This month marks ten years since I started Reading in Bed, with the less-than-SMART goal of reading the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Assigning no numerical goal or timeline, it was neither Specific nor Timely, but the blog was conceived as a way to Measure my progress. How Achievable or Realistic it was I will leave for you to judge.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what a “book blog” was. I didn’t know what an ARC was. I didn’t know about tags, or Top Ten Tuesday, or what “YA” meant. I was a reader without a community or a culture.
Forays into Bookstagram, Booktube, podcasting, and formal book reviewing were fun, but not my thing. I kept coming back to the blog. And so did some of you. Thank you so much. I’m not a stats person, but it’s nice to know someone’s reading.
If you’re new here, or just want to accompany me down memory lane, here’s a Reading in Bed starter pack, with your favs and mine.
Reading in Bed’s greatest hits
- Stoner by John Williams (review): Probably students looking to plagarize their essays
- Booktube: I have seen the future, and it has great hair: I wasn’t the only one curious about Booktube in 2014
- The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (review): Probably people looking to illegally download this erotic classic
- The Fault in Our Stars: Use Your (Literary) Allusion (review): Definitely students looking to plagarize their essays
- What’s the Deal with Infinite Jest?: the eternal question
My favourite posts
- On Manifestos: I was angry in this one!
- Franzen Blaming: If you’re coming for JFranz, you better have receipts
- Michael Ondaatje Wins Macewan Book of the Year, Remains Sexy While Doing So: self-explanatory?
- Jonathan Frazen and Jennifer Weiner: The Shocking Truth Behind Their Bitter Feud: the closest I’ve come to a conspiracy theory
- Book-loving hedonists and alienated intellectuals: why readers need to settle down about reading: This still pretty much describes my perspective on literary and “bookish” culture
- Good Morning, Shopaholic: or, in defence of Sophie Kinsella
- War and Peace: Did you Get the Memo? or, Office Space as modern W&P adaptation
- Reading Dostoyevsky to own the libs: thought I better include something recent, and this was… something
No life lessons on this anniversary, but my thoughts from five years ago still stand.
This post by The Paperback Princess has me thinking about how my reading has changed, six months into the pandemic.
I don’t think my *book* reading has changed much at all, except in quantity. That was already on a downward trend. In 2019, I read 64 books, far from my usual 90+. The reasons for that are here. This year I’m trending towards forty books. The reason for that, briefly, is that…Continue reading
It’s time to dig deep, and peel back the layers on Reading in Bed. Yep, we’re looking at blog statistics*!
I recently hit a significant milestone over on YouTube. 500 subscribers. Halfway to an almost-medium-sized-Booktube-account, still absolutely nothing in the larger YouTube ecosystem.
YouTube is all about the “like and subscribe”, but bloggers don’t really talk about follower counts or number of likes. I can easily find out who the big Booktube accounts are (or try the new Booktuber Catalog on Discord, learn more here), but it’s difficult to get a read on book blogs (there’s this list, but it doesn’t differentiate between corporate entities – like, yeah, Book Riot is riddled with typos, but it’s not *actually* a blog).
So in the interest of opening up a dialogue, and because I’m nosy as hell and hope that some of you out there decide to share a bit, here’s a peek at where I’m at with ye olde bloge: Continue reading
#1. That I will always click on a post titled “what blogging has taught me” or “blogger confessions” or “blogging life lessons,” even though:
#2 Those posts always say the same fucking things.
So this is not that. I’m not going to tell you to have an editorial calendar or to be consistent or to do guest posts or to use SEO techniques.
Life lessons were on my mind when I was asked to appear on Seen and Heard in Edmonton. The premise of Seen and Heard is brilliant, and will probably take off in other cities before you know it. Karen Unland interviews local bloggers about what they do, and why, and where they’re going. Not only is it fascinating for bloggers, but it’s a great way for people to find local perspectives on whatever they’re into. I’m guest #5. The other four have included bloggers who write about theater, business, food, and history. Seen and Heard also rounds up the best weekly blogs and podcasts every Monday morning, which is just a great way to start the week.
So – what wisdom could I impart to the Seen and Heard audience? I thought back to my biggest blogging moment this year, attending Book Expo America. Then I read this interview with burnt-out mega-blogger Dooce about why she’s quitting:
In 2004-5, I was the first personal website to take advertising. Now it’s why you start one. If you’re doing it for fun there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re looking to make an income, this is not a good way.
I rolled my eyes a lot at the BEA blogger con. So many panels about growing your audience and doing sponsorship and MORE content FASTER… featuring panelists who do not making money from blogging. The only ones making a living either work for Book Riot or spun their blogs into books. I heard “fun money” and “champagne money.” I heard bloggers admit that they were uncomfortable with affiliate links and that they didn’t even make any money from them. And book bloggers burn out all the time due to demanding schedules and publishers and expectations.
What’s the point? If you’re a hobbyist, like the vast, vast majority of book bloggers are, why kill yourself to post weekly, or get all the latest ARCs? Why not post when you want, when you really have something to say? Unless you’re out to make serious money or advance a career in the same field as your blog, none of this stuff matters.
Click here to listen to Karen interview me and to read my list of blogger/podcast recommendations. Also check out the first half hour of the latest Write Reads podcast for more in this vein – Kirt and Tania talk to recently-burnt-out Rick of Canon Fodder/Through the Pages about what’s wrong with book blogging, and I wanted to jump through the computer screen and say “yes!” to all of it.
Okay, one Life Lesson: Whatever you’re worried about when it comes to your blog, no one cares as much as you. Do you think the blogosphere will grind to a halt if you don’t post that weekly meme? Do you think your readership will unfollow and denounce you on social media if you don’t participate in the latest hashtag? I promise you no one will notice. Keep blogging when you can, until you don’t want to anymore. That’s my plan.
I tend to find these types of posts self-indulgent and preachy, but I also tend to enjoy them, so here goes.
Sometimes I feel a little inadequate when I realize that many of the bloggers I interact with have English degrees, are teachers, are published authors, or work in publishing. Who am I to blog about books, with my English 101 and bureaucratic job? But on further reflection, I’ve accomplished quite a bit this year, and might have something worthwhile to share. Maybe you are a new blogger, like I was three years ago, and don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve been at this for a while and will nod your head (or disagree!) or maybe I’m just talking to hear the sound of my own voice. I’m okay with that.
Life Lessons for Book Bloggers
It is possible to find an online community that isn’t all drama. Over the years I have been part of (or lurked in) a few online communities and most are full of cliques and old grudges and drama. Entertaining for a while (sometimes for years in the case of a particular parenting forum) but eventually it becomes tiresome. Book blogging is not immune to drama, but I’ve found a wonderful group of bloggers who are truly here for the books. It’s great to have people to talk to, to drag to an author event or comment on your posts. It did take some fine tuning, but my advice is to seek out a local community, comment lots, and respond to comments. And use that unfollow button when necessary.
If you don’t like a certain type of blog event, keep looking. I used to give a strong side-eye to blogging events and memes and what not. Some of them see silly and just a convoluted way to get page views. But like most things, if you look hard enough, you’ll find something to suit! I went hard on readalongs this year. Readalongs appeal to me because they encourage discussion and getting to know other bloggers, and the updates are fun to write – gets you out of the rut of writing straight reviews. Here are the readalongs I participated in this year:
Go to events. If there are any author events in your area, do get out and experience them! The biggest change I made this year was going to readings and events. It’s another way of finding community and bringing it all to life. I went to everything from the basic Audrey’s basement event with coffee and cookies to a fancy wine & cheese to a panel discussion. Here are the events I went to this year: Continue reading
Apparently using memes and GIFs is a “controversial” technique for reviewing books. While I’m certainly not clutching my pearls over this (I’ve used memes and GIFs myself,) I agree with the article’s assertion that they can be overused and just as cliche as calling a book “staggering” or “unflinching” or whatever.
So, maybe you should create your own visuals. Yeah, you can take a picture of your copy of the book, but that’s pretty boring too. Why not take things a little further and recreate an entire scene? Or take a picture of something that evokes the ambiance or the theme of the story? This is the idea behind Snap Scene, an Instagram project from Jessica Kluthe, author of Rosina, The Midwife (my review here.) From Kluthe’s website:
What is Snap Scene? It’s a simple concept. It offers another way for a reader to encounter a story/book/novel: through a photograph (a “Snap Scene”) that illustrates an otherwise text-only scene. It will offer the viewer some value by taking the viewer inside the story, the novel, the book, the essay…
If you’re a writer/author, this is a great chance to connect with some new readers. If you’re a bookworm, this is a great chance to find your next read.
What do you need to do? Stage a scene that illustrates a passage from a book/novel/story/essay. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you please. Along with the scene, in the caption below the photo I’d like to include 3 – 4 sentences from passage that inspired your Snap Scene.
“I love how his headstone is so elegant and simple,” you say, defying the prejudices of no one in particular. “Remember that when you’re ordering one for me, Brigs. I don’t want anything too fussy–no statues or angels or lambs.” “I thought gravestone lambs were just for dead babies.” You’re turning away from me, waving one hand. “Everyone’s the same age in heaven.” – From Jenn Quist’s Love Letters of Angels of Death.| #author submitted #snapscene| http://www.jenniferquist.com
To date, Snap Scene’s contributors have mostly been local authors promoting their own books, but I think the potential for reader participation is huge. It’s a cool way to share what you’re reading and help other people discover a new book that’s a little more creative than #FridayReads. It also reminds me of wildly popular Tumblr Slaughterhouse 90201, where literary quotes are juxtaposed with pop culture images, so the appetite for this kind of thing is there. Continue reading
I love free books. I love getting them in my mailbox, I love chatting with publishers and authors, and I love discovering new authors. It isn’t the reason I got into blogging, but it’s a damn nice perk. I’ve started getting more books offered to me lately, and I’ve been thinking about what it all means. Time for a discussion post!
But First, a #HumbleBrag
I’m going to be real: the idea for this post came to me because I want to brag about some of the sweet books I got for free recently.
When I started blogging, I had no clue that there was potential for free stuff. Last year, when I started to get more serious about the blog, I noticed that other people were getting these things called “ARCs” and I didn’t even know what that stood for. This year, I’ve started to get ARCs and review copies of my very own. There are plenty of guides to getting ARCs out there, but I didn’t go through the usual channels, so, for informational purposes (i.e. bragging) here are the books and from whence they came: Continue reading