Tips From a Book Blogger to Authors When Your Deeply Personal Book Comes Out
Tip #1: Don’t be like Lauren Hough.

A yellow typewriter on a wooden table with a book, cup of coffee, notebook, and iPhone nearby.
A yellow typewriter on a wooden table with a book, cup of coffee, notebook, and iPhone nearby.

I started my book blog, Off the Beaten Shelf, in 2014 because I was reading 50+ books a year and friends were forever asking my thoughts about them. The blog became an outlet for me to share book recommendations, book buying tips, reader culture, and to discuss issues and trends I noticed in the book world — or bookternet, as book bloggers like to call it. …


Do you believe God is all-powerful, or don’t you?

A black and white photo of an abandoned building with a pentagram spray-painted on a wall.
A black and white photo of an abandoned building with a pentagram spray-painted on a wall.
A black and white photo of an abandoned building with a pentagram spray-painted on a wall.

Growing up, I practically lived at church. My father’s immigrant family went to a local Greek Orthodox church and my mother’s family was evenly split between Protestants (mostly Southern Baptist) and Catholics.

On top of that, from kindergarten through 6th grade, I was enrolled in a Southern Baptist private school that was actually housed in a church. We didn’t have sports, but we did do “sword drills,” which is when you hold your arms out with a Bible between your hands, and when the teacher calls out a verse, you race…


Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!

[image description: an open book on a dark table next to a bouquet of pink flowers.]
[image description: an open book on a dark table next to a bouquet of pink flowers.]
[image description: an open book on a dark table next to a bouquet of pink flowers.]

My tagline for my book blog, Off the Beaten Shelf, is “for readers who like a literary sampler plate,” which I chose because I truly believe every genre has merit and that it’s valuable to read widely and diversely.

However, a while back I noticed there was a glaring gap in my books coverage on this blog and in my own reading life. Romance. If you’ve noticed its absence, you’re not wrong.

I started thinking about why that is. The truth is that until about two or so years ago, I subscribed to…


If someone tells you to do this, RUN.

A yellow typewriter on a wooden table with a book, cup of coffee, notebook, and iPhone nearby.
A yellow typewriter on a wooden table with a book, cup of coffee, notebook, and iPhone nearby.
[image description: a yellow typewriter on a wood table surrounded by a coffee mug, book, notebook, and phone.]

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was 5 years old, so I’ve sought out writing advice from every source imaginable over the years. I’ve received a lot of helpful writing advice along the way, but I’ve also received some supremely bad writing advice, too.

The worst part is that I didn’t know it was bad writing advice at the time. It sounded so logical! It seemed to make sense. Only later did I find out that while well-intended, this writing advice didn’t serve me.

The worst writing advice…


[image description: Shelves full of books inside a bookstore.]
[image description: Shelves full of books inside a bookstore.]
[image description: Shelves full of books inside a bookstore.]

I have some complicated feelings about Amazon.

While I think Amazon is a wholly unethical, heartless, immoral company for the way it treats its employees and preys upon small businesses and I personally choose to spend my dollars elsewhere, I realize that having that choice is a point of privilege.

For folks who don’t have extra dollars to choose the ethical spending option, those cheap prices matter. And for folks living in book deserts with underfunded library systems, Amazon may be the only way they can get the books they want. …


[image description: a gray typewriter with a paper inserted that says “investigation.”]
[image description: a gray typewriter with a paper inserted that says “investigation.”]
[image description: a gray typewriter with a paper inserted that says “investigation.”]

When I haven’t been reading, I’ve been thinking about the justice system in the US. Namely, how the “justice system” is a misnomer.

I could rant all day about how the present-day police force is descended from slave patrols and how the militarization of the police was designed to target Black people and anti-war hippies and how for-profit prisons thrive on racism. But we’re here to talk about books, so it got me thinking… What would crime fiction and mystery/detective fiction look like in a cop-less future?

My thinking was that it would force authors to get more creative with…


Stop being elitist and give readers what they want.

[image description: a glass window with the words “fine books” in gold.]
[image description: a glass window with the words “fine books” in gold.]
[image description: a glass window with the words “fine books” in gold.]

I don’t remember the first time I went to a standalone bookstore but I do know that for the early years of my life books came from stores that primarily sold other things. For a long time, I thought the only place to buy books was Walmart, the grocery store, and thrift stores.

That obviously didn’t stop me from becoming a bibliophile. They had my Mary-Kate and Ashley mysteries, Goosebumps, The Magic Treehouse series, and Series of Unfortunate Events, so it didn’t occur to me back then that there would even…


A Black man reading a book at a desk with another stack of books beside him.
A Black man reading a book at a desk with another stack of books beside him.
[image description: a Black man reading a book at a desk with another stack of books beside him.]

Even though I’ve been writing creatively and freelancing for years, I still have so much to learn about being a full-time writer and fully self-employed freelancer. Being a book lover, that means I went book shopping.

Basically, my self-employed life has three branches: creative writing (my books in progress), freelance writing and editing (work I do for clients), and my vintage shop. I could use help with all of those and generally being more visible on the internet. This brings me to the six books that are saving my life right now.

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

So it turns out that writing a novel…


a young Black girl runs her fingers over the spines of books stacked on a white bookshelf
a young Black girl runs her fingers over the spines of books stacked on a white bookshelf
[image description: a young Black girl runs her fingers over the spines of books stacked on a white bookshelf.]

The half a dozen writing groups I’m in on Facebook never cease to fascinate me. When people ask questions in the group, it’s not uncommon to get several hundred replies, depending on the size of that particular group and the question being asked. Recently, someone asked this:

Hello all,
What are your thoughts about using swear words in a book aimed at 13 to 15-year-olds?
There are very few in the 30,000 words and it’s only the f word.
Thanks.

This question got some spirited debate ranging from people telling her they’d never buy such a book for their kids…


analog art in the digital age

Last year when I made my first zine (with my friend and co-creator, Harmony Cox) I usually got one of two responses. 1) What’s a zine? 2) People still make zines?!

The answer to the second question is easy: YES! There’s still a thriving zine culture, though it did shrink after the advent of the internet, and especially after computers became commonplace in the home. But zine culture never actually died and now that the internet is no longer a novelty, it’s growing again.

So what is a zine? Basically, anything that’s a DIY, handmade pamphlet-style publication. The traditional aesthetic…

Mandy Shunnarah

I write about books, vintage fashion, family drama, trauma & more. Read more at mandyshunnarah.com. Vintage shop at poshandpage.com.

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