Olivia Paez is a senior studying journalism at Montclair State University. She is the creator of “Stories for Coffee,” a book and lifestyle blog. In addition to her blog, Paez also runs a successful YouTube page, where she reviews different books and talks about life. Additionally, her Instagram, @storiesforcoffee, has over 11.6K followers. Entertainment Editor Robert O’Connor sat down with Paez to talk about gaining a following, running a successful blog and book recommendations.
Q: What made you want to become a book blogger?
A: I’ve always been in love with reading and getting lost in a fictional world, but I didn’t have many people to discuss that interest with. In high school, I had the idea of creating a blog with my best friend. Originally this blog was a website to share short stories that we’ve written, but then we began to share our book reviews and it grew from there. I’d say that my undying love for stories and my need to share it with the world was what really pushed me to create a blog. I wanted to find a community of book lovers to share my thoughts and feelings with.
Q: How have you managed to get such a big following?
A: Over the course of the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve been lucky enough to make a lot of friends and connections with other bloggers around the world. We have bonded over our shared love for novels and commented on each other’s photos in order to support one another. Occasionally these friends would also shout me out on their Instagram stories or photo captions which has helped me grow my following throughout the years. I am so grateful for their support. I also think that I grew a large following over time by constantly changing up what I was photographing. I have many interests that I’ve incorporated into my photography and captions, and I think people enjoy that.
I’m still surprised that I have over 10,000 followers on Instagram. I keep thinking to myself, ‘11,000 people care about my photos, my thoughts and me,’ and that brightens my day. It’s so surreal to have so many people enjoying my content, and I’ll always be grateful for their support.
Q: What’s been the most influential book you’ve ever read? In what ways did it influence you?
A: I just read this book a few months ago, actually, and it is [called] “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton. I won this book in a giveaway on a well-known book website called Goodreads, and this was the first novel that I truly felt myself reflected in. It was the first novel that I read that centered around two Cuban women and their connection to Cuba in two contrasting times in history.
This book changed my life because it took me decades to find a story that represented my identity in an accurate and beautiful way. This is something that the book community is continually advocating for, actually. We are all advocating for diverse stories written by diverse authors because it’s important for minorities to have their stories shared with the world. I finally connected with a novel that celebrated Cuban heritage in a way that didn’t sensationalize the strife my people have been through. I even made a YouTube video chronicling my journey as I read this book and I was so emotional because I’ve never had my family’s history shared in a book, and I finally felt seen. I was finally able to see my history, my Cuban-ness, and my culture highlighted in such a well-written story. That novel will always hold a place in my heart.
Q: Is there anything about running a successful blog that you found surprising? Were there any challenges you didn’t anticipate?
A: I never expected to work alongside publishers when I first began blogging about books. I never even knew that publishers would send me advance reader copies, which are uncorrected copies of novels for bloggers to read and review before the book is officially published. It’s still exciting to open mail that was sent to me from Scholastic or Penguin Random House. I’ve always looked up to Scholastic as a little bookworm in elementary school. They often hosted their infamous book fairs throughout the year and now I’m able to work with them. I never imagined that ever happening.
As for challenges, I never expected the expectations that would be set upon my shoulders, thanks to blogging. I never expected to be glued to my phone, posting photos on Instagram in order to gain followers. I never expected to spend hours trying to shoot photos for my page. I don’t think people realize how time consuming being a blogger is. Even if it isn’t a full-time job, it feels like one. Bloggers spend hours taking photos, filming and editing videos, writing posts, and I don’t think people truly appreciate the work and effort that goes into creating, essentially, free content for others to consume.
Q: I know you also have a pretty successful YouTube channel. Any tips for someone thinking about starting a YouTube channel?
A: Lighting. Lighting. Lighting. All I can really stress is having good lighting in a video. Sit yourself in front of a window and just start filming. You can film a book review, a book haul or a book tag. Just put yourself out there. I think it’s also important to keep in mind that you can start filming videos on your phone. You don’t need a fancy camera in order to make videos. That’s how I began my channel, and I always think it’s important to stress that you can make great content on your phone. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have fancy equipment. Not everyone needs it.
Q: Does attending Montclair State help you with your blog?
A: Attending Montclair State helped me learn so much more about blogging than I realized. Because I’m a journalism major, I’ve been able to strengthen my professional writing skills, which I believe has improved my book reviews. Being a student in Montclair State’s journalism program has also taught me to put myself out there, even in my blogging life and it has pushed me to try out new opportunities that I maybe wouldn’t have strived toward before.
For example, thanks to Montclair State and my professors who have preached that all experiences are good experiences, I became a contributing writer for Book Riot, a website centered around all things books. I never expected to have my work published on a well-known site for book lovers, but I put myself out there and am happy with my accomplishments.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for any readers who are thinking about starting a blog?
A: If you want to start blogging about books, just do it. It may feel intimidating at first but putting yourself out there and experimenting in different mediums like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, etc. is the best way to get a feel for what you want to do. Connect with other bloggers by commenting on their content and join in on read-a-thons that many people host throughout the year. It’s all about pushing yourself to start blogging — that’s the hardest to do, but once you do it, it’s such a fun journey to be on.