Celebrating all things “blogging” today is Melissa Amster, founder of the immensely popular chick lit blog, Chick Lit Central and Merryland Girl. Before I was introduced to Melissa by Amy Bromberg, I knew of her and I certainly knew of Chick Lit Central. It has been one of my favorite book blogs for years now. Since getting to know Melissa better, I can say that she is extremely supportive of the genre of chick lit (duh – the name of her blog is Chick Lit Central)! She is extremely generous to authors, both well-known and just starting out, and quite simply, she is a really nice person! I am so happy to have her on my blog today, answering some blog-related questions. Her answers both surprised and inspired me, but see for yourself! I especially enjoyed her answer to question #15 – you tell ‘em Melissa!
1. How would you describe Chick Lit Central in 140 characters?
A place where people from all over the world can discuss chick lit books, read reviews, meet authors, make friends and win new books! (Just 7 characters shy of 140…)
2. What inspired you to start Chick Lit Central?
Having a small group of women to discuss chick lit novels with made me want to expand the conversations to include people all over the world. Then I saw other book blogs and was inspired to start my own.
3. Are your reasons for maintaining the blog different from the reasons you began it in the first place? If so, please explain.
I think the reasons for beginning it in the first place are still there, especially when I meet and become friends with people I might not have normally met if I hadn’t started the blog. I’ve also become more passionate about spotlighting new authors and helping them connect with other bloggers and readers.
4. What do you like best about being a blogger?
Being able to express myself creatively. Blogging is a LOT of work, but I love the satisfaction I get from a good interview, especially when I can come up with new ideas for questions and receive positive feedback from the authors for those questions.
5. What are some of your favorite third party blogs and why? Do you stick to other “book” blogs or do you also like other types of blogs, for instance “beauty”, “fashion”, “cooking”, “dating” etc.
I’ve been enjoying Thought Catalog and Kveller these days. I also frequent some other book blogs, especially Booking with Manic and Chick Lit is Not Dead, who were both inspirations to me in the beginning. Book Mama is a new favorite of mine, which is why I chose to have CLC affiliate with it as sister blogs. I wish I had all the time in the world to read every blog in existence, but I usually just click on something from Facebook when the topic catches my interest.
6. How do you juggle blogging with your other responsibilities like family and/or career?
My kids go to sleep at a reasonable time and my job doesn’t extend past the work day. Also, most of the reviews (and even some interview introductions) are from our review associates and guest reviewers, so I don’t write all of them myself. I just format them when they’re done. I’ve been trying some more simplistic interview styles to make things easier on myself, as well.
7. Did you ever imagine Chick Lit Central would be as successful as it is?
I hoped, but didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I am thrilled with the feedback I’ve been receiving over the blog and all the participation I see in the giveaways. Just hearing someone say it’s their favorite chick lit blog is enough satisfaction for me!
8. Tell us a little bit about your Merryland Girl blog.
I started it at the end of 2009 as an outlet to share my thoughts on life beyond marriage and motherhood. It was just another way to express myself. I currently post two entries a week. One is “52 Stories,” which allows me to feature a different person each week so people can learn more about them. The other is a blog project I do with three other friends. We rotate who picks the topic and then we all share our thoughts on that particular topic, linking in to each other’s blogs. It’s a nice way for me to think of stuff I might not have given any consideration to writing about before.
9. Do you ever disagree with the reviews your associate reviewers have posted? If so, is it difficult for you to see these reviews posted on your site?
I usually don’t read the same books since I don’t have time to personally review everything out there. I just ask that it is fair and balanced. If they think their review will hurt an author’s sales, I ask them not to review it and we’ll find other ways to feature it. Everyone has their own opinions, after all!
10. Has an author ever complained about a review that was posted on Chick Lit Central? Obviously, no need to be specific!
As a matter of fact, that happened earlier in the year. The author linked to it from her blog and wrote some comments about how the reviewer didn’t know what she was talking about.
11. How responsible do you think Chick Lit Central and book blogs in general are towards helping an author reach a bigger audience?
I think we carry some weight because of social media. It’s not just what is written on our blog, but the work we do to showcase each blog post via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. We aren’t getting paid for publicity work, but it’s a nice feeling to know we helped an author sell some books through our interview, review, book shelf spot, social media post, etc.
12. I assume that you have probably corresponded with many highly successful authors either via email, phone or even face-to-face. Any particularly memorable stories you care to share?
I think the story that takes the cake is when I went to Jennifer Weiner’s book signing last year in DC. I raised my hand to ask a question and she called me by name! Later, some other woman was asking her something and referred to herself as “eema,” which means “mother” in Hebrew. So Jennifer asked if she was @eema2emma, which is actually my Twitter handle.
A few months ago, Jane Porter hosted a dinner for her readers in the DC area and I was thrilled to be able to attend. It was so nice to finally meet her in person. It was like meeting a celebrity! Sarah Pekkanen was also there and I enjoyed getting to chat with her again, as well. Especially since she was the first author to offer a book to review at CLC.
Finally, just being able to connect with Sue Margolis online, as I love her books. She’s so sweet too!
I have met so many wonderful authors and could spend days sharing stories about my experiences.
13. What is your favorite genre to read? I know that the title of your blog suggests that it is “chick lit” but I also know that you read and review a variety of genres.
It honestly is chick lit. I read other books that are not chick lit, but those are few and far between. I love Wally Lamb and Khaled Hosseini. I also don’t consider Jodi Picoult’s books to be chick lit. I read books outside of my norm for the local book club I’m in, but the story really has to grab me or I am not guaranteed to read it the whole way through. The last really good one someone chose for book club was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I still think about it a lot!
14. In your opinion, how has the increasing popularity of indie authors changed the face of chick lit?
It has allowed new authors to get their books out there sooner instead of going through all the stress of finding an agent and getting published. I’ve met such cool authors that I might not have met if they didn’t have this opportunity. (One of them is interviewing me at this very moment. ;))
I think that sometimes a connection gets lost when I have to go through a publisher or publicist to interview an author. I have worked with some great publishers and publicists, but when the interview isn’t directly with the author, something personal gets lost. There was one time when we didn’t work directly with an author and she changed some of our questions to more generic ones. Everything was done through her publicist and it just felt so impersonal all-around. Another time, the publisher dropped the ball and I lost the interview opportunity as a result.
15. How do you feel about the sentence: “chick lit is dead”?
It’s a joke. I think chick lit is stronger than ever and the readers who visit our Facebook group and blog on a daily basis are proof of that. I even asked about the future of chick lit for our 1000 follower giveaway and the comments there are enough to say that chick lit is alive and kicking…big time!
16. Where do you see Chick Lit Central in five years?
I hope that it will still be going strong, but I also hope it will be less time consuming. I may eventually just have it as an all-review blog or just focus on new authors for interviews. I guess time will tell and all sorts of things could happen in five years anyway.
Coming August 28th from Booktrope Publishing: Blogger Girl
What happens when your high school nemesis becomes the shining star in a universe you pretty much saved? Book blogger Kimberly Long is about to find out.
A chicklit enthusiast since the first time she read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim, with her blog, “Pastel is the New Black,” has worked tirelessly by night to keep the genre alive, and help squash the claim that “chick lit is dead” once and for all. Not bad for a woman who by day ekes out a meager living as a pretty, and pretty-much-nameless, legal secretary in a Manhattan law firm.
While Kim’s day job holds no passion for her, the handsome (and shaving challenged) associate down the hall is another story. Yet another story is that Hannah Marshak, one of her most hated high school classmates, has now popped onto the chicklit scene with a hot new book that’s turning heads–and pages–across the land. It’s also popped into Kim’s inbox–for review. With their ten-year high school reunion drawing near, Kim’s coming close to combustion over the hype about Hannah’s book. And as everyone around her seems to be moving on and up, she begins to question whether being a “blogger girl” makes the grade in her off-line life.