Welcome to the very first Book Blogger Confessions, a meme hosted by Karen from For What It's Worth and Tiger from All-Consuming Books on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, to discuss some of the frustrations that are unique to book bloggers.
During the last few weeks I have had various things happen to me and have seen various things happen within the book blogging community that have really gotten me thinking. "What do I stand for? What makes me matter as a blogger? What makes my blog unique? What do I want people to immediately think when they think of I Write, I Read, I Review?"
The thing I always came back to is this: when I review something, I always strive to be honest but fair. I do not take joy in telling people I did not like a book. (And I definitely don't take joy in reading those books, which is why I generally don't end up with those types of reviews unless I've promised to read something.) At the same time, I know that honesty is the only way to have credibility, and more importantly is something I demand from myself because I believe it is one of the core things someone must have if they wish to be viewed as having integrity.
It is in the name of that honesty that I am choosing to join and participate in this meme. Talking about the downside of blogging is definitely something that feels a little scary. I could very well step on someone's toes without meaning to. But I feel that by being a book blogger I risk that every day anyway. And I must be doing okay, because I've definitely been blessed not to have any comment wars or anything happening here.
Q: How has the "job" of book blogging changed your reading habits? Both the pros and cons.
1. I read a lot more. On average I read 8 - 12 books a month now. Prior to book blogging I might have read two or three, depending on if there was "anything out that month" that I wanted.
2. I've made a lot of new friends. This is one of the biggest and best things for me. I can't drive -- I'm legally blind with cerebral palsy, so getting a license is a big "no". No one around here is really as into books as I am so meeting people all around the world who share my passion, and whom I interact with on a daily basis, is awesome.
3. I've discovered so many amazing books and authors. I love twitter, which is hilarious because I never saw the "point" before becoming a book blogger. I love being contacted to read things -- I don't always say yes, because there is only so much time and I know I need some for myself (reader self, writer self, gamer self, family self... I'll explain this more further down.) And I really, really love doing blog tours and interviews when I loved someone's book.
4. Being a more active and consistent reader has made me a better writer. How could it not? I'm exposed to a far wider range of writing styles, a far larger variety of books and I get to see how many different people react to different things. "They" say you cannot expect to write if you do not read, and "they" are probably very right. There are so many things that I've changed in Moon Dance for the better because of this -- pacing, characterization, story structure, etc. that it boggles my mind.
5. It's made me more accepting of constructive criticism and more able to dismiss things people say that are destructive. I spend a lot of time looking at how different people view the same books, so there are bound to be differences in opinion. What I've learnt, as someone who is going to be out there with her own book (hopefully later this year!) is that I can listen to any opinion, on any book, if it is said properly. No matter if it's "OMG I love this!" or "This really was not for me!" there is a right way and a wrong way to express things, or perhaps the right words would be a *kind* way? If someone can't start from there then it's likely I won't respect them enough for their "opinion" to matter.
1. My shopaholic nature has been taken to the extreme. Books are not as expensive as games, which are my other primary hobby. That means I can buy a lot more of them in a month. (Or win them, or receive them, or request them...) The problem with this is that while I love shopping and I love receiving books, I don't read fast enough to keep up with the ones that I get. I also have a very small living space and don't have room for them.
2. The stress can make me not want to read. When I read it has to be just me and the book. I have to want to be there, otherwise what I'm going to end up saying about it isn't going to be real. I don't want that. I could almost tagline "Honesty is my policy." because that is what matters to me when I talk about books. Reading things in a queue does not work for me, because what I want to read tends to be spontaneous.
3. I feel bad when I decline something, guilty when I don't review something I have accepted and frustrated when something I have read via request does not work for me. A lot of the time I'm finding that people expect a positive response to something they have sent me. This is most prominent for blog tours. I can certainly understand that the purpose of a blog tour is to promote the book. But since the way they work is generally that you sign up for them, read the book and then post the review (and whatever else) on your assigned date, there is no guarantee that you will love the book.
I have only ever had a serious issue with a book once. And the people were very gracious about this. But it has made me extremely nervous about this aspect of book blogging. I cannot and will not sacrifice my honest opinion. If I love a book I will support and promote it and the author with everything I've got. But if I don't love a book odds are I will tell you what I thought of it (if I *have* to) and I will move on. I'm not cruel or malicious. I'm not here to slam anyone's work -- I write too. But I am here to tell the truth, or at least My Truth.
So now you know "the rest of the story". ;) If you've ever wondered why I don't do more blog tours, there is your answer. As for the three I'm signed up for right now? I am super excited about all of them. I'm just a lot more careful about what I sign up for or accept now.
4. I suck at time management. I want to say "Yes!". "Yes!" I'll do that guest post. "Yes!" I'll review your book. "Yes!" I'd love to join that blog tour. "Yes!" "Yes!" "Yes!"... But every one of those "Yes!" means that something else has to get a no. And what I began to notice as 2011 drew to a close is that I've been saying "no" to a lot of things I want to do because I've said too many "Yes!"es to things that will help others. And I do want to continue doing some of that. But I need to remember that I started my blog to share my love for the books that I read. Which means I need time to actually read those books that are sitting here that I'm dying to get to, too.
The time management thing also carries over into organization of my blog, scheduling of posts and juggling all of the interests in my life in general. I can be a bit like a dog with a bone. One week I might read fix books and the next I might want to do nothing but play video games and the next I might have Moon Dance on the brain. I've had to learn a lot about balancing things, and that is really hard. You have to realize I live with my family and am on a pension. This *is* my job. So I don't really have as much experience with deadlines and "having" to do things as most people do. I was very good at that in school / university, but that was a long time ago.
It's awesome to be making a difference. It's awesome that people value what I am saying and look forward to reading my stuff or count on me for things. But it can also be majorly terrifying and foreign. How's that for honest?
There has been a lot of talk about blogger jealousy in the past few weeks. It's been a really huge topic. And I will not lie: there have been days when I have not been immune. I can say, truthfully, that I have never asked myself "Why couldn't I get X / do X rather then (person)?". Thank God. Because I think I would be running for the hills if I felt like that. Being a good person is the most important thing we must accomplish in life, in my opinion. If I felt blogging was making me someone I didn't want to be, I would stop.
What I noticed myself thinking was more along the lines of "Why am I not getting X?" or "How *did* (person) get Y?" (By get I could be referring to a book, organizing an event, being on a tour, doing an interview or any number of other things. Heck, sometimes it's something little and silly like the way a part of a blog is designed. Before anyone immediately jumps straight to ARCs.)
The interesting thing is that I probably would not have noticed this had it not become such a hot topic. And I am glad that I did, because it allowed me to deal with it. Curious to hear some of my coping strategies or logic on a few issues? Here you go:
Book envy: (This could be about an ARC or just a book I haven't picked up yet that I want.) Do you SEE your bed right now? Could you jump on there and catch a nap? Hell no. That tells me you have way more on your TBR then you conceivably need. Relax. You'll get (insert title here) eventually. Add it to your wishlist and read (insert title).
Publisher Rejection: (Mainly talking NetGalley here) Okay, that's fine. The book is going to release on (date) anyway. I'll read and review it then. I have lots of other awesome books to read.
Not being involved in event or tour X: I have lots of interesting things going on here as it is. I can enjoy this tour, leave comments, etc. And I can still read and review the book if I want to. That blogger may have seen a link I didn't, know the author, have connections with the publisher, or any number of other things. Good for them. Would I really have time to do that justice?
Design envy: Okay, I like (design element). If I boot up google I bet I can learn how to do it, or if I contact the blogger they might tell me. (For the longest time I was obsessed with having colored quote sections and then Rachel over at Parajunkee's View did a post about them, for instance.)
My blog would be better, if only... Ugh. This is my mortal foe. "If I got *this* book more people would want to visit", "If I was on *this* tour more people would want to visit", "If I had *this* design element my blog would be better"... Never *better then" anyone else's. Just better. Always, always better. Ambition is good. Envy and greed aren't. And beating myself up because "I did do / don't have X" is stupid. Quite frankly, if I want more visitors I need to learn more about networking. (Which is still Greek to me.)
The truth is I am so lucky, fortunate and blessed that it might be a hazard for inducing tooth decay. 2011 was an amazing year for me. I wrote the rough draft for my novel. I read a ton of great books. I've made some totally awesome friends. I have spoken to some extremely talented authors, whether via Twitter, chats, e-mail or for blog interviews. I have a blog that people visit every day and that hosts (what I hope) are interesting and exciting articles and discussions.
If I don't like how something is here I need to step up. I need to figure out what is wrong and take whatever actions I can to make it better. Or I need to accept that the issue at hand is simply not meant to be part of my journey at this point. I've done more in the last year then I have in any year since I finished University, and that is an awesome feeling. I need to focus on what I am doing and not how it measures next to anyone else's accomplishments. (Oooh, getting an interesting writing idea I'll need to jot down.)
I need to be less timid about asking for help or letting people know I would love to be involved in things. The worst anyone can tell me is "No." and you'd think between singing and writing that the word wouldn't mean squat to me by now. And I need to quit focusing on what I don't have or don't do, and focus more on what I am actually doing. We can easily become our own worst enemies if we allow it, and I know way better then that. Hearing about the effects of this situation throughout the blogging community really made me have a "Smarten up, Kat!" moment. Let's strive not to let this ugly little critter rear it's head again in 2012, shall we?
Thanks so much for sticking with me through all of that! Some of that was super fun to write. Some of it was great to get off my chest. And some of it is downright terrifying to own up to. But there it is, the truth. The good, bad and ugly of the situation. So, what are your thoughts? I think the things we speak up about, that we "own", are less dangerous to us then those that we tiptoe around as if they are made of eggshells and glass. So feel free to leave a comment, or better yet, get involved in this extremely interesting meme.