Today I’m delighted to welcome Rachel Gilbey, WINNER of the RNA Media Star of the Year 2021.
Hello and welcome, Rachel. CONGRATULATIONS on becoming Media Star of the Year in the RNA’s Industry Awards 2021.
Many thanks, even a few months later I still don’t think it has sunk in that I’m an award winner, much less from the RNA!
Could you start by telling us how you came to create Rachel’s Random Resources?
So back in 2015 I set up Rachel’s Random Reads, which is my book blog, and while I was taking part in blog tours organised by others, I could see so many frustrating elements that I felt as though I could do a better job.
I managed to get an internship, which allowed me a chance to start to flex my blog tour organising muscles and after a great deal of procrastination, I finally set up Rachel’s Random Resources in 2017 and I haven’t looked back.
So those roots in book blogging have grown and spread somewhat in the past six years. Did you have to give up the day job?
Thankfully for me, setting up Rachel’s Random Resources coincided with a house move, that would have made my commute to my old warehouse stock assistant job even more painful than it already was, so I made the decision to go all in on my own business, and within 6 months, I left the company I was interning with, as I needed all my time to organise my own blog tours!
Whereas the book blogging itself is still done in my spare time, but I’m rarely without my kindle to hand!
In the days when you had time to read more books, did/do you have a go-to genre that you always enjoy? Correspondingly are there any types of book you tend not to want to read/blog?
Ah the good old days where I could read a book in a day, in fact that is the only thing my old commute was actually good for! I’ve always—since I was a young teen and reaching for as many Mills & Boon books as I could get out from the library or charity shops—been a massive fan of romance.
I still read a lot of romantic fiction, all contemporary, and intersperse it with crime / psychological thrillers as palate cleansers! I think I try to read them at a rate of 4 or 5 romantic fiction to 1 crime!
Plenty of genres that I just have no interest in reading, and frankly life is too short to not enjoy yourself.
What’s the process in selecting the books you include on your blog? Do authors send you ‘prospects’ or do you pick from ‘best-seller’ lists or reviews that attract you, or the latest book by an author you’ve reviewed before, or maybe just because you iike the cover?!
Most of the books I reviews at the moment come from Netgalley, I regularly (by which I mean obsessively a few times a day), check the site to see what has been added. I have a long list of more or less auto read authors that I will try to request there.
In addition, due to the blog tour organising half of me, I often get to hear about books that I’ve been asked to organise a tour for, that I then decide I fancy reading myself. So I tend to consider that a perk of my job, which especially gives me a chance—if the book really appeals to me—to read a few more self-published authors than I perhaps would otherwise get to.
Do you always obtain a paper version of the books you read and review or is it a mixture of that and ebooks or audio? Which do you prefer?
95% I reckon of books I read are on my kindle, it’s just so much more convenient, and I find I read a lot faster on a kindle than trying to hold a paperback.
Since Covid though, with my mum still in a care home, I’ve been supplying her books at a rate of knots and so if there are books I’ve reviewed digitally that I know she will enjoy, I then buy her a copy! Thankfully one of the few things we have in common Is our reading tastes when it comes to romantic fiction.
After you earlier comments, this is probably a redundant question, but one on which I’m sure RNA members will appreciate hearing your response—amongst all the books you review, to what extent does romance feature?
OK, enough said! And it is clearly an understatement to comment that the blog tour services you offer have rather taken off! For the uninitiated, could you take us through what a blog tour involves?
A blog tour is like a virtual book tour. Instead of each day you attending a different bookshop in the country for a signing, you are instead being guaranteed being featured on virtual shop windows (or book blogs) for each day of the tour, potentially being in two or three places at once, so that even more people have the chance to see you and your book at any one time. These shop windows (book blogs) are going to either feature a review of your book, or potentially a post that you have supplied them, an interview with you or even an extract from your book. This allows your book to be seen all over the world and means that you could be displayed in UK and USA simultaneously on the same day, thus allowing an even bigger audience to see and hear about your book.
Could you describe the different types of blog tour you offer? Where would be a good place to start for an author who’s never done one before?
I organise various lengths of tour, as well as publication day pushes, and cover reveals. I tend to suggest a 7 day mixed content tour is an excellent starter tour, it would be a tour that would involve reviews and also your chosen combination of guest posts, extracts and Q&As which all add to the variety of posts that readers following the tour will see, and get a great feel for you as an author, in your book too.
I’m always happy to answer questions any authors may have throughout the process.
So much of book launching is about pre-release publicity and events around launch dates, but I understand you help authors to keep their back-lists in the reading public’s eye. Could you explain what your Book Birthday Blitz offers?
Basically my Book Birthday Blitz is a 1 day blitz style of a tour, designed to reinvigorate interest in an older release. With everyone always seemingly focused on the new, its easy to forget that older books exist, and may be just what you want to read. And if a book was originally released pre-pandemic bloggers and readers can read it safe in the knowledge that Covid won’t appear to spoil their enjoyment!
My Book Birthday Blitzes tend to feature upwards of 15 bloggers all posting something about the book on the same day, creating a buzz on social media, and of course providing the author with plenty of new posts to share for eternity!
My general philosophy is that books need continual promotion, as if a reader doesn’t know a book exists, then they will never know they could buy it!
I gather, when not absorbed in books, you tend to be seen frequenting West End musicals, although possibly not much in the past couple of years. Do you have a favourite? And I dare I ask how many times you’ve been to see it?
After the theatres were allowed to re-open last year, I ended up in theatres far more frequently through the rest of the year than ever before I can’t get enough of live entertainment.
My two favourite shows are Grease and Rocky Horror Picture Show. I believe I’ve seen Rocky Horror at least 5 times, including the current touring production that hit the West end for a week last year, and when I see Grease at the Dominion Theatre this summer, I think it will be the third or fourth time.
Oddly although I don’t regard it as a favourite musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat I’ve seen at least three or four times too, and I have a real soft spot for it, as it was the first show I saw aged 8 and set my love of theatre on its path.
As a member of a book group, I (usually) faithfully read the nominated book every month and sometimes realise I’d not have chosen to read it, had someone else not selected it. How important is it, do you think, to stretch yourself and try different genres/authors/topics rather than go for the tried and tested comfort of a familiar author and genre? Or is life too short?!
I’m probably in the minority with this viewpoint but give me familiar authors/genres any day of the year. I’m sure it is good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, but given for me reading is escapist pleasure, I just want to relax into a book that I am fairly confident I will enjoy.
Life really is just too short for me to spend time potentially struggling for example with heavy literary fiction, or sci fi, when the genres just don’t even interest me in the first place.
Definitely why the only book club I have ever want to be a part of is the one in The Beach Reads Book Club by Kathryn Freeman!
You’re in the business of reviewing books. When I check out reviews of a book I’ve read (and I usually do it after rather than before—is that unusual?) I notice they can vary a lot in terms of what they pick up and the overall assessment. What in your opinion are the ingredients that make the most helpful review?
I also tend to check out reviews of a book after I’ve just finished it (and written my own). Of course I do read a lot of book reviews each day, as they are the ones for the books I’m touring, so I do naturally see a lot of different reviewing styles.
With my blog tour organiser hat on, I’d say what I really love to see in a review is anything that I can use to quote while I’m sharing the post, and that the author or publisher could easily put on a graphic to promote the book even further!
Thanks so much for finding time to talk with us, Rachel. It’s been so interesting to hear about book blogging and tours in all their variety.
Thank you so much for these fabulous questions, it has been my absolute pleasure to answer them.
Rachel’s Random Reads – https://rachelsrandomreads.blogspot.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/gilbster1000
Rachels’s Random Resources – https://www.rachelsrandomresources.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/rararesources
Rachel was talking with Susan Leona Fisher (website: www.SLFisherAuthor.co.uk)