Reading and blogging about what I read is a hobby, but it’s something I take seriously. I’ve been blogging for almost two years, and have learned so much — but there’s a lot I still don’t know. Which is where two awesome events come in.
Busting the Newbie Blues and Busting the Big Blogger Blues are two events (hosted by Small Review and Ruby’s Reads, respectively) designed to help bloggers big and small learn more and meet new people. Small and Ruby posted some questions, and my challenge is to answer them. After that comes the fun part: visiting other blogs, meeting other bloggers, and chatting about our answers!
I consider myself somewhere between a newbie and a big blogger, so this post may get a little long. I welcome any and all comments, rants, raves, advice, warnings, questions…you get the idea.
When did you start your blog? My first post went up on January 1, 2010.
Do you ever still feel like a newbie? Quite often.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from? My biggest challenge has always been figuring out what to write in my reviews. Should I post a Goodreads summary, or sweat through coming up with my own short summary? Should I include spoilers? Do people care what songs the book brought to my mind (methinks no, not really)?
My biggest mistake was starting out on Livejournal. It was a platform I knew well and on which I felt safe and comfortable. All the bloggers I follow are on WordPress, Blogger, or Blogspot, a fact I noticed several months into blogging. It was a huge pain in the butt to manually copy-paste all my posts over to WordPress, but I’m glad I made the move when I did.
I highly recommend that new bloggers create accounts on the major blogging platforms and play with each to find which they find easiest to work with. I work with websites for a living, and fewer things are worse than navigating around, editing, or making additions to a website/platform you find unappealing.
Also, find a fun meme or two in which to participate. It will ensure that you post something routinely, and helps with networking. Get an RSS feed reader. Respond to every comment left on your blog (within reason, obviously).
What did you find most discouraging about being a new blogger? How did you deal with this? The feeling that I was spending all this time writing reviews that no one was seeing or would ever see. I dealt with this by starting to promote what I was writing. When I was on Livejournal, I would manually post about it on Facebook and Twitter; WordPress has this nifty feature where it automatically posts to any number of third-party sites when you publish a post. I also started actually commenting (instead of lurking, hint hint) on the blogs I was reading — and the bloggers, bless their hearts, would visit me back.
What do you find most encouraging? That the blogging community has opened its arms to me by commenting and linking to me, and giving me some awards, and quoting me in their own posts. I get a huge thrill when a big blogger leaves a comment on my post.
If you could go back in time and speak with your newbie self, what five bits of wisdom would you tell yourself? (1) Get off Livejournal, right now. (2) Stop using “Couch Potato Critic” in third person when referring to yourself. Use “I,” nimrod, it’s better in a million different ways. (3) Did you know that this blog is going to help you get a job? Don’t give up yet! (4) Big bloggers started off small too, and they don’t bite — leave a comment and say hi! (5) You will always hate dystopian novels — stop reading “just one more” to see if you can learn to love the genre.
What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog? I love that bloggers write in their genuine voice (or at least seem to), and always give away just enough details to make me want to read the book. I’d love to be able to turn and phrase and get to the heart of the matter like these guys can, but I’ve never consciously tried to imitate any specific blogger.
What do you dislike about blogs you’ve seen? Do you try to avoid this? I work for a web design and marketing company, and am a grammar/spelling snob, so my biggest issues are bad design and poorly written posts. A blogger may write the best reviews in the world, but if they’re written in a “fun” font or hard-to-read colors with a blog theme that is obnoxious, I’m gone. And if their posts are riddled with misspellings and poorly structured content, I’m not sticking around. I avoid both of these pitfalls as scrupulously as possible.
How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people? In a word, networking. I read and comment on a lot of blogs, and have participated in several memes/blog hops. My RSS feed reader helps me keep up with new posts from the blogs I follow.
When and how did you get your first ARC (or first few ARCs)? By accident. I won a copy of Leigh Fallon’s Carrier of the Mark and it turned out to be an ARC (although the book was already available to the masses by that time). I signed up for NetGalley awhile back, but just haven’t made the time to poke around. Maybe that’s something to resolve to do this year.
For this one, Ruby posted some starter questions (the ones she personally wonders about) to be answered in the comments. I’ve left my answers there already, but I wanted to post them here as well.
How in the heck do people find time to comment? Commenting is a constant struggle for me. Does anyone have any techniques to share? Pure determination! I depend heavily on my RSS feed reader to tell me when new posts from the bloggers I follow go up, and then I try to go through them all every couple of days and leave comments.
What are the best ways of networking with other bloggers, authors and publishers? Twitter? Facebook? Please don’t tell me it’s Facebook. I don’t have much experience with networking, but I do know that I started getting more comments and visits when I started participating in memes, and leaving comments on the blogs I follow. I’ve rubbed elbows with a couple of authors on Twitter, but that interaction was limited to things like Retweets of my reviews — not much personal interaction.
How do you snap out of “reading feels like work” ennui? By shaking things up. I’ll try a new meme (or create my own!), or post about bookish things that aren’t reviews. I’ll talk about my ever-growing TBR list, or share a recent meaningful personal experience (e.g. my Sacred Harp obsession). If I’m feeling totally mired and awful, or I’m really stressed about work or something, I’ll take a short break from posting. It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to post every day, or even every other day, for years at a time without ever taking a breather.
Tell me more about this thing you call “scheduling.” It’s only my favorite thing ever! I can finish a post or meme a few days in advance and schedule it to auto-post (WordPress has this feature, I’m not sure about any other platforms), and it publishes without my having to fiddle with it. I’m a textbook case Type-A personality, so I like knowing in advance what’s coming. It’s not uncommon for me to have reviews planned a week or two in advance; they’re not often written that far ahead, but I at least know what’s coming up. It helps me not get so obsessed with the details and actually enjoy reading.
And now, on to meeting new people. If you’ve dropped by as part of this event, welcome!
14 thoughts on “Busting the Newbie/Big Blogger Blues”
You’ve guilted me into commenting. *Shifty eyes*
It isn’t that I don’t want to comment, but I often feel as though I can’t say anything that doesn’t sound incomparably inane. I know I should comment more so I try to say that even if I can only think of one comment to comment on myself, I must do it. I know the feeling of intense philanthropy when people comment!
I burst out laughing at your “five bits of wisdom” by the way. That was hilarious!
Also, I know Blogger does let you schedule (thank goodness) and I totally agree with what you dislike on other blogs.
Yay! And now that you’ve commented once and the world didn’t end, you can comment whenever you’d like. 🙂
I totally agree with you about not always knowing what to leave in a comment. There are times when all I can think to say is, “Great post!” and that doesn’t provide much value to the blog author. If the post really is great, I’ll sometimes leave that comment — but generally I try to actually contribute to the conversation. I read a lot more blogs than I comment on for this reason.
Glad I could make you laugh — although several of those lessons make me cringe when I think about them now!
I love the scheduling feature, it’s a lifesaver. And down with bad web design!
I personally try to say that when I’m saying great post, I’m not just saying it to give an empty compliment- I genuinely mean it. I always give a comment if I have something to say, or find the post particularly engaging or interesting, so that the writer of it can tell just how impressed I am and my genuine adoration for it.
Hear, hear, sir! 🙂
I’m torn between recommending that people use Blogger just because it seems that everyone except me is using it (I’m glad I found you!) and recommending WordPress because it would be to my benefit. I will grant that WordPress would solve the problems learning HTML a lot of bloggers are picking as their greatest challenge, since it doesn’t let you use very much! On the whole, though, WordPress is quite easy to use, and I’m in love with scheduling, as well. I think I have reviews set up through most of February now.
What job did blogging help you get? (I will feel awkward if the answer is on your “About” page or somewhere else and I find it two seconds from now.)
I just didn’t like the Blogger layout. And commenting on them is annoying because you click to comment and you can’t see the original blog post anymore. It’s annoying to have two windows open. But what I do like about Blogger (and Blogspot) is that there seem to be a lot of themes from which to choose. The free themes for WordPress are pretty bland, and I can’t even use the little coding I know to tweak it, since they charge you to customize your theme. So I make do with the basics for now.
Scheduling is awesome! I love knowing that’s coming up next, and having stuff planned out so far ahead makes things go more smoothly.
I do indeed say in my bio where I work, but that’s okay. 🙂 I work for a web design and marketing company. I knew someone who knew someone who knew the owner, and I think the guy gave me a pity-interview. But the fact that I was on the Internet, knew some of the ins and outs of blogging, and am a good writer helped me get hired (my boss has told me so).
Thanks for stopping by, Briana!
I agree that it’s difficult to figure out what to put in a review. I’ve seen really awesome ones that break down everything: story, characters, places, crushes, etc. I always think that would be fun to do but I don’t know if I would have the patience for it.
Totally in agreement, Alison. I really love Small Review’s posts because they’re so detailed, and I get a good sense of the book. But unless I really loved (or really loathed) a book, I tend to write fairly short reviews. I love talking about books with other people, though, so it’s nice when someone comments and we get a discussion going.
Thank you for stopping by my blog and for sharing your knowledge and experiences. I have never heard from Bookpedia before, so thank you for the tip!
Glad I could introduce you to Bookpedia, Liza! Last I checked it was only available on the Mac, but that was some time back — hopefully they’ve made it PC-compatible by now.
You can auto-schedule posts on Blogger, too, and I do it all the time. I have certain days when I post, so this is really helpful. (: And I don’t like “loud” web designs either. (Not that I know anything about web design. I’m html illiterate.) But if posts are written in neon font on a black background, it hurts my eyes and I’m usually x-ing out of the page before I’ve finished the summary. This blog helped you get a job? That’s so cool! I’d love to hear that story. (:
Scheduling is awesome, especially (as you mentioned) when there’s certain days and things that you post.
You don’t have to know HTML to know bad web design. 🙂 Colors are a big indicator, as you noted. I hate that people try to “fun” it up to the point that I can’t actually read what they’ve written.
Indeed this blog did help me get a job. I explained a bit about it in an earlier comment, but I’ll copy-paste it below for you so you don’t have to scroll around looking for it:
I work for a web design and marketing company. I knew someone who knew someone who knew the owner, and I think the guy gave me a pity-interview. But the fact that I was on the Internet, knew some of the ins and outs of blogging, and am a good writer helped me get hired (my boss has told me so).
There’s more to it than that, but in general I got the job because the guy saw that I was producing content. And it was readable. Which is better than some professional bloggers do. 😉
Im a new follower, http://www.thephantomparagrapher.blogspot.com . Look forward to reading your posts 🙂
Yay, a new friend! Nice to “meet” you, Paula. I’ll pop over to your blog right now. 🙂