#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