Scattered Thoughts After Six Years of This Book Blogging Thing

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On August 5, 2010, I started A Reader of Fictions on a whim born of boredom (I was unemployed post-library school at the time) and a pile of unread books from ALA Annual. I had ABSOLUTELY no clue what I was doing. My early reviews are beyond dreadful; please don’t read them. Those horrible, short reviews that do no more than really recount the plot were by no means the only mistakes I made on the road to where I am with my blog today.

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One thing from the early days that I did right was my picking my blog name, but that was a total accident, I assure you. It wasn’t that I put a ton of thought into it or researched or anything; it’s just that I knew, from the moment I had the idea to book blog, that I wanted this name. I’m lucky no one else had it already. I’ve loved my blog name from its initial conception because 1) it’s a Decemberists reference (bonus points to all the people who figured that out on their own), 2) the antiquated phrasing makes it unique, and 3) because it starts with A, a lot of people sort it to the top of their blog rolls (even though personally I’d sort it to the R’s but hey not complaining).

Other than that, though, the early days of my blog were a hot mess. One of my friends agreed to write guest blogs regularly but only ever wrote one, for example. I posted whenever I felt like it/whenever I finished a book, meaning that I would sometimes go weeks without posting anything and then post multiple things all in one day. It took me a shockingly long time to learn that I could schedule my posts. Blogging genius right here. Bow down, guys.

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Even more ridiculous than that, though, I actually had no idea that there was a whole community of book bloggers and readers out there. I knew that book blogs existed, as I’d been reading Presenting Lenore for years, but I had no idea how many there were. During the first year or two of my book blogging career, I was an island. It was only when I joined Twitter (probably to enter a giveaway) that I realized what I had been missing.

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In talking about the lows of the early days, I cannot skip talking about ARCs. I was massively jealous of book bloggers who got review copies in those days. I requested books off of NetGalley like a fiend, but that wasn’t enough. To stem my jealousy a bit, I entered giveaways. I was one of those goblins, and it actually did work, though I regret it now. I didn’t do anything that was actually wrong, but it wasn’t my finest hour that’s for damn sure.

Even now, I’m sometimes jealous of books that other reviewers get. I think it’s natural. I mean, I’m jealous of strangers I see who have ice cream when I have no ice cream. Actually, I might be jealous even IF I have ice cream and their ice cream just looks better. A bit of jealousy is, I think, unavoidable; it’s a very human quality. The main thing is how you react to ARC jealousy. If you take it out on others, the jealousy is winning. Don’t make people feel bad for receiving ARCs, especially since, often, once you start getting them a bunch come unsolicited, meaning the reviewer had no control. Don’t make people feel bad for not reading them all, because everyone’s eyes are a bit hungrier than their mouths and we all of us are hopefully doing the best that we can, a best that will vary from person to person. There are only a couple of things you can do with ARCs that are definitively wrong: selling print ARCs or sharing egalleys around the internet. Most book bloggers would never ever do these things.

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The free books aspect of book blogging is really nice. I’m not going to dissemble and say that it’s a total pain but I suffer because I want to help the publishers or whatever. I do like getting them. It does make me feel like all the time I put into this hobby matters. However, the longer I do this, the less they matter. My house is basically exploding with books and it’s shockingly hard to find the time to get rid of them. I have hundreds of books stacked on my floor and my trunk packed with books, all of which I need to find new homes for. I’d love to share with other bloggers, but I don’t think I’d ever be able to retire if I passed every ARC on to another blogger.

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Only in the last year or so have I finally found a balance between review books and reading some just for me. For at least three years probably, I almost never read anything that wasn’t a review book, whether from NetGalley, Edelweiss, the publisher, a conference, or gifted by a kind friend. It took me a really long time to accept that I didn’t have to finish and review every single book I requested, which meant that I wrote a lot of negative reviews and suffered through a shit ton of boring books. Since I’ve fully embraced the DNF and forced myself to keep a tbr pile of non-review books, I’ve been so much happier as a book blogger. My policy is to try (almost) every book I’ve solicited, with the parenthetical being rare circumstances where I’m so positive the book will not work for me that I apologize to the book gods and put it in the donate pile untried.

So far in 2016, I’ve read and reviewed 84 books that I received for review out of 154 books read, though a handful of those were earlier books in a series I read to prepare for a review book. I’m so impressed with myself and how much time I’ve had for backlist books. And I’m actually not doing too badly on getting through my review books either, partially thanks to my friend the DNF but still.

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There have been hard times in my six years of book blogging. Last year, I seriously thought about quitting after a series of horrible blogging world and personal problems. This year, I’ve rediscovered my love for this hobby, and I’ve managed to completely ditch the urge to check on my stats and embrace the lovely philosophy of who gives a fuck.

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Partly, I’m doing so well because I’m less present. I’ve been spending more of my time with friends. I used to prioritize blogging over everything, and I don’t do that anymore, which has allowed me to be less obsessed with my status in the community. I miss being really active on Twitter and always having conversations going, but it’s been really great for my anxiety.

Much as I love those books, the friendships I’ve made in my six years of blogging are by far the most important aspect of all of this. There are so, so many friends I can’t imagine living without at this point, and I count myself so lucky to have found them. Bless my greedy little, giveaway-entering heart for leading me to twitter so I could find everyone. I’m not going to specifically list people, because I always end up feeling like such a douche for having to cut the list off and leave people off. There are some of you I talk to almost every day, and you know how much I love you guys I hope. But, even among people I might not be as close to (either ever or lately), I’ve had the most amazing conversations. I’ve gotten to talk openly with others about anxiety and I’ve come to understand myself so much better. In this community, I feel understood in a way I never did before. Truly, you guys are my kindred spirits.

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If there’s anything that others can learn from my six years of book blogging, it’s that you can overcome your mistakes and that blogging’s a hell of a lot more fun when you put less pressure on it. Appreciate your friends and have a good time.

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7 responses to “Scattered Thoughts After Six Years of This Book Blogging Thing”

    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Monthly Wrap-Up: July 2016My Profile

  2. Joanne Levy says:

    Coming from what I guess is the other side (as a writer), I still totally get that it’s the friendships that make this kind of thing worthwhile. I often feel isolated sitting here at my computer, making up stories about people who don’t exist, but book blogs create real communities. The friendships I have forged with bloggers and readers have been THE BEST part of writing books.
    Kudos to you on keeping it up and finding balance–I love visiting your blog and even if we don’t have 100% like taste in books all the time, I enjoy and value your opinions. (Vive la difference!) And Cover Snark, well, you know how I feel about that. 😉
    Joanne Levy recently posted…How to Show Love to an AuthorMy Profile

  3. Yay! Congrats on 6 years! That’s amazing! I’m at 4 1/2 right now, myself. It’s been a crazy, fun ride! I had the same kind of reviews at first, too. The ones where they were more like book reports than reviews. Yeesh. So embarassing. But at least we’ve lived and learned! And you’re right, the friendships gained in this community are the best part of being a book blogger. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know you and all the other awesome bloggers out there! Congrats, again! And I hope you keep going, because this community would definitely be lacking without you in it!
    Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase recently posted…#FitReaders Check-In: August 5, 2016My Profile

  4. Sabrina Fox says:

    Great post! I’m a fairly new book blog and I’m still trying to develop my reviewing skills and it’s so frustrating sometimes that I can’t think of the proper words to explain to other bloggers why the book was great or less than satisfactory in my opinion. It just takes times. I’m sure after I’ve been blogging as long as you I’ll learn a few things as well. 😉

  5. Kara says:

    I don’t have much to say, but I love you too, and you are so right. If you get rid of all the pressure you put on yourself, blogging becomes a lot more fun. I’ve also really learned to tune out the negative people who want to tell you how to blog. There’s no right way to do it, and it’s SOOOO easy to tell when people are jealous. I see right through that shit and ignore it. It’s not worth it anymore; it was never honestly worth it.

    I miss youuuuu!

  6. Krys says:

    I also started my blog out of boredom and post-library school unemployment.
    Even in the process of wrapping up my third year of blogging I have found that there’s a lot about blogging I haven’t quite grasped. I think it’s mostly because of where I prioritize my blog to the rest of my life, needless to say it doesn’t get very high on the list.
    I’m still trying to figure things out. I always get a bit stressed with the fact that there are so many bloggers out there that get ARCs, but I tell myself that I get at least 2-3 a year, and that’s awesome! I have also been stressing myself out less by borrowing my books instead of purchasing. Not always the most convenient, but that’s okay.
    Happy 6 years 🙂
    Krys recently posted…School BooksMy Profile

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