Today I’m delighted to have Amanda from On a Book Bender stop by and subject herself to some merciless grilling. If you’re looking for smart, wry, insightful reviews with a touch of humor, then you need to start reading Amanda and her co-conspirator Kelly’s reviews. So head on over when you’re done with the interview, and take a look!

1) What would you say is the most enjoyable aspect of running a popular book review blog, and what has been the most surprising?

Running a book blog has allowed me to establish connections with fellow book lovers, and that is what I enjoy the most. I grew up being the weird girl who actually read books for fun, and finding people who share my passion has been amazing. I think what surprises me the most is that people take me seriously. I mean, I started book blogging because I wanted a chance to talk about books with other people. When people tell me that they look to my reviews for book recommendations or my posts for links about what is happening around the book blogging community, it humbles me. Comment count is never a way to measure your true influence. In some ways, people are always watching you. Knowing that keeps me on my toes.

Phil: I’m also starting to discover what a great community there is out there, and how supportive everybody is of everybody else. What’s also interesting is that this community is actually quite tight-knit, and as a result certain books or trends will ripple across it in an observable manner. As for Amanda’s being surprised that people take her seriously–well. Let’s just say that’s very gracious of her.

2) The publishing world is undergoing a revolution. It seems like every month some sweeping new change is announced, whether it’s the closing of Borders or a publishing house signing up the latest indie sensation. What do you think lies in the future for publishing, and what role do you see book bloggers playing in it?

I think technology is a driving force behind a lot of the publishing world craziness right now. The “old ways” (such as traditionally published books and authors) and the “new ways” (self-published books and authors) are clashing. Until traditional publishers and self-publishers can find a way to co-exist without vilifying the other, there are going to be changes and adjustments. At its core, the publishing world is a money-making operation and, right now, the publishing world is attempting to adjust to changing technology and the consequences of that technology. I think book bloggers are on the front lines. We’re active and we’re engaged in the book community—online and off—and we see the value of both sides. Beyond that, though, who knows?

Phil: It’s important to remember what Amanda has pointed out here: publishing is about money. That’s why some traditional big listers have dropped their traditional publishing homes despite six figure offers to get indie. Everybody is trying to figure out where the money is, and how best to get at it, and all these new changes are muddying the waters. I agree with Amanda though–book review bloggers will be the gatekeepers and curators of the publishing world in the near future.

3) What advice do you have for aspiring indie authors? Other than writing the very best book they can, what in your experience has been instrumental in the success of your favorite self-published authors thus far?

There are three things I would suggest:

1. Hire a professional editor.

And yes, I say this as someone who runs a copy-editing business. But I also say this as a reader of indie books. Nothing pulls me out of the story more than a grammar mistake (or two or ten). You want your readers to focus on your story. You don’t want them to get distracted by how many grammar mistakes and typos they find. I am fully aware that editors are not cheap. However, if you expect readers to pay money for your story (and be satisfied with their purchase), you need to ensure that your story makes the best possible impression.

2. Think of yourself as a brand, not as a person.

Bear with me a moment here. Fairly or not, negative personal reactions in a public forum are going to be on display and highly criticized when you’re a brand. And whether authors realize it or not, they are a brand. And this is true for authors, business owners, event organizers, and—yes—even bloggers. I learned this the hard way when I was hosting a read-a-thon and reacted poorly to a question. Other people were very quick to jump on me for my misstep. Being a brand means that you must always act professionally in public: on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Facebook, on forums, on blogs. Being a brand means that people will complain to you and say things to you that they would never say if they thought of you as a person. There is so much ugly drama on the Internet these days, and I think it happens because we react before we think. Whenever I get angry or upset by something, I rant in an email to a close, trusted friend. Once my rant is over, I decide if the situation needs a response. If it does, I work on crafting the most professional response I can manage. Only then do I respond. It once took me two hours to calm down before responding to a complaint. But I did, and it was professional, and that’s all that matters. Readers do not like it when authors treat them poorly, and when it happens, readers talk about it and spread the word.

3. Read Maureen Johnson’s post about publishing, getting your name out, and how to approach being an author online.

Phil: Excellent advice, even if #2 is at times hard to remember. I’ve adopted a strict policy of not responding to negative reviews, but man, it can be hard not to sometimes. These three points are right on the money, and I want to thank Amanda for taking the time to share her wisdom here. Definitely go check out her blog if you have a chance, and thanks again Amanda for participating!