Amber Kirk-Ford is a 17 year old book blogger who aspires to work in journalism and/or publishing, and dreams of one day seeing her own work on bookshelves around the world. Amber has been running The Mile Long Bookshelf single-handedly since 2009. Norah Myers interviews her to find out more.
1) What inspired you to start your book blog?
I’ve always loved two things: books, and the Internet. One day, I was browsing online – I’m not sure what I was looking for! – and I randomly came across Chicklish, which I believe was the biggest book reviewing site in the UK. They were looking for contributors, and I ended up writing book reviews there for a while. The people there were so supportive and eventually I made my own book blog. Chicklish no longer exists, but I’m so grateful that I stumbled across the site that day – I’m not sure what I’d be doing with my time, otherwise!
2) What has been the most effective strategy in growing your blog?
That’s a tricky question to answer because growing my blog wasn’t something that even crossed my mind until four or five years down the line. I just kept reviewing books, and people gradually drifted over. So, I suppose posting frequently is key – you’re not going to grow your blog by posting once a year.
3) How have you developed relationships with publishers and teams who send you books?
When I first started looking for review books, I followed publishers on Twitter and emailed them to see if they might want me on their databases. As publicists have moved between publishers, I’ve ended up on a lot more lists than I ever signed up for! It’s great, though, and I feel lucky to be in this position; without these people, I wouldn’t be able to read half as much as I do. I’ve been around for a while now, so I’ve had a long time to develop relationships with the publishers who send me books, and it’s lovely, especially when you get to meet offline! I even have a couple of publicists who were nice enough to look over my cover letter when I was applying for a job the other day.
4) Which social media platform has been the most helpful in building your readership? Why?
Definitely Twitter, a place where it’s absolutely acceptable to be sassy, cat-obsessed and completely random, but also sleek and professional (although I’m not sure how often I achieve that!) You can be both, and I think that’s really helpful in building a readership, because readers – especially readers of blogs – like to feel a personal connection. The chronological feed makes you more visible, too, unlike sites such as Facebook and Instagram where you’re shown what their algorithm wrongly thinks you want to see…
5) How do you discuss your blog with people you meet at events or parties? How has that helped your publicity?
I don’t tend to discuss it at those kinds of events unless someone else brings it up, so that probably doesn’t help me, publicity-wise! However, any events or parties I go to are usually full of bloggers and industry people who know me and I know them, so I don’t really need to introduce it. We usually fangirl over each other and swap stresses and tips.
6) How has having a blog helped you get other work?
Ideally, I would like to work in publishing or journalism, and they’re both writing-heavy, so the fact that I have a blog written solely by me that has somehow gained readers is very useful! I was a columnist for my local newspaper for a couple of years, and I’m pretty sure it’s my blog that swayed them. I don’t treat it like a portfolio, but if I was an employer and someone came to me with their CV and a blog, I’d have a good snoop and would probably learn a lot about them. Anyone can make a blog, but not many can keep it up for a long time, so if you’ve been at it for a while, I think it can set you apart from the rest.
7) What do you have planned for blogging through the rest of 2016 and in the future?
For a few months now, I’ve been working on something secret that I’m not allowed to tell anyone about, and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to! However, it’s to do with blogging, and it’s pretty exciting… (it’s not a book, I’ll say that now. I wish!)