Event Recap: Blogging Seminar by Frances Amper Sales

Photo credit: Powerbooks Facebook page
After a little over two months of book blogging, I confess that I still mostly don't know what I'm doing. So when I saw Powerbooks' poster for a FREE blogging seminar, by no other than Frances Sales, a prominent mom blogger, I grabbed the opportunity to learn more about the biz.

The seminar was held last July, 19 in Powerbooks Greenbelt 4. I took down notes during the seminar then asked Frances after if I could share it here in the blog and she so kindly said yes. So here are some bits and pieces from my notes:

Introduction of her blog
Frances decided to start blogging because she loves writing and already has an editorial background. She used Friendster at the start where only her approved network of friends can view her posts. She received lots of love from her posts in Friendster and decided eventually to move on to Blogger.

She started her personal and lifestyle blog in 2005. Topaz is her birthstone and her blog is a glimpse of her life so she named her blog Topaz Horizon. She said that in hindsight, Topaz Horizon is actually not a very good blog name because she got asked about a lot why she named her blog as such. She said that a good blog name tells right away what your posts are about. A good name, she said for example, would be “A Sea of Shoes” if you are blogging about shoes.

In 2009, she also started a parenting blog called Topaz Mommy. She decided to have a separate blog for parenting because she felt the her readers in Topaz Horizon wouldn't appreciate her posts about motherhood. She threw a caution however to beginner bloggers to avoid as much as possible creating multiple blogs. Do just one and focus all your energies there.

Frances discussing her blogging tips.

How she grew her blog?
  • Thru SEO. SEO is knowing how to use keywords to enable your post to be on top spot in Google searches. She said that SEO today is different from SEO when she was just starting out. She said that these days, Google changed it’s algorithm to show original content rather than keywords only. (That's better, right?)
  • Thru networking. This means regularly visiting other blogs, leaving comments and your own blog link. Comments should be meaningful and should show that you really read the post. Comments such as, “Great post, please visit my blog.” is a big no-no.
  • Thru social media. Share your posts in various social media, too.
  • Branding. This means making your blog stand out midst the sea of other blogs swimming in the net. So how do you go creating your own brand? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself to help you create your brand: What can you talk about all day long? Who do you want to talk to? How do you want people to describe you in a sentence? What words can you use across all your platforms? What makes you unique?

“What makes you unique, will make your blog unique.”

How to earn money from blogging?
  • Thru ad placements in your blog
  • Thru sponsored posts. This consists of working with brands to create content for them to be posted in your blog. This includes but not limited to recipes, tips, product features or product review
  • Thru sponsored social media posts. Posts in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts which features the product of the sponsors.
  • Thru affiliates. Online stores such as Amazon have affiliate programs that when a customer used your blog link to purchase on their site, you will receive a portion of the proceeds.
  • Thru selling your products and/or services in the blog. If your blog is about crafts, you may sell your work thru the blog. There are also bloggers who offer services, such as blog layouting and design.
  • Thru brand ambassadorships. I think this one will best work if you're already an established and highly esteemed blogger (like Frances) and the brands you have worked with wants to make you an ambassador and/or be the face of the brand in events and social media.

"If they believe in you, they will want to work with you."

Ways to make your blog succeed:
  • Be true to yourself. Do not go accepting sponsored products for features (or go joining blog tours for us book bloggers?) if you don’t believe in the product yourself.
  • Be disciplined. Check your grammar. Have an organized blog layout. Schedule your posts especially if sponsored and stick to your schedule.
  • Be humble. Do not be a diva. Do not demand freebies. Do not gate crash parties.
  • Be generous. Provide link-ups in your posts.
  • Collaborate like crazy. Think like Taylor Swift. Do not compete with other bloggers. Collaborate instead. Do not be threatened. Help each other instead. You don’t have to kill the competition in order to succeed in blogging. Blogging is so unlike the television where they have to compete for the people’s viewership. People can both visit your blog and other blogs as well.

"Collaboration is key."

Other tips:
  • Post regularly. Online readers are not that loyal. If they don’t see you posting that often, they will unfollow you. If you will be on a hiatus, make an official announcement and an estimated time on when you will come back.
  • Balance between regular posts and sponsored posts.
  • Don't go into blogging thinking that you just want the money.
  • Do not publish comments from trolls.
With Frances.

Needless to say but i’ll say it anyway,THE SEMINAR WAS A GOLD MINE. A bunch of thanks to Frances, Powerbooks and Enderun's The Study. It was so inspiring to hear Frances’ success stories in blogging. And what’s even more exciting is if I can apply all her success tips in this blog. Well, let’s see...

If you missed this seminar, there will be a more extensive one in August 27, (it’s a weekday, what a bummer!) with deets HERE.

Review: In The Beginning There Was Us by Ingrid Jonach

In The Beginning There Was Us
by Ingrid Jonach

What would you do if you were God? If you had the power to not only give life, but take it away in the blink of an eye? These are the questions that haunt fifteen-year-old Abbey Baxter after she resurrects a boy, long lost to the ages.

The achingly beautiful and eternally melancholy Cole not only serves as a welcome distraction from her long-time crush, Elwin, but also eases the heartache that persists since the sudden passing of her younger brother, Junior, four years earlier.

As the intrigue of her relationship with Cole deepens, so too does the mystery that surrounds a growing phenomenon sweeping through her small West Virginian town, transforming the lives of its residents. Around her, two bedroom cottages are transforming into mansions without explanation and residents are waking up to bank balances that have tripled overnight, all under the watchful gaze of the sinister American Laboratory for Particle Physics, located on the outskirts of town.

As Abbey searches for answers in a bid to solve the mystery in partnership with Elwin, she’s forced into a realization that that some things are better left buried, including her newfound love, Cole.

This cautionary tale of heartache and obsession explores the endless possibilities of the universe and its devastating impact on two young lovers from different worlds.

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)

Series: a companion novel to When the World Was Flat (and we were in love), but can be read as a standalone
Publisher: self-published
Date of Publication: April 28, 2015
Format acquired/Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the blog tour/review opportunity organized by Dianne of Oops I Read A Book Again. This in no way affects my views.
Purchase here: Amazon | Smashwords

My Thoughts:
I started reading this book with a feeling of immense excitement BECAUSE...

I think this is my very first sci-fi YA read! Meanwhile, it's the second book of Ingrid Jonach for her Other World Collection. This collection consists of young adult novels with re-imagined histories and possible scientific explanations for the inexplicable in a contemporary setting. See Ingrid's guest post in the blog HERE where she explained why she loves writing this genre.

Abbey Baxter is a fifteen-year old daughter of a depressed ex-teacher turned housewife mother and a workaholic scientist father. Her father works for a Laboratory in fictional Albert Falls tinkering in a particle that’s seemingly causing some anomalies in their town. Because her parents does not always seem to be around, she always locks herself in her art studio or hangs out with her bestfriend, Mali, whose older brother, Elwin, Abbey has a long-time crush on. But Elwin does not seem to care for Abbey that way. Soon, Abbey found herself inadvertently conjuring through a painting, a handsome boy she named Cole. Cole looks up to Abbey as his god. Abbey on the other hand is smitten by Cole. And thus, started this dangerous relationship and the consequences that came with playing god.

Okay, I will be upfront and honest with my general reaction with the book: it was an okay read for me. My favorite part was the ending because it was brilliantly haunting and unexpected. I also like some funny dialogue sections between Abbey and Mali. And I especially enjoyed Ingrid’s fine writing skills in depicting certain scenes. There are times when she could make something from the pages feel real. One example for me was when the heroine was thrown down the ground and felt myself wincing on the imaginary pain while reading.

One thing that thew me off though was the sluggish development of the story. It’s almost already 60% in with my reading when things started to really pick up. Most parts in the beginning and in the middle are overshadowed by romance and love triangle. Some swoon-loving readers might like this, but it’s just not for me.

Also, I have issues on the believability of some things in this alternate world and history:
  • First example, Europe was wiped out before our story began because a group of OVER A THOUSAND scientists and engineers agree to turn the particle in question into a weapon of mass destruction. Upon reading this, I was like WOAH, that was a lot of unethical and unthinking scientists and engineers over there!
  • Then there was this time when Abbey willed Cole (through her thoughts) to take a vacation in Alaska only to pull him out of there the next minute and have him appear back in Albert Falls to fulfill boyfriend duties. Yes, points for swoon but this is just so physically impossible for me. Shush, Abbey, don’t try to convince me that you have a monopoly of the god particle!
  • Also, Abbey seems to have used up all her time sulking in her art studio, doing part-time job at a bookstore, hanging out, sleeping over and reluctant partying and I wonder, WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL?! Teens in real life spend most of their time in school, right? There sure were sparse mentions of school (that mostly refer to previous school years) but no actual scene in school or actual schoolwork. I’m aware that the town was in lockdown for the most part but it did not say clearly whether school was out or not. And if school was out, should they at least must have a massive amount of take-home schoolworks to do? I might have said “school” way too much, I’m stopping this right here.
All in all, I think some unique-seeking readers will probably love ITBTWU. As for me, despite some of my issues, I am still delighted that I got to check it out BECAUSE YOU, GUYS...

Seriously, this book stirred in me some real newfound curiosity in science (googled lots of jargons while reading) AND raw cravings for more sci-fi reads. So, what sci-fi book should I devour next? Hit me up with your recs in the comments.

Event Recap: #KMRinPH Book Signing Tour

Poster photo from NBS Facebook page

It's been said somewhere that you never forget your firsts. Well, this was my very first attendance in a book signing event and I tell you, it was truly unforgettable. But first I must admit that I almost did not want to go because of the bad weather that day (it was raining so hard) but the thought of meeting esteemed YA contemporary authors and having signed books got the best of me. Also, I agreed to meet up with one of my favorite book bloggers, Sab of Sab The Book Eater, to hand over a book that I won from her blog. So here's my recap of what went down last July 5th:

I went with my sister at the venue at around 1PM. I thought we're gonna be early enough for the 2PM start time (according to the poster) but the place was already packed with eager fans when we got there. All the seats were already filled. People without seats were either milling around the venue chatting with friends or sitting on the cold mall floors doing, what else, some reading! We came by the registration area, signed our names, have our books checked (because books for signing must be bought at NBS) and picked our queue number, 410.

After registration, we joined the people sitting down on the floors. Various bookish videos from Epic Reads were shown on the stage screen: greetings by YA authors, book quotes, book blurbs and book nerd problems as re-enacted by some YA authors (our personal favorite). The energy of the people around us was sky high. Shouts and screams of cheers were in order whenever their favorite authors or books were being shown on screen. Shouts and screams grew even louder when Katie, Melissa and Robyn were called on-stage.
Photo from NBS Facebook page
Before the signing, there was a little Q&A with the three lovely authors. Okay, for this part I beg for your forgiveness because I was not able to take note of all the questions and answers. Maybe next time, I'd be more equipped and ready? Moving on, some of the questions asked were the authors' dream cast for their books (celebrity names that I heard were ChloĆ« Grace Moretz and Shiri Appleby), the songs they thought were suited for their books, favorite quotes from their books, and advice to young and budding writers. There were only two questions that I remembered the answers for. The first one was which classic literature were their favorites; Katie answered the Eloise children's series, Melissa answered Pride and Prejudice and Robyn answered The Great Gatsby. The second question was if they are currently writing something new and what is it about; Katie said she is working on a 90's tragic love story, Melissa said her next novel is about a girl coping from her mom's death and Robyn's is about two girls who both dated a boy who killed himself. My writing does not sound exciting but when the three ladies were discussing their WIPs, you can sense that people in the audience, myself included, were collectively half-wishing that their new books will materialize out of thin air so we can all read them right there and then.

After the Q&A, the signing began. The organizers were calling queue numbers by 20's and we were number 410!!! We exited the venue (with a little concern that the signing will take forever) and at this time Sab texted me to meet her up. So we met and she handed over the book prize and have our photo taken together. The first photo my sister took was shaky so we awkwardly asked for another again. She was ever so nice and she assured us that although there are a lot of people to be entertained and books to be signed by the authors, we will have our turn in no time. We parted ways and my sister and I decided to eat some snacks first. After eating, we went back to the venue and waited for our turn. While waiting, we entertained ourselves with reading and looking around fellow bookish peeps having the time of their lives meeting their favorite authors.
With Sab of Sab The Book Eater

And then it was finally our time to have our books signed! We were actually both giddy with excitement. I think I was not able to say anything to the authors but a wide smile was plastered on my face the whole time. My sister was actually the one more interactive than me and I remembered her having little chats with both Katie and Melissa. Katie has the most infectious laugh and Melissa has the most soothing voice. Then she told Robyn (who is so prettily wearing her Taylor Swift looking dress) that they are both left-handed. I was supposed to be just standing there taking photos by the sides but the NBS people were kind enough to allow me to have photos taken with the authors as well. And what's more, I also got HUGS from all three of them!!!

I checked the time after we had our turn, it's just 5PM. All in all, the experience was so worth the wait and so worth braving the downpour of heavy rains. I will surely attend another event with any of these three beautiful authors.

Were you there at the #KMRinPH book signing event, too? Or if not, have you attended the same kind of event and how awesome was it meeting beautiful and shiny authors?! Tell me about your experience so we can both flail and do shimmies together. :)