Crime by the Book Frequently Asked Questions
Hey reader! Over the past few weeks, I've been working on compiling a blog post with answers to some of my most frequently-asked questions, ranging from books to blogging to Instagram and more, and today's post is the result! This blog post will be a living document - I'll continue to update it as new questions come in from readers, so please don't be shy - feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to contribute a question! From here on out, you can find this blog post linked in my "About" page.
In this post, you'll find FAQ's on:
- My Job
- New York
Without further ado - let's dive right in!
What are your top 5 books?
Coming up with this list is so hard! My top three books are well-cemented - I will always, always list these books first. But beyond the top three, things get tricky… because, if I could, I would list Nesbo’s entire Harry Hole series, plus his standalone BLOOD ON SNOW, plus BLOOD WEDDING, plus a few Camilla Lackberg books, THE SANDMAN by Lars Kepler… you get the idea. But, here goes!
- THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo
- THE CROW GIRL by Erik Axl Sund
- THE DINNER by Herman Koch
- THE DEVIL’S STAR by Jo Nesbo
- BLOOD WEDDING by Pierre Lemaitre
Who is your favorite author and why?
My favorite author is Jo Nesbo. I’ve been a fan of his books for years now, and I can confidently say that no other author will ever so perfectly capture what I look for in a crime book. His characters are thoroughly-developed, vivid, and human - I love discovering what makes them tick. His mysteries are masterfully-plotted - he always manages to surprise me without making me think a solution was too “convenient” or out of left field. The atmosphere in his books is gritty and melancholy - he captures exactly what I love about Oslo so beautifully in his writing. I could go on (and on and on), but safe to say, he’s definitely my #1! (If you’re curious to learn more about his books - you can check out my Beginner’s Guide to Jo Nesbo here.)
My other top favorite author is Erik Axl Sund, a pen name for a Swedish writing duo. Their standout book THE CROW GIRL is the most raw, intelligent book I’ve read in ages - it tackles dark, repugnant themes with compassion and intelligence, and lays out a sweeping but impeccably-constructed story for readers to sink their teeth into. You can find my review of THE CROW GIRL here.
Do you read anything other than crime fiction?
Because I work in publishing (which you can read more about below), I do read non-crime fiction books for work. But in my free time, no! I love crime fiction, and that’s all I read in my spare time.
Do you ever get bored of crime fiction and want something different?
Never. Truly never! I could always take a break and read something different in my personal time if I wanted to - but crime fiction has been my favorite ever since I was old enough to start reading Nancy Drew. I say it all the time, but the great thing about crime fiction is that it encompasses so much, from lighter suspense novels to dark and gritty serial killer thrillers, so I can always mix things up while staying within the crime fiction genre. I really never get tired of it!
What do you do if you hit a reading slump?
This is something I’m constantly trying to figure out! Typically if I hit a reading slump it means the book I’m reading really just isn’t for me, so I’ll take a moment and decide if it’s worth persevering through it. If I decide I do want to finish the book, I’ll give myself a day off from reading - maybe watch a TV show or a movie, or listen to podcasts instead! Something to clear my head. And then I can go back to the book the next day and give it another try. I also tend to hit reading slumps after finishing an absolutely amazing book; in that case, I always make sure to make my next book one from a totally different subgenre of crime, so I avoid making comparisons between the two as much as possible.
If you’re reading a book that’s not really holding your attention, do you persevere or stop reading it?
I take this on a case by case basis. I try not to DNF a book just because it doesn’t seem fair to CBTB readers who might be interested in hearing my full thoughts on that particular book! But if I hit the 100 page mark and really just am not in the flow of the book, I will set it aside. In some situations, it’s better to just set the book down and move on. Reading should be fun - there are too many great books out there to waste time on one that’s become a chore!
How do you choose your next read?
I have a general outline of my TBR, but I always pick my next read based on mood. I’m definitely a mood reader, so while I do try to read books in publication order, I never hold myself back if I’m feeling particularly drawn to a book other than what’s next on my TBR!
How many books do you read at a time?
Only ever one book at a time! I can’t read more than one book at once.
If you weren’t an avid reader, how would you spend your time?
I truly have no idea, because reading has been such a fundamental part of who I am for as long as I can remember.
Have you ever thought of writing a novel yourself?
Nope. I love to write about books, but I have no desire to write a book myself. Who knows what could change in the future - but for now, no plans to do so!
What do you look for in your favorite types of mysteries?
I look for vivid character development, technically strong writing, and intelligent plotting. I’m a stickler when it comes to quality of writing—my favorite mysteries are those that are so well-constructed, you forget about the writing or the plotting and just get swept up in the story. I also love a mystery that focuses on the inner lives of its characters: a story with psychological depth that explores what makes its characters tick is pretty much a surefire hit for me. That’s one of the reasons I love Nordic Noir so much—the depth and complexity of its characters.
What are your reading habits? (E.g. do you put your phone away while you read?)
I (ironically) find that I get my best reading done when I’m on the subway! I seem to read best when I have a bit of background noise - so the subway or coffee shops work really well for me. If I’m reading at home, I do put my phone away and try to minimize any potential distractions, though. It's way too easy to get tempted to look at social media if my phone is nearby, so I always try to put it away when I'm reading! But because I have a job that’s totally unrelated to CBTB, I don’t often have time during the week to sit at home and read - so I’ve learned to make the most of anywhere that I can sneak in a few pages!
How much time do you spend per day (or week) reading?
Hmm, that’s a tough one just because it varies! I probably spend around two hours per day reading - primarily during my commute to and from work, and then a bit more before going to sleep each night.
Do you remember the first mystery you ever read?
The first mystery I ever read myself would have been one of the Nancy Drew books - I know that The Secret of Shadow Ranch was one of my earliest favorites! My dad also read me the Boxcar Children books growing up, so those definitely count too.
What’s your favorite non-crime book and movie?
My favorite non-crime book is JANE EYRE. I try to make time to read it once a year - it always feels so rejuvenating to me to spend time in that word. Movie-wise, it’s hands-down Legally Blonde!
Is your blog your full-time job?
No! I have a full-time job totally unrelated to my blog, which you can learn more about below. My blog is a passion project.
What made you start a blog? (What inspired you?)
As I mentioned before, I’ve always been a mystery reader. After graduating from college, I found myself with more time to devote to reading what I love - and I began to wonder how I could connect with fellow bookworms, and help other readers connect with the books I love, too. From day one, Crime by the Book has simply been about sharing my love of crime fiction, and the more I learned about the “bookstagram” community and the wide world of book bloggers out there, I became inspired to start a blog of my own.
I’m thinking of starting a blog - how did you start yours? Are there any sites/tips you suggest?
One major suggestion I would have would be to experiment with which blogging platform works best for you. There are so many options out there, all of them with their own pros and cons. I’m no expert on this subject, but I did find it very helpful to just experiment with the options firsthand. I’m definitely a hands-on learner, so I tried creating a few different sites before I settled on my current website. Different things work for different bloggers - so feel free to play around and experiment before settling on one!
Do you have any tips on how to succeed as a blogger?
First: do not go into blogging looking for “success.” Unless you are pursuing a blog as your full-time job where you need to be focused on it as a source of income (which is a totally different ball game), it should really be something that you do out of love, not out of a desire for followers/likes/rapid audience growth. Blogging takes a lot of work, and success doesn’t happen overnight - if you start a blog with the wrong intentions, you’ll risk burning out. Second - and perhaps most important of all: authenticity, authenticity, authenticity. Not many people know this, but before I started Crime by the Book, I did a whole bunch of searching to make sure I wasn’t replicating anything that anyone else was doing. I searched high and low on Instagram, and did some digging into book blogs as well. I wanted to be sure that Crime by the Book would be a genuinely original addition to the book blogging world.
I am a firm believer in originality as a key to success. Some of you may know that I recently had a very unfortunate incident where I discovered another book blogger who had plagiarized quite literally every single page on their website - down to their “About Me” page - from CBTB; I will say the same thing to you that I said to this person, because I think it's one of the most important things to remember when starting any kind of blog: the world doesn’t need a replica of an existing blog or Instagram account. It needs your unique perspective, creativity, and originality. Your blog should be a representation of your passions! Have fun with it, be creative with it, and let your originality shine through. Success will follow - but if you focus on what you love, you'll find so much joy along the way, the "success" portion of it won't even matter.
How does it work with authors and publishing companies sending you books in advance of publication?
I primarily read and review from “Advance Reader Copies” (aka “ARCs” or “galleys”), typically sent to me from the publisher, though occasionally they come directly from the author. I’m very fortunate to receive a significant amount of review copies for Crime by the Book; I end up electing to read probably about ¼ of the books I receive. For each book I receive, I always read its synopsis, its author bio, and will often look up any early reviews that already exist of the book. There is a whole lot that goes into each selection I make for CBTB! I always consider whether or not it’s something I feel my audience will like, and I make very careful choices when it comes to what I’m sharing with my wonderful readers. I want to give you guys the best of the best!
All of that being said, I think it's a common misconception that book bloggers create book blogs just for free books. Nothing could be further from the truth. I never request a book from a publisher unless I'm 100% confident I want to cover it on CBTB, and in all honesty, I still buy more books than I should!
How do you keep everything organized? How do you keep track of and plan the books you’ll cover on CBTB?
This is a constant work in progress! I have a few different stacks of books in my apartment: one for books I definitely want to read, one for “maybes”, and one for “oldies” - older (already-released) books that I want to make time to read among the new releases. I also have a planner that is dedicated to all things CBTB - I use that to plan out all my different content. My schedule is usually flexible, but it’s helpful to be able to glance ahead and see what I have coming in the next few weeks!
Whose recommendations do you follow when deciding what to read?
This might sound self-centered, and that’s not my intention at all - but I really truly just follow my own gut and my own research. I put a lot into keeping up with book news, and I put tons of care into the books I choose to review here - to me, that’s the best way to do things! I am also lucky to have built strong relationships with publicists who now have a sense for what kind of books I like - so when they tell me I should pay attention to a new release they’re working with, I listen to them and give that book a closer look! But at the end of the day, the decision comes down strictly to my gut instinct for whether or not a book is worth sharing with you, my readers.
What are your tips for generating good conversation on Instagram?
My theory behind blogging and Instagram always comes back to the same thing: be genuine, be original, and be yourself. When you talk about what you’re genuinely passionate about, that shines through! You’ll find like-minded individuals with whom you can chat about the things you really care about. I know this is a relatively vague answer - but there really isn’t one surefire way to generate good conversation. What I know is this: put your passion out into the world, and you’ll find people with similar passions who want to discuss these topics with you, and at the end of the day, it's this sense of community that makes Instagram so fun.
What do you think makes a good bookstagram post?
See above! Be yourself. Develop your own unique photo style, don’t try to mirror your posts, your photos, or your captions off anyone else. The world needs originality - it doesn’t need you to fit into a mold that someone else has created! A good bookstagram post is a reflection of your personal style, passion, and interest. I'd also say quality over quantity is important to keep in mind - don't feel pressured that you "have" to post a photo in a certain timeframe; instead, focus on posting photos that you genuinely love.
What is your photo editing process?
My photo editing process is one that I’ve come up with through a ton of trial and error, so I do prefer to keep that private. I use the VSCO app to edit my photos, and then I have a series of edits that I’ve come up with that work for me. I would recommend just playing around with it - there are so many great editing apps out there, it’s just about finding what works for you!
What do you use to take your photos?
I use an iPhone!
Is your Instagram sponsored by any publishers or authors?
No, it's not! I don't receive any compensation for the photos I take on Instagram; none of the books or additional content in my photos are sponsored.
What’s the deal with hashtags? Are they important?
I used to think hashtags were so silly, but then I came to understand that they actually have a lot of value. I find them most helpful when I’m looking for new accounts that I might want to follow, and/or when I just want to peruse photos from people who are photographing things I love! With Instagram’s latest update, you can follow hashtags - I love this feature, because it lets photos from accounts I’m not familiar with pop into my news feed when they're posting about content I'm interested in. So hashtag away - but remember to use hashtags that are relevant to your photo! (And remember - there's a 30 hashtag limit.)
What came first - the Instagram or the blog?
My Instagram came first! I started my CBTB Instagram in the summer of 2015. Not long after starting the Instagram, I decided I wanted to develop a website where I could write in a more long-form way about the books I'm loving - and that's where my blog came into play. That being said, it actually took me quite a while to get the blog up and running. Like I mentioned above, I spent some time experimenting with different blog platforms before starting what is now crimebythebook.com - but I wouldn't have it any other way! That was a great learning process for me, and has ensured that I now have a website I'm really happy with. In late 2016, I began really blogging in earnest.
On My Job:
Can you tell us a bit more about your job?
Absolutely! I work in publicity for Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Penguin Random House. This is actually a new job for me - I just started at Knopf on February 20th, 2018! Prior to this, I worked in publicity at Dutton, another imprint of PRH. As a publicist, I work with authors to secure review and interview coverage. I also plan author tours and events. It’s a total dream job - publicity is all about helping to connect readers with books in organic ways, which I just absolutely love. There’s also nothing better than seeing an author get well-deserved recognition for their work - it’s so rewarding to know that you’re helping to bring your author’s book into the world!
How did you get into your job? Were there any particular steps you took that were useful?
The single most helpful thing I did to get into publishing was to ask a lot of questions - and I mean a lot of questions. And I couldn’t have done this without the help of some very wonderful publishing industry folks who took the time to answer these questions - I am forever grateful for their help! I’ve found that people in the publishing industry are so genuinely welcoming and kind, they really will do whatever they can to help out. No matter what industry you’re hoping to break into, asking questions is such an excellent way to find out what the day-to-day work will be like - it sounds so obvious, but I know I personally was a bit shy about it at first. If you feel that way, too, I would encourage you to take the leap and give it a try - I highly recommend it!
Is it possible to get into publishing without a certain degree?
Absolutely! I studied History in college - not something that is a natural fit for publishing. Many of my coworkers did study English, but that’s not a prerequisite by any means. I can only speak to publishing in the US - it may be different in other countries - but there are many different degrees that can equip you well to work in this industry.
Was working in publishing always your dream job?
No, it wasn’t! For the longest time, I wanted to be a lawyer. My plan was to work at a legal publishing company for a while after college to get my feet wet in the profession before going to law school - but long story short, after working at that legal publishing company for about a year, I ended up discovering that what I loved most about that job was the publishing side of it, rather than the legal side of it. That was when I knew I needed to change my course!
Is your blog part of your job?
No, it’s not. Crime by the Book is entirely unrelated to my job! I don’t receive compensation for the work that I do on this blog, outside of the Amazon affiliate links which are clearly marked in each post. It’s very important for me that CBTB readers understand - I might work in publishing, but I will never use this blog to pawn a book off on you just because it benefits my day job! All opinions presented here are entirely my own, and all are opinions I stand behind through and through.
Now that you work at Knopf, you’ll be working with a number of authors who you’ve previously covered on CBTB. Will you continue to cover them?
This is a question that I will continue to work through as situations arise! I’m lucky to now be working with CBTB-favorite authors, including Jo Nesbo, David Lagercrantz, and Lars Kepler; because I have covered these authors extensively prior to taking this job, and because many of them are longstanding CBTB-favorites, I will continue to provide coverage of them on CBTB - but it will likely take slightly different forms than it would have prior to me taking this job. (That's still a work in progress!) Every single blog post related to a Knopf author will have a clear disclaimer on the post - as I mentioned before, it’s very important to me that you know all of my opinions are genuine! If you have additional questions about this, please feel free to contact me. I’m totally open to questions about this - it’s a topic that I will continue to work through and be transparent about as situations arise.
Can you review Dutton books on CBTB Now?
Definitely, yes! Since I'm no longer working with Dutton authors, you can expect to see reviews of those books here in the future.
What does an average day at work look like for you?
One of my favorite things about my job is that every day is different! The basic responsibilities of someone who works in publicity are to secure review or interview coverage for the books you’re working with, to plan your authors’ book tours, and to essentially spread the word far and wide about the books you’re representing! So an average day could include anything from writing press materials and pitches to bringing your author to an interview to booking travel for your author.
How do you balance work and blogging?
It really comes down to that old saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” There are (unfortunately!) limited hours in each day, so it’s a matter of prioritizing. Obviously, work comes first - so there are days when I might get home from work and not be able to take time chatting with folks on Instagram because I need to read a book for work. But this blog is something so essential to who I am - something I’m genuinely so passionate about - that I will always find a way to keep up with it!
Where do you shop for clothes? (Online or in stores?)
I typically do most of my shopping in-store. I’m actually not a big clothes shopper - I’m more of a book shopper than a clothes shopper! My favorite stores are Nordstrom, Topshop, Loft, Gap, and I honestly love a good trip to T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s, too!
Where are your bracelets from?
They’re from Kendra Scott! They’re a few years old now, but I absolutely love them.
What’s your go-to coffee order?
First thing in the morning, it’s a large dark roast with milk. If I go for an afternoon pick-me-up, I typically just order a latte! At Starbucks, I typically get my latte with almond milk - but everywhere else, just regular milk.
On average, how many lattes do you drink a week?
Usually 3 or 4 during the week, and 1 or 2 on the weekend.
On New York:
What are your favorite NYC bookstores?
My favorite NYC bookstore is hands-down The Mysterious Bookshop. It’s an absolute paradise for crime fiction readers! It’s one of my favorite places in the city: floor to ceiling crime books, and incredibly knowledgeable and helpful booksellers. I love it there, and highly recommend making a trip or two if you’re visiting NYC! (Just bring an extra bag for books - I literally can’t go in there without buying at least one book.)
Along with The Mysterious Bookshop, I also love the Strand Bookstore - a New York icon and absolutely fantastic independent bookstore with a wide-ranging selection of fiction and nonfiction, plus bookish socks, candles, mugs - basically anything a bookworm could need. I've found some fantastic secondhand copies of unique Nesbo editions at the Strand, which always makes me so happy!
What are your favorite coffee shops in NYC?
Whoops is my top favorite! (That’s the black and white coffee shop that’s in a lot of my photos!) I love Whoops for its fantastic atmosphere - I could easily spend a whole afternoon there. That being said, if you're looking for a really great cup of coffee (and maybe aren't so concerned with the atmosphere), there are a ton of great options! I love La Colombe (their draft latte is amazing), Joe, Everyman Espresso, and Toby's Estate, too.
And that's a wrap on my FAQ's! Thank you so much to everyone who submitted questions to this post. If you have additional questions you'd like me to incorporate here, please feel free to send me an email - I'm happy to keep updating this post as questions arise! xx A