoyed working with a company that’s outside of my wheelhouse. I don’t blog about cars – at all – and it was fun to branch out.
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It sounds like a surreal experience, but one I imagine has left you with a wonderful impression of both Audiobooks.com and Buick! Dare I ask what kind of car you drive ;-D
Allison, you also have ads strategically placed on your site. How long have you worked with ad agencies and affiliates? Are you pleased with the results? What advice would you give to other book bloggers about branching into ad and affiliate marketing?
I love that you think the ads are strategic because it’s really quite random! I’ve worked with ads and affiliates since 2013’ish and I’m pleased with the results. Until recently, the ads were fairly inconsistent and while I can’t remember ever approaching an advertiser myself, I’ve developed relationships with some great agencies who keep me on their list. I’m certainly not paying my rent with the income, but it does help me buy a few books.
As for advice, I’d like to start off with this: monetizing is tricky business. When it comes to monetizing your book blog, there are people who are for it and people who are vehemently against it. Even so, ads and affiliate links are more common now, so there’s not as much backlash as there used to be. Then again, maybe that’s because it’s really hard to make any real money from affiliate links….
It’s sad that there has been a backlash in certain aspects of book blogging. I hate that you’ve had to experience the backlash and especially appreciate your willingness to be candid about monetization given the negativity. I’ve gone back and forth myself with ads/affiliate marketing but found I wasn’t even making enough to buy a few books, much less cover blogging expenses. That’s awesome you’ve been able to see a slight profit from it!
What is next for Allison and The Book Wheel?
I have no idea! The past few months have been crazy. I started a new job in public policy and hired a personal trainer to get back into shape and while I love both, my time management skills are severely lacking. #30Authors is coming up this September, so that’s my priority right now. A few bloggers have offered to help out this year and I think I may have to learn to relinquish a bit of control and let them. The event is growing and I can only do so much!
As for The Book Wheel, some days I’m ready to throw in the towel and other days I’m thinking about my next steps. I’ve taken a live and let live approach to The Book Wheel the past year or so and am quite enjoying it. I would like to start reading ARC’s again (the last one I read was a year ago) and pick up the pace on my political books, but I have no sense of urgency about it. I guess now that I think about it, my next step is to figure out a next step!
Any advice you have for book bloggers who want to expand their focus? Such as branching into sponsored posts, creating unique features as you did with #30authors or moving into lifestyle/politics/etc into their blog?
You do you. The book blogging world can be as harsh as it is rewarding but at the end of the day, you have to live with what you’re putting out there in the world. If you want to work with authors, then come up with a way to work with them. If you’re passionate about something other than reading, then incorporate that into your blog (Tara at Running n Reading/It’s Tara Leigh is a great example of this). It’s important to remember that your blog is your blog, and you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself, so do what makes you happy. And if you’re not quite sure you are ready take the leap, pick up You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and get ready.
Allison you’ve been a wealth of information! Reminding us to focus on doing what makes us happy is a key point. Isn’t that why so many of us got into blogging to begin with?!?
To learn more about The Book Wheel and Allison, visit her website; connect on Twitter or Facebook and follow along on Pinterest.