Anyone who has a passion for reading books is familiar with the website Goodreads; if not, your mind is about to be blown. Goodreads is a website dedicated to allowing readers to post honest reviews and rate novels that they have read, rave about future installments and author news together, along with directly contact some of their favorite authors. Goodreads is a haven for book lovers and a joy to explore.

There is, however, a problem with Goodreads. The problem, is exactly why I love it so much. Confused? Let me explain.

As previously stated Goodreads is a website which allows readers to rate their favorite stories, but it also then allows readers to rate their most hated stories, and for anyone who reads, we know just how divided people can be on just one novel.

I personally use Goodreads as a recommendation source each time I am searching for something new to read. I usually will try to go to what my favorite authors just finished reading or maybe something popular I saw on the best-sellers list.

The same thing happens to me every time.

Each time I will go to a novels personalized page and I will see their overall rating, if it’s above a 3.5 I usually will go down to the user ratings and begin to read what others have said about this particular novel. Here is where books come to die. The first three will be astounding reviews, five star ratings and raving readers; I get excited and begin to scroll faster, believing that I’ve finally found another book to read and then BAM! It happens, a disappointing one-star rating slaps me in the face.

Goodreads has such great potential, unfortunately the book community is so divided on interests that it’s difficult to get a concrete feel for any book besides ones as popular as the Harry Potter novels or anything by Stephen King. If you are the type of person who loves to review books, this is the place for you, if you are someone like me who is constantly looking for new recommendations, tread carefully and don’t believe what everyone says. You do get to see fun GIF’s like this one though.

– Lindsey Strom

If you spend most of your time reading newly published books and enjoy sharing your opinion and excitedly discussing those books, then you’re the perfect candidate to be a professional reader. If you don’t know what a professional reader is, it is someone who reads, reviews, and recommends books to other people, whether for libraries, bookstores, in classrooms, or online via blogging. For more information, read this post where I explain and discuss what professional readers are and what they do.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re interested in becoming a professional reader- or maybe you’re just curious. Either way, here are the steps to become a professional reader:

First, you have to have some kind of influence.

This can be through your professional job, as a bookseller, librarian, or educator, or through having a social reach online, etc. You need to have a large audience of people to influence. Think of it this way: as a professional reader, your job is to help inform people about books before and as they are published, therefore, you have to have an audience to inform.

Many people already have this kind of influence, but for those of you who don’t it can be a lot of work to gain an audience. Personally, I gained an audience by creating a blog and posting reviews. However, I created a blog before I learned what professional reading is, so while these steps are (hopefully) helpful, I haven’t used them in order to achieve the goal of gaining an audience- at least not initially.

This post is going to focus on gaining an influence as a professional reader by using a blog.

Second, you have to build a blog.

Creating and managing a blog can be a lot of work- it involves creativity, effort, time, and a whole lot of writing. You’ll need to write blog posts regularly, and by regularly, I mean nearly every week or every couple of weeks, if you want to continually attract readers and build up an audience. This is especially difficult if you’re the only content creator for your blog. Teaming up with a friend or several friends is always a great idea when it comes to blogging.

You can create a blog (for free!) on several different platforms, although the most common are WordPress and Blogspot. Once you’ve set up your blog, start creating content (that’s the blog posts): you can scour the internet for all kinds of inspiration.

It’s a good idea to consider writing book reviews for books you’ve already read to start practicing your review technique and to set up a portfolio of sorts for publishers to view when you begin requesting to review their galleys.

Third, reach out to your favorite publishers.

Once your blog is all set up, you can contact your favorite publishers and begin requesting advanced reader galleys. You can do this directly by emailing the publishers (you can find contact information for those in charge of publicity on many publishers’ websites) and requesting specific titles. However, if you’re new to this, you might not know which titles are available as galleys and you might not be sure how to format your request. You can find this information on many websites.

I recommend using a service such as Netgalley or Edelweiss (both websites are free to join) to request titles when you’re first starting out. Personally, I primarily use Netgalley, which has catalogs from various publishers of the available galleys that you can request through their system.

While the contact with publishers is indirect, it can be much easier to find titles this way. Additionally, if you review galleys for a publisher regularly and they value your feedback, they may contact you directly through email (if you choose to allow them to view that information) and ask you to review other galleys.

Fourth, review the galleys you receive.

If you’ve set up your blog and requested galleys from publishers (and we’re approved), now all you have to do is read them and provide honest feedback. You don’t necessarily have to write out a review, although it is recommended, as long as you do provide some kind of feedback on the galley you received.

If you do choose to write out a review, you can be as creative as you’d like. Most publishers appreciate enthusiasm and helpful critiques, but they also just value the opinion of the reader, so be sure to be honest.

You should post this review on your blog and share the feedback with the publisher (you can do this by emailing them a link/copy of the review, or if you use Netgalley, you can just use their feedback option).You should also share your review on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. Goodreads is especially helpful for finding readers who share your taste in books and for influencing readers looking for new titles to read.

Fifth, keep on reading and reviewing.

Being a professional reader isn’t an actual job when you’re a blogger, but it does take a lot of effort and persistence to continue regularly reading, reviewing, and blogging. So if this is something you enjoy, keep on doing what you’re doing (and if this sounds like something you’re curious about and would like to start doing- go on and get started!).

– Jessica Trudeau

I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of a consistent creative space used to make me roll my eyes. I never bought into the idea that your focus on writing could be aided by having one go to place for yourself when you wanted to write or paint or do anything creative. But as someone who had to get into their creative space even to write this, I’m here to tell those who still might doubt that it’s helpful.

Creative space, obviously, will mean something different to every person. For some, that might mean getting up and going somewhere else. For others, that might mean doing a particular activity. For me, that means putting on instrumental music. Modern music with no vocals. The second a voice comes into the track, it takes me right out.

I found this creative space on accident. In high school, I always wanted to be one of those people who needed music to focus, but I would’ve settled for just being able to put it on in the background. It would always frustrate me when I would go put on top 40 playlists and get too distracted to get anything done. For a while, I gave up and decided that I was just one of those unlucky people who had to work in silence. But then, that didn’t work either. I’d heard about the connection between focus and classical music, but I’m not always in the mood to listen to classical stuff. This only left one option that I wouldn’t even explore until college: modern instrumental. Currently, whenever I am trying to do something I need to focus on, I’ll put on Google Play Music’s Downtempo Instrumentals playlist.

I urge you, whomever is reading this, to go search for your creative space if you haven’t already. I can guarantee that it will be worth your time.

– Sam Boggs

Have you ever thought about what inspires you? Whether it be a person, a goal you have set for yourself, or a phrase out of a book, inspiration is a motivating force. A popular way to pay homage to what inspires us is to get it permanently marked on our bodies as a tattoo. Personally, I do not have any tattoos, but I was recently asked “What quote would you get a tattoo of if you were forced to quickly choose a tattoo?” This made me think about what inspires me and what I would want for an indelible phrase on my skin.

Almost immediately, I had a quote in mind:

“To be great is to be misunderstood.” This quote comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay entitled “Self-Reliance” and I feel that it speaks to me because many individuals feel as if they are misunderstood, yet those misunderstandings have the ability to make a person stronger.

Since literature is a source of inspiration, I deemed it appropriate to compile a list of quotes that I would have no qualms getting tattooed on my body. If the quotes speak to others as well, let it serve as inspiration, whether it means reading a new book or committing and getting a new tattoo.

Without further ado, here are 5 quotes from books, essays, or poems that I would permanently place on my body:

1) “Force the sun to overcome adversity in order to rise” (The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, p. 136)

2) “A wyf is Goddes yifte, verraily. / Alle other maner yiftes, hardily, / As londes, rentes, pasture, or commune, / Or moebles, all ben yiftes of Fortune, / That passen as a shadwe upon a wal” (The Canterbury Tales, “The Merchant’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer)

3) “When the fruit is ripe, it falls. When the fruit is despatched, the leaf falls. The circuit of the waters is mere falling. The walking of man and all animals is a falling forward” (“Spiritual Laws” by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

4) “Thy blemishes amend, if so I could: / I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw, / And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw” (“The Author to Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet)

5) “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing” (The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway)

These quotes are some that personally resonate with me, but obviously not everyone draws inspiration from the same places. So, my question is: What inspires you?

– Amber Bush

I remember the first time I took a creative writing class at college level. I waited patiently as everyone shared their typical, first day of class “about me” skits, each one ending with their major: English, creative writing, or literature. All of a sudden, I felt excluded from a club I didn’t even know existed, a big fat “you don’t belong here” sign above my head as I told everyone that I was not, in fact, any of those, but a Japanese language major instead.

It’s difficult when your major is not linked directly into the writing community, you feel ostracized and different, like your work isn’t as good as others because you’re not majoring in it. It’s a complete lie, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel it each time your classmates talk about all their writer-ey stuff around you.

When I was younger all I wanted to do was be an author. I would spend countless hours pouring my soul onto cheap paper, roughly collected in a binder. I never thought it would actually amount to anything; I just wrote. I lost my passion for one of my largest hobbies simply just through growing up. Fast-forward to when I was a Junior in college. I took my first creative writing workshop and was terrified. Not only had I somehow managed to jump into a class I hadn’t taken the prerequisite for, but I hadn’t written anything creative in a couple years (let alone let anyone else read anything I’ve ever wrote in the past.) But, I did it. I did it, and it changed my life completely.

This is why workshops are important. For most people, going into a workshop is terrifying, but it’s a necessary step to anyone who has an interest in writing. Whether you get involved in an online workshop community or actually take a workshop course, it’s important to have your work critiqued in an environment where everyone is shown their flaws, English major or not. This “levels out the playing field” in a way where everyone is at the same level and work to help one another.  It can be difficult, hearing critiques on work you have spent hours on, but the amount that you will grow as a writer is priceless.

So I ask all of you Non-English, creative writing, or literature majors, if you have any interest in creative writing at all, to push yourself into the next workshop you can and find, once again, your passion.

– Lindsey Strom