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Q&A with a Bookstagrammer

Updated: Feb 22

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a book reviewer on social media? We all know that the world of social media is where it's AT when it comes to marketing brands, fashion, technology, travel, ideas, food... and books! Yep, books. Increasingly, publishers are relying on 'bookstagrammers' to promote new release reads to their burgeoning audiences. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a bookstagrammer is someone whose Instagram account is focused solely on books and reading.)

So, we've tracked down a Tasmanian-based bookstagrammer to find out just how it all works. Introducing Kate Jackson (@kate_thebooklover)...

1. Tell us about yourself.

I’m a mum to a five-year-old daughter, and a wife. These two are my world.

I am currently living a pretty stress free life after having had the opportunity to take time away from the busy 9-5 office job and instead I’m enjoying a sea/tree change for a couple of years on the rugged West Coast of Tasmania.

I live opposite the beach and love to go out on the water paddle boarding. Over the last year I have spotted dolphins in the harbour and on Sunday morning back in January was even able to get up close to a pod as they cruised in the harbour. That was a pretty magical experience and one I shared with my daughter as she rode on the front of my paddle board.

I am a drinker of tea, and thankfully my friends and family no longer look at me weirdly when they go to make me one and ask, 'How many sugars?' and I reply 'Four please!'

Tassie has always been my home growing up on the North West Coast in the beautiful town of Penguin before heading south for Uni where I studied at the Art School in Hobart majoring in photography in the late '90s.

2. How did you start in the #bookstagrammer space?

I’d never really been a reader at all, probably only reading one or two books a year. I preferred to watch reruns of A Country Practice and other '80s Australian TV shows as a way to unwind. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I started listening to audiobooks as I walked her in the pram, and then for my first Mother’s Day my husband bought me a couple of books and that got me started.

I was then looking for a way to track my reading. I started just popping it on my Facebook under the locked settings. At the time I’d been listening to a lot of audiobooks and when I googled pictures of them I discovered people were doing the same sort of thing but on Instagram. So in November 2019 I began @kate_thebooklover

Initially and still at times I feel like a fraud as I am not a writer and have no real desire to be one, so my Bookstagram account is purely from a reader's perspective and it was always designed as an account where I could share the books I really like.

By the middle of 2020 Bookstagram was growing in popularity, mostly due to covid lockdowns. It was during this time that I was first contacted by a publicist about sending me a copy of a book which I had commented about on another bookstagrammer's account. Initially, I was a bit sceptical, but that began my journey reviewing new and upcoming releases.

Since joining Bookstagram I have really enjoyed the connections I have with authors. I will often be having chats about day-to-day stuff with them and I am excited that one quirk I shared with an author once is even making its way into an upcoming novel! I've had an author arrive on my doorstep with a signed copy of his debut novel, and my husband has assisted an author with police procedural questions she had. Sadly for me, he has had his name in a book before I have! Haha!

3. How does it work?

After that first contact I received through my IG account I was able to establish a connection with other publishers and get added to their blogger list. At that time, publishers were looking for established accounts having posted for at least six months and with at least 2000 followers.

Now that I'm on the blogger list I receive emails about books coming out, giving me the option to request the ones I’d like to read and review.

I also jump on the publishers' websites and look at the upcoming releases and if there is a book that has interested me, I will send an email to express an interest in the book months in advance.

Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) can also be requested in digital form through Netgalley. Publishers will put upcoming releases on that site a month or two prior to release.

There are also times when I receive a book in the mail unsolicited from a publisher, this is often referred to on Bookstagram as 'surprise book mail'. It is always exciting getting book mail of any kind.

When I started receiving books it was such a buzz to get home from work and find packages on my doorstep. Even now, four years down the track, it still brings me the same joy. There have been happy dances and tears of pure joy when a book I have been anticipating has arrived in my post box.

I will also buy new releases and books by self published authors. I have filled my house with books, more than what can fit on the bookshelves I have. I wouldn't call myself a hoarder but more a collector and I have a dream of converting the attic in our Hobart home into a cute and cosy little reading room.

I’m not a writer and sometimes I do find it hard to express my thoughts, which can lead to procrastination when it comes to posting a review. It ebbs and flows. But as it's just a hobby, I don't put pressure on myself to have weekly posting targets. I can go through times when reviews flow easily and I smash out several in one go, and other times I just can't find the words. Generally I try to post a review within a month of reading the book, and once I post my review on my Bookstagram account I then add it to my Goodreads account. 

4. What's your favourite genre?

Before starting my Bookstagram account I didn’t really know what books were out there, so I just stuck to what I knew, that being the Jack Reacher Series (Lee Child) and celebrity memoirs/biographies.

Bookstagram opened a whole new world for me, and I fell in love with many different genres. Now I really enjoy historical fiction, rural romance, romcoms and crime thrillers. The only genre I struggle with is fantasy.

There are times when I will read books that aren’t usually what I would pick up. I will always give a book a go but if it isn’t for me I feel bad, especially as I know how much work goes into writing a book.

5. What if you don't like a book you've been asked to review?

Early on I used to push through and finish a book, but now if I find I am not enjoying a book I will often put it down, start something else and then come back to it. If, on the second attempt, I am still not enjoying it I will DNF (did not finish). This is about the only time I will ever go looking at reviews on Goodreads and Bookstagram before I have finished a book, mainly to see if it is a common theme that others couldn't relate or if it is just a case of the book not being for me.

I am less inclined to post a negative review on my account, opting to maybe feature the book in my grid as I still like to promote Australian authors where I can. I am a strong believer that not all books are for everyone so, just because I didn’t like it, doesn't mean someone else would.

6. What do you think makes a great read?

A great connection with the main character/s and/or the location.

When I look at the books on my favourites shelf I can straight away say, 'Oh I loved that one because it was set in Tasmania and the main character was…' or 'I really enjoyed this one as I learnt about a historical event and it was written in such an engaging way...' or 'Oh gosh I loved this one as the main character was such a hoot and I loved a particular part when they did...'

I have read so many books in the last five years (around 500!) and not all of them are going to stick in my memory, but when they do, I know they were a winner.

7. Your fav read so far this year?

The One and Only Dolly Jamieson (Penguin Random House) by Lisa Ireland closely followed by The Redgum River Retreat by Sandie Docker (Penguin Random House) and Duck à L’Orange for Breakfast (Pan Macmillan) by Karina May.

Dolly Jamieson was such a beautiful character I couldn’t help but fall in love with her and the strong friendship she made. She was an older character and had plenty of stories to tell of the life she lived.

I have always enjoyed Sandie Docker’s books. The first book of her's I read had me crying big fat ugly tears as I really connected with the character and the storyline… and her subsequent books have been absolute joys to read, thankfully without the tears.

Duck a L’Orange was one of those books I just didn't want to end! I got anxious as I neared the end and would often read only a few pages before putting it down to draw it out. 

8. Your fav Tasmanian author?

I would probably have to say Meg Bignell and Minnie Darke, though there are plenty more out there and others I am yet to discover. Welcome to Nowhere River (Penguin Random House) by Meg Bignell was the first book I ever requested from a publisher and I was so excited when I received a finished copy a month prior to release. 

I also really enjoyed Jo Dixon’s debut novel The House of Now and Then (HarperCollins), and I am excited for her future novels.

Have you bought your tickets to the Sydney Writers Festival Live & Local livestreaming event in Launceston on Saturday May 27? Book now to avoid disappointment!


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