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!