The other day I got an email from my webhosting saying that the first year of my subscription is over and I should make payment for the next year. I couldn’t believe it! A whole year has passed!? The journey was incredibly eventful, I have learned so much and – as with everything else in life – there have been ups as well as some downs. A couple of days later I was notified on Twitter that I’ve had my Twitter account for one whole year too – I had created it shortly after I started The Artsy Reader. Both notifications made me think about all the things that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t finally made the step and started my blog, and I thought it would be nice to share those things with you: the good, the bad, and some of my tips!
I’ve been a book lover my whole life. Books are my safe haven, my rock, my friends. I can turn to them when I feel sad or lonely or bad in general, and they are always there for me (I’m not only reading when I feel bad of course – you know what I mean). Thankfully, I have some friends who like books too, but it’s only on a rare occasion that we read the same books, and if so, rarely at the same time. But I still love talking about the books that I’ve loved, the characters I fell in love with, or – on the other end of the spectrum – those that I’m disliking with a passion, the stories that feel incomplete to me, or are too sad for my liking. So the best thing I could do was to start sharing my opinion on my blog, AND finding people who share my love of books on Twitter. The bookish community on Twitter is so lovely and I’ve never felt more at home, more like a true part of a group before.
In my year of blogging, I’ve met the nicest, kindest and most caring people ever, and I know I have made friends for life. I’m feeling so lucky – I know that this is rare, in ‘real life’ as well as on the internet, and I appreciate those people every day. I’ve put ‘real life’ in quotation marks there because even though I may have not met any of these wonderful people personally (yet – I’m still hoping), they put a smile on my face every day and I know I can rely on them, and it’s just the most wonderful feeling ever. Guys, I’m so grateful to have you! So the best thing about starting my blog and connecting with other like-minded people on Twitter is to not only having found people I can talk to about books, but also real friends.
I love recommending books I really like to people, and both Twitter and my blog have been the perfect place for that. I know it may not be a huge thing, I might not reach thousands of people, but if, with one of my reviews, I could make one person find a book they really like – and all because of me – I think I’ve made a huge difference. It’s such a lovely feeling to hear “I read that book because of your recommendation” and I don’t ever want to miss it.
Another thing that has definitely been very nice this past year is being able to just write. Having a creative outlet that doesn’t require much research is a very nice balance to work and uni and all these kinds of thing, and it’s also different to novel writing which requires a set of skills and creativity of its own, and even though I’d love to pursue that too, one day, it’s just something else, and that’s very nice.
As a book blogger, I have gotten the chance to read books before they have been published. I have been contacted by authors and some publishers who have asked me to read and review a book, which is such an honour for me. I get this very warm and fuzzy feeling inside of me whenever an email with a review requests pops up in my inbox – it means some person who has written a book has found my blog, my little space on the internet and found it nice enough to ask me for an opinion about their book. Isn’t it just wonderful? (More about this further down)
The not so good
As with everything else in life, this wonderful journey has had some downsides (to the many ups) too. One of them is the pressure. You probably know it yourself – at times, life can be pretty busy and quite tough. Work, school, household, groceries, doctor’s appointments, family, cleaning, meeting friends, doing sports – these things fill our lives. You won’t believe how much I admire those bloggers who have (and follow) a strict schedule. I knew from the very start that I couldn’t do that – I know that my life might not necessarily be busier than theirs, but I wanted to keep blogging fun – and I knew it wouldn’t stay like that if I put too much pressure on myself. However, sometimes weeks pass in which I don’t find the time or creativity to come up with a blog post, and these times I notice a feeling suspiciously similar to guilt nagging at me. Even though I try not to, there are books I read but don’t review immediately, and what good is a review that doesn’t capture my actual feelings that I have closely after finishing the book? I wish I could find the time to write and post every week like many of you out there do, but I guess this is just how it is going to be for me, and I hope – and I try to think so myself – that it’s ok.
Another thing that makes me feel bad is when I get review requests and I don’t manage to review the book in time for the publication, or even for a long while after that. And I have just said above how incredibly lucky I feel to receive them and I really do, but I am such a mood reader. Sometimes when I buy a new book that I love the sound of and I don’t start it immediately, I might not feel like reading it for a while, and it gets banished to my huge, huge TBR pile. Similarly, sometimes I just don’t feel like reading a certain book and it makes me feel bad when I know I have agreed to reading and reviewing it. Quite often, the bad conscience that I get has put me in a reading slump, and that didn’t help this ever-growing TBR at all.
Another slight negative that I have encountered is the negativity online. I’m lucky to be able to say none of it has been directed towards me, but it would be a lie saying that it doesn’t still affect me. A while ago I have written a blog post addressing the Book Blogg(er) Drama and I loved all the nice comments I got for it, so I know that many of you are like me and despise that negativity. It also seems to be like a tiny proportion compared to all the positive, caring, kind and sweet people in the bookish community, but there’s always that one person who brings in negativity in real life, and unfortunately, it’s not any different online. I say it does affect me even though it hasn’t been directed towards me because it makes me sad seeing such a chirpy, bubbly, happy community of mostly lovely, supportive people being tainted by someone’s negativity. But at the same time, I love seeing all the support and the strong solidarity that we (it’s the best feeling ever being able to use that pronoun) share, so I’m pretty positive (hah, pun intended!) that we can overcome it all together.
- If you’re thinking about starting a book blog but you’re a bit of an overthinker like me and think and think and think before you actually do something, I’d suggest writing up some posts before you actually start a blog. Just collect some reviews or other fun posts and have fun with just writing and finding your voice. I did that before I began and it helped me a lot.
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
Have a look around, read other blogs, get some ideas. But don’t try to be like somebody else, write like somebody else, post like somebody else – try to do what feels right for you, find your own pace and your own voice. And if you feel comfortable with sticking to a schedule, do it! But if you don’t, that’s ok too! There’s no right or wrong way of book blogging. If you have a blog and write about books, you’re a book blogger, period.
- Be honest, but be kind.
When it comes to writing book reviews, you should consider that there is an actual person behind the story you’ve read – someone who has probably put lots of time and effort and love into it. So be kind, even if you didn’t like a book as much. However, and that’s an important point, also try to be honest. Your readers will read your review so they can see what you thought about the book, they expect honesty. So I’d say as hard as it can be, try to find a nice balance between honesty and kindness. State what you didn’t like about the book – be constructive in your criticism (it won’t help the author and neither your followers to just hear “I didn’t like the characters” or “I didn’t like the story” – tell them why and what could have been changed in order to make it better for you), but also state what was good in your opinion. No matter how bad, there must surely be something good in a 1-star read, too.
- Don’t feel pressured to accept every review request you receive.
There comes a time for (probably) every book blogger when they will be approached by authors or publishers who will ask them to review their book. This is super exciting! I remember how excited I was when I received my first review request, and how honoured I felt – and I still do every single time this happens. The excitement just never fades – there are so many bloggers out there and they have picked me? Super awesome!!! But as nice at it is, and as much as I would like to say yes to every request, doing so might become overwhelming quite quickly. In fact, it did overwhelm me for a while – so much that I had some bad reading slumps this past year. I said yes because saying no is so hard, and I didn’t want to upset anybody. But all of a sudden I had this huge list of books I HAD to read even though I may not have felt like reading, but reading anything else made me feel guilty. So in the end, I just stopped reading altogether for a while, and that is not what’s supposed to happen, right? I started the blog for my love of books, and had suddenly lost all interest in them. So if you feel like the book you’re being offered is not your cup of tea, you can decline (I still need to learn how to be better at this myself). Or, if you think you really want to read this but have too much going on at the moment, just ask the author if there is a deadline or if you could extend it a bit. Just make sure you don’t end up with a huge list of books to review or else it might overwhelm you.
- Throw love and kindness around like confetti.
This saying is so true, in the real as well as in the online world. The many dramas and controversies online prove how words have an effect on the internet too, maybe even more so. So be kind to others. Go and read other blogs, show them some love with some nice comments – not only will you make someone’s day, but it will make your day too. That way, you also get to know people and will quickly make other blogger friends.
- And now, my most important tip: Blog because you love it, and if you love it, JUST DO IT (I hope it is allowed to write that sentence lol). Try not to overthink, have fun!
And now, if you have always thought about starting a blog, go! Do it! And let’s be friends! 🙂
Thanks so much for reading!