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May 25, 2021

Book Reviewer Spotlight Series: Lili from Utopia State of Mind

A warm welcome to Book Reviewer Lili from Utopia State of Mind! Lili, tell us a bit about yourself. 
Lili: I am a scholar at heart, obsessed with SFF and always carrying a book wherever I go (including to the top of a dormant volcano and mountain for Instagram photos). I am obsessed with enamel pins, discovering new tea flavors, and dabbling in makeup. I am committed to celebrating diverse books and using USOM to champion books I feel deserve more praise and attention.

CritiqueMatch: How did you become a book reviewer? Can you offer tips to those looking to become established as book reviewers?
Lili: I think something I didn’t think early enough about was my brand. What do you want people to know about you? To associate with you? Make sure to put time into that and remember that when you feel yourself drifting. You don’t HAVE to read everything or try to jump on trends if you don’t want to. Being known for a specific genre helps people associate books or genres with you so that they can recommend you to others more easily. At the same time, also recognize that we change and it’s okay to change - you don’t have to stick with one thing forever. Be consistent and conscious with your choices. 

: That’s great advice. How many books do you read per year? 
Lili: Last year I read 357 books, which left my brain seriously exhausted. This year I’ve read 114 books so far, but I’m actually trying to change the relationship I have with reading, and with book blogging work, this year so fingers crossed! 

CM: 357 books in a year—that’s about a book a day! Walk us through a book’s review process before you publish a review.
Lili: For me, once I get the book - if it’s an ARC - I make a Trello card (which is where I keep track of all my ARCs or publisher-sent books) and then sort it into the month of publication. There I create my Monthly TBRs. Once I schedule it in my bujo (normally the scheduling happens the week before), then I normally stick to it. While reading, I take notes so that when I’m writing my review, I have both my raw thoughts, as well as a little wrap-up at the end of the note to know my general last thoughts. About a day, ideally, after reading I’ll try to write and schedule my review (which goes into a separate review calendar) and then that’s it!

CM: What books would you like to read more of? 
Lili: I’d love to see more BIPOC SF. SF is initially what drew me to the book reviewing world, when I was still reviewing magazines, and so I love returning to SF. I just want more diverse SF in general! Give it to me!

CM: Any tips to bookstagrammers looking to increase their audience?
Lili: Do what makes you happy because I’ve tried to do what is ‘trendy’ and it doesn’t stick. It won’t make you happy and make you feel creative or even be a sustainable solution. Create content YOU want to see. That way, you continue to create content.

CM: Do you regularly use ARCs? Can you share resources for readers who are interested in receiving more ARCs?
Lili: I would say that about half my reading is ARCs, so I guess yes! A huge majority of those are e-ARCs which makes it easier to get through Netgalley. If that’s something you can do, then definitely check it out. This past year has made physical ARCs trickier so it’s definitely a way to keep reading ARCs. I would say to shoot your shot and send a request email. Worst is that they don’t email you back, but that’s okay! You can try again when you’ve gained a bigger following. In an email you want to include ALL the information they might need to contact you - stats, address, reason why THIS book - and that way they can easily know what to do next.

CM: How did you establish relationships with authors/publishers? 
Lili: Most of my relationships with publishers started off with an email. What I tend to recommend most is follow through. If a publisher sent you an ARC or e-ARC, when you review it, send it to them. They appreciate the links and it shows them that you are reading their books. This way they also have your contact details in case they want to contact you in the future. I’ve noticed a big change in my access to ARCs this way. Don’t make them hunt for your reviews!

CM: These are solid tips to build relationships—thank you for sharing them! Are you part of a book club or do you recommend one? 
Lili: I am! Not only do I co-host Backlist Bookworms, but I also run one IRL with friends in my area. We meet virtually now, but hopefully one day we can meet again in person.

CM: What books would re-read?
Lily: I always like getting asked about books I’d re-read. I’d love to re-read the Wayfarer’s Series from the beginning. Those and Jade City - although I might have to do that anyway before Jade Legacy.


Reading List

Genres/sub-genres you’re reading:
  • YA books, 
  • Adult SFF, 
  • Historical Fiction, 
  • Literary Fiction, and 
  • General Fiction
What you’re not interested in:
  • Non-fiction, 
  • Memoirs


Do you accept unsolicited review requests? Yes
Please check out my review policy for all the details, as well as what you’re agreeing to when you send me an email.