Wow, it’s been long since I posted one of these, haven’t it? But I’m back on track now and have some amazing bloggers lined up for the Interview Of The International series, one of who I have with me today. Ayla is an amazing writer, creative content maker, a talented photographer, and a reading enthusiast. Her blog is one of the prettiest ones I’ve ever come across and her posts make more sense than life. A book blogger from Netherlands, she works as an inspiration for many upcoming bloggers, especially me! Anyway, before this interview wraps up with only me fangirling around, let’s get straight to the questions.
- Let’s start with the usual, what inspired you to babble about books?
A little over two years ago, I reviewed Angelfall by Susan Ee on my old lifestyle blog. I had reviewed books before, but I thought my reviews were awful and I didn’t like them at all. I had worked on the Angelfall review for HOURS and when I posted it, I got quite a few very positive reactions. Even a friend who I didn’t know was a reader DMed me on Twitter saying she wanted to read the book because I wrote about it. I started reviewing more books (like the entire Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series) but I wasn’t really happy about them all being on my lifestyle blog, as that wasn’t what I had in mind for that blog. Then I found the incredible book blogging community and decided to start my own book blog.
- While going through your review policy, I saw Fantasy and Science Fiction as your most preferred genres. Any recommendations to those who haven’t yet tried out these genres and would like to try them out?
I’d say don’t start with the difficult stuff. I understand how that can be difficult as a newbie to the genre, but even I struggle through Fantasy-heavy books sometimes and I think picking the wrong book can really put you off the genre. Research the books you’re into, like, go to Goodreads or a retail website and read the reviews, find what you like… You have to do a little more thinking when it comes to Fantasy and Sci-Fi than when you read contemporary. I think most people would recommend “the classics” like Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Selection, etc. but don’t go for those because there are so many incredible books out there that aren’t over five years old! There’s nothing wrong with older books, but Twilight is still from the vampire-era and then the others are all dystopian… We’re past that now!
- Your blog’s tagline specifies YA books as the favored demographic. Which factor about the young adult stories interests you the most? If you had the chance to bring about one change in the current YA literature, what would it be?
I started reading YA like eight years ago, when I was only like thirteen years old and YA didn’t really “exist” (in the Netherlands, at least.) The books were usually about 15 to 17 year olds and I really looked up to these characters. Then I grew older and YA became a thing and I just really enjoy reading about young people who are around my age, so I pretty much stick to YA. I still enjoy it a lot even though I’m now 21. I guess the only change I’d like to see in YA is more stories about twenty-something-year-olds. I get that YA is targeted towards 13 to 18 year olds, but so many people my age and older still read YA! Also, I don’t feel like when you turn 19 or 20 you’re suddenly not a young adult anymore!
- You’ve started three exclusive series on your blog: Young Adult Genres 101, Bookstagram 101, and A Beginner’s Guide To Audiobooks. How did you come up with the idea of these three?
I was a newbie book blogger when I did my series on genres, and I made it because I was often absolutely clueless about what genre a book was. Like, I knew what fantasy was and I understood what contemporary meant, but there are so many sub-genres and I just really wanted to figure that all out. Bookstagram 101 isn’t officially a series (yet), but more like separate posts that could potentially be a full, useful series for Bookstagrammers. I think I once wrote drafts for an entire series and then didn’t publish it because it didn’t live up to my “standards” if that makes sense. I created it because I love Bookstagram and I feel like I know a thing or two about it and I wanted to teach other people as well. My audiobooks series is my favourite because I’m so in love with listening to audiobooks! I feel like they’re often very underrated and I wanted to kind of shine a light on them and make people realise how wonderful audiobooks can be. I feel like they’re different from reading actual books and that’s why I decided to sort of make it an educational-ish series.
- Do you think, as a blogger, starting a series can be a great way to attract more readers? Any tips for those who’re thinking of doing the same?
I definitely think it can attract more (and new) readers because a series contains so much more info on a topic than just one blog post and you show that you know a lot about the topic you’re doing a series for. I do think it’s really difficult to really pull off, though. Like, it’s not just writing and publishing a post. You need to plan, research, schedule, make sure you’re not talking about the same things in all your posts… And I realised that I sometimes get really bored with my own series because it takes a while to publish all posts and it can take up such a long time to finish. It takes a lot of dedication and it’s not something you just come up within an hour… And even if you do, it still takes a lot of time to actually create the content and get it out there. Any tips?
If I made it sound nearly impossible to create a blog series, it’s not! I guess my number one tip would be to not think too big. All my series ideas came from one single post that simply got too long for just one or two. Start with a foundation and build upon that. Maybe the one blog post that got too long can be divided into three or four different parts. Those can be your series’ parts. Then brainstorm and do research for those specific parts in your series. Take it step by step, and you’ve got yourself a blog series! Scheduling doesn’t have to be very difficult. Just do a weekly post for a few weeks, or do it bi-weekly or monthly. That’s all up to you!
- Can we take a minute in between to just admire and fall in love with your bookstagram? I mean, seriously, how do you do this? (I can’t even form a coherent question, I’m so awestruck!) No, but seriously, what would you suggest to other booklovers who’re looking to start their own bookstagram?
Thank you so, so much! Let’s go back to that lifestyle blog I talked about earlier. I took my own photos for my blog, so I took some bookish photo for the book reviews without even really knowing what Bookstagram was. My first few photos are super simple and if you go back to the beginning and then scroll back to now, you can really see improvement. I guess it’s mostly experience? That doesn’t mean you can’t take beautiful photos if you’ve never done it before, but for me it was really about learning how to do it.
I think it’s important to know Bookstagram doesn’t have to be difficult. If you really want to start Bookstagram, go out and do it. Get a book, find yourself a backdrop (like your floor, table or bed), find some “props” from around your house (I love using fake flowers and candles), take your photo and that’s it! It’s literally as easy as that. You can make it as “difficult” as you want, but it’s not necessary at all. Also, there’s more tips in my 21 Bookstagram & Bookish Photography Tips & Tricks post, which is really one of my favourite posts I’ve ever written.
- It’s honestly amazing that BooksAndBabbles has a series dedicated to Bookstagram tips and tricks. What else do you have in store for the future posts under this heading?
I’m really in a Bookstagram slump at the moment, so maybe a post on how to get out of it? (haha!) and I’m hoping to do more themed post like I did during Autumn. I wanted to do one for Christmas but that one didn’t work out. I might do one for Spring and Summer! I also realised not all of my posts about photography/Bookstagram are on the series’ page, so I’ll be adding them soon!
- You recently wrote about your struggles with bookstagram. While we all know how amazing (sarcasm alert) Instagram’s algorithm is, do you think that’s the only reason for the under-promoted pretty accounts going unnoticed? Or should the users also try to dig in a little more for the real gems?
I definitely don’t think the algorithm is the only reason. I feel like there’s a certain standard to all the big and popular accounts: huge stacks of brand new hardbacks, perfect lighting and tons of (beautiful) props like flowers and candles. Let’s be honest, that’s what everyone loves, right? When someone doesn’t live up to that standard, they’re easily overlooked. The algorithm definitely makes that worse. And digging for the gems is no use. (Trust me, I’ve tried) Instagram really is the worst and you can follow as much underrated accounts as you can, it doesn’t really help at all. I guess, as long as everyone still likes photos from popular accounts, the underrated ones stay underrated.
- In addition to the bookish posts, you also tend to upload a vlog or two on your Youtube channel. What do you think is easier: talking about books or writing about them? Also, any hint about what we might see on your next vlog?
Writing is much, much easier for me. I love doing videos but I mess up a lot and I talk way, way, way too much. Also, I’ve done an editorial assistant course in writing, so writing is basically my profession. As for what’s my next video going to be? It’ll be about audiobooks. That’s all I’m going to say, hehe!
- Your blog clearly states that it’s affiliated to Book Depository and Wordery. What is more important in order to actually be benefited by affiliate linking: a large number of audience or a dedicated audience?
I think a combination of both is very important. You need a dedicated audience to click your links and think of you when they’re about to order their next book so they can use your code or link, but you need a large audience to really get any kind of income from them. For example, if I have ten dedicated readers, one of them MIGHT click on my link someday. If I had hundreds of readers, there’s a much bigger chance people will click on my affiliate links. Also, most of the time affiliate programs will only pay you when someone actually purchases a product through your link. Someone could click a hundred times and you’d still get nothing if they don’t spend any money.
- In the light of a number of saddening steps taken by renowned names, how do you think the International Bookworms Meme can help make a difference?
I have to be honest with you, I’ve been really bad at keeping up with my own meme now I’m not doing so well personally. I never really thought of making a difference, I just wanted to connect people. I think that if it’s done right, by lots of people, it can definitely make a difference in people acknowledging the international community. People need to be aware that there’s this huge community of international people who are just as passionate about books and blogging like any other bookish person and we matter too.
- Speaking of international bookworms, you are from Netherlands, right? So does that factor prove to be an obstacle in your blogging journey? How do you use your best available resources to keep babbling about books?
Strangely, I think the biggest struggle I have is being an English blogger in the Netherlands and not the other way around, if that makes sense? I never really cared about the Dutch community before I did my internship at a Dutch YA/Children’s publisher, but then I realised I’m missing so many opportunities that Dutch bloggers get. Like, I’m useless to international publishers because I’m from this tiny country in Europe and I’m not “big” enough with my blog, but Dutch publishers aren’t interested in my either, because I don’t blog about any Dutch things. Last year, I attended the YALFest press event where Dutch bloggers got to interview the authors for their blogs, but I don’t really get opportunities like that because I’m an English blogger and I don’t really promote the event and the authors and publishers to Dutch people. I think I struggle with that more than I struggle with international publishers not working with me, honestly.
- To all the fellow bloggers from Netherlands or those who might vacay someday there, any bookish spots to not miss?
My favourite bookshop is Donner in Rotterdam. Their building was already big, but they’re renovating and I think they’re getting bigger! They have a huge YA department, both Dutch and English and I get so incredibly happy going there. I also really love Waterstones in Amsterdam, although I’ve only been there twice. Also, there are two bookshops that are build in old churches! I haven’t been there yet, but I’m hoping to go see them this year and blog about them, of course!
- Your blog would turn two in May, am I right? How are you feeling with your little baby growing so fast? Would there be cake in the party?
Yes! It’s so crazy to think I started my blog nearly two years ago, but there will definitely be cake! I went on a super long hiatus during my final year in college (while I was doing my internship as well) and I was so happy to get back to blogging! After I finished college I got to blog full time for over half a year and it was the best thing ever. My blog makes me so happy and I’m hoping to keep blogging for many more years.
- Lastly, what’s the best thing about this community?
Everyone is so incredibly wonderful. Even though I’m pretty much MIA for a month or so, people still tweet me and chat with me and leave comments on my blog! Also, I have very bad social anxiety, but I don’t have any problems with chatting with other bloggers and authors and publishing people because everyone is genuinely super kind.
And with that great note, we wrap up this interview. Thank you Ayla for joining us today and sharing your thoughts and advise with our wonderful readers!
You can follow and connect with Ayla through the following platforms