Welcome to Book Blogging 101, a weekly feature on Parajunkee’s View that answers your questions and strives to share great book blogging tips and some helpful hints to assist you on your book blogging endeavors.

My conscience is eating me up! I can’t take it anymore!! My blog header has an image that I absolutely adore… but I found it on the web. I can not find the owner of the illustration!! I’ve googled the .jpg and searched DeviantArt but all I find are people doing the same thing I did ~ using the picture for their own purposes.I’m thinking I need to take it down. Am I right? Would I sleep better?

Thanks! – Kristin

As a designer/artist myself, I really hate saying this, but Kristen if you can’t find the owner and no one has approached you to remove it than you don’t legally have to take it down. The only time you would really get in trouble would be if you were a business, personal sites usually have free rein as to what images they use. NOW, if the owner of the image were to see it and ask you to remove it, than with good conscious I would remove it. You never know, the reason the image is out there so prevalently and used on other sites might be because the author of the image gave it out as a “freebie”. I would never recommend just grabbing an image willy-nilly from the web and using it as your own, but you’ve done the research Kristin and if what you say is true and you’ve been unable to find an owner, than I say your conscious should be clear.

Hey PJ,

Just wondering, what do you think of reviews taking gifts along with books for review? I won a contest from an author that was a copy of a book plus a little homemade craft-type prize, and she offered me another of the additional prize instead of the book, and asked me to review the book.It’s not taking payment in exchange for a review…right? What would you do?Thanks PJ!(PS: Wasn’t Hunger Games completely amazing? I can’t stop raving about it, and I thought it would be terrible!) – Anonymous THG Lover

First off, yes THG was amazing. I’ve seen it twice, just so I could reaffirm that it was so good and I wasn’t just in shock and awe on first release.

Secondly, putting myself in that scenario, I thought “what would I do if an author sent me a book to review and included a present?” New shoes, a gift card, a box of cookies?? What is too much and where do you draw the line? Ok, it’s just a box of cookies, monetary value of $2.50 — but it’s still a gift. It still makes you the recipient of something nice from this person and if you are anything like me that puts me in an indebted place with a person. A gift received is opening me up to the fact that I must return the favor at some point. How can I honestly review a book if I feel a small debt to this person? I would want it to be a good review to give a gift in return, right? Or, can you throw that out of the window?

Personally, I can’t with clear conscious accept any kind of gifts. I’ve won big prize packs from authors and I’ve read their books, but I never reviewed them unless they were glowing, because I was Self-conscious about every little negative comment. I felt bad. If you don’t think that you would feel this way, by all means accept gifts from these authors. I just know, that I couldn’t do it.

This one is a montage of questions…and I have to answer them because they are starting to irk me. I’ve been experiencing this a lot lately along with another blogger friend of mine that will remain anonymous to protect the victim’s rights (snciker). Ok, it’s not that bad. But, I have to say when I go through my question form there have to be at least one a week. A question about how to make this graphic or that graphic. Between the #BB101 questions, the questions on twitter and the actually emails that I get, begging for something free, or for me to “teach” them how to use a certain software, it wears on me, they all go something like this:

Hi! I love your designs, the {insert element} are the best! How do you do this? I want to learn how to do it so I can make my own. Is there a program that you create them with, or someone you know who does it for free? Will you do it for me for free? I need a {insert element} so badly to make my blog perfect.

Why does this irk me? Well, for starters, this is how I make my living. Secondly, I went to college to learn how to do it, then I bought book after book, then online course after online course to stay knowledgeable about the software. If I don’t know how to do a code string, or create a certain effect in Photoshop, I Google it. I would never have thought to ask for someone to teach me how to do something, unless of course they were my teacher and I was paying for the class. Enough of that though — let’s answer the questions, right?

Ok, the main thing that people usually ask about are the illustrations. How can they learn how to make an illustration?

Do you know how I make them? I draw them in Adobe Illustrator. I might take pieces and parts of a stock illustration, but nine times out of ten I draw them by hand. Yup, little PJ was sketched out on a notepad. She started out as an acrylic painting actually…here check her out.

Custom IllustrationsThen how did I get her on the computer and give her curves, change her up etc…well I have a degree in Computer Graphic Design/Marketing. If there is some trick that just let’s you download a program, press a button and create stunning illustrations and designs, well I guess I’m out of work.



So, to answer everyone’s questions:

  1. How to make a button?
  2. How to make an avatar?
  3. How to code your blog so the styling is sooo very nice?
  4. How to make myself a sexy librarian sitting on a pile of books with millions of books around me and a cat dressed in a tuxedo besides me…?

You hire someone. You hire me. You hire another designer. Or you hop onto a stock photo site, like iStockphotos and you purchase an illustration and you manipulate it so it fits in your blog. But, again you’ll need programs (there are free ones) and basic knowledge regarding files sizes, pixel widths etc. To teach anyone to do this would take a lot more info than what I can tell you in a #Bb101 post, or through 140 characters in twitter or an email. If you are interested in expanding your brain and learning to do graphic design, I would suggest Lynda.com.

Hi Parajunkee,I sometimes come across a post or a comment on a review where an author or a friend of an author goes completely mad saying things like: how dare someone give them a bad rating.

I just read this post about 3 star ratings over here: http://www.bittenbyparanormalromance.com/2012/03/3-star-rating-blog-hop.html?zx=130042f88dde8a53

And the commentator Anonymous said quite a few things, but this stands out:

“So you reviewers have the power to kill a book with your exalted opinions. Your opinion is just like everyone else’s, but you’ve made your opinion mean more by posting it online. And that gives you the power to kill a book with a 3. And then you spread that 3 all over GoodReads in multiple forms so that no one reads that book. Reviewers have way too much power.”

Do people not understand that Reviewers are Readers? That we buy the books as well? That we can’t lie just to make an Author look good?

I know this has been discussed multiple times, but it irks me that people feel this way. I mean what is the point in being a reviewer and doing something you enjoy if you are not allowed to say that you didn’t like a book or that a book was average?

Should we all just smile and give 5 stars to everything?

“The reviewer who has all 5s is choosing not to review and harm a book they didn’t think was great. That’s smart, IMO and kind. Why trash a book all over the Net just because you, one person, don’t like it? And then spread your opinion all over the world, as though it is many people’s opinions? Just don’t review the book. That’s more honest than posting your reviews under multiple names all over the world, falsely skewing authors’ scores? That creates an illusion that many people think the way you do, which is a lie.”

Clearly this person has had bad experience.

What do you think Parajunkee?
Are we better off not putting a rating on a book? – Anon

That’s bullshit, sorry for the profanity, but it is. You are forced to put a rating on a book every time you review on Amazon or Goodreads and it is a good system. We put ratings on people, on places, on everything. Because some reviewer gives a book a 3 review — doesn’t mean it’s going to sway me in any way, when I am shopping for a book.

When is the last time you’ve run across a book on Amazon or Goodreads that had a perfect 5 star? Even the best books, the classics that have won the most prestigious awards — guess what, someone probably hated it and marked it as a 1 star. Do you go around looking for books that only have perfect 5 stars to buy?

No, you don’t. Because people’s opinions differ. If we all just told everyone what was perfect about the world we would be LYING! These reviewers that only review 5 star books — guess what — they are kidding themselves or me. Don’t pee on my leg and say it is raining. Because, it is rare that I come across a 5 star book. A 5 star book makes me cry, it keeps me up at night, it makes me feel things that I don’t even feel in real life. It makes me live through each and every one of those pages. To rate a book with a 5 star is like saying THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE. There are books like this. And you know it and everyone else that loves to read knows it.

Take for example ‘A Brave New World.’ The book changed my life, I still think about the characters and the underlying message to this day and I read the book for the first time in high school. That one is rated a 5 star — it takes a lot for me to place another 5 star book next to it.

I might have maybe 5 to 10 (maybe!) – 5 star books a year out of 150 books. What is that 7% – 10%? Don’t judge my math skills! My blog would be very lacking in content if I only reviewed 7% of the books I read.

Reviewing only 5 star books isn’t smart, it’s fooling yourself and wrapping everything in rainbows and butterflies. They can’t all be 5 stars, just like every girl can’t be a supermodel. And the fact that we review it, blog it and then post it on different sites isn’t trashing books all over the planet. This statement really pisses me off, because we are spreading the word about the book, marketing your book — toughen up and take the criticism.

What’s wrong? Do you want your book to be that dusty one on the shelf that no one touches and no one talks about?? Because that is what is going to happen if you are waiting for only 5 star reviews. No one will be talking about it because everyone is waiting around to only discuss 5 star books! Just because someone can’t take criticism!

At least we are talking about your book! Discussing it, making people remember your title. I know it hurts a little bit to see your work picked over and critiqued. But, I’ve heard a few authors say that once they publish their book it is no longer theirs — it belongs to the world. They have no control over it. Stop obsessing over what one or two bloggers say about your book or the rating they put on it. Take it for what it is, PR! I pick up books ALL THE TIME because of negative reviews. I’m not just defending myself as a reviewer. In fact, if you are an author reading this, come back tomorrow and start clicking on the Feature & Follow links — because the question is going to be on lines with this post:

Q: Have you ever bought a book BECAUSE of a bad review?

I bet you will be surprised at what everyone answers…

XO – Happy Thursday, Talk Less, Read More.

I can’t get to all the questions, but please ask your BB101 Questions here…bring it on.