To celebrate Armed with the Book‘s third blog monthsary, Kriti invited me to have a bookish discussion with her about the struggles, perks, and how we navigate the world of book blogging.
I’ve been talking to Kriti for quite sometime now and I’m glad to have a ~constant~ in the bookish community whom I can talk about bookish stuff and even life, in general. Strap in because this will be a long ride! 😀
Pam, how long have you been book blogging? And why?
Hi Kriti! Oh God. I don’t even remember the exact date! I remember only posting my reviews on Goodreads then trying out Blogspot, then eventually moving to WordPress. Back then, I only cross-post the reviews I write on Goodreads. I think this was around 2014 or 2015? It was only months ago when I really decided to really take book blogging seriously. I started a new job around this time so I now have more time in my hands than I used to. I’ve taken for granted many ARCs and authors/publishers reaching out to me back then only because I didn’t really have the time back when I was still working in a different company.
My main motivation for blogging is still my undying love for books and wanting to scream about this to the world. Haha!
How about you? What made you want to finally try book blogging three months ago? Before book blogging, were you doing book-related activities?
At the end of my last degree, I was finally starting a job, with a 8 am- 4 pm job for the first time in my life. Two of my loves in life are reading and writing, and as I transitioned into this new phase in life, I started looking for ways in which I could do both. During my teaching degree I had read many teaching books and written about what I would take from them to my classroom. I decided to keep a similar format for the articles related to the books I was reading, and hence began my journey as a book blogger. I have been on Goodreads since 2012 and have always rated my books there, so it wasn’t too big of a stretch. I don’t think I do reviews in the true sense, though – I always try to make bigger connections and rethink ideas with them. I also stick to this because now I am able to explore new books in a safe way and connect with people – it is so important to have people you can talk to about books, and I didn’t always have that in my friend circle.
Problem # 1 On Accumulating Books Endlessly
We are the perfect example of that: I’m in Canada and you are in the Philippines but distance cannot stop two chatty book lovers to chat about book problems, so here goes. Here’s my first problem – I can’t STOP accumulating more books! NetGalley gives me access to so many that I can request, but also some that I can read right away. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of thinking “I should get a new book,” search “Read Now” section and start a new book, while the books bought and not read pile continues to grow. Do you face this? What do you do in this situation? I need some hard truth here.
*looks at my giant pile of approved ARCs on Netgalley* *nervous laughs* I may just be one of the best candidates to talk to about that, Kriti. Lol My love for books encompasses just buying copies of books I love and want to read. I always love exploring new things about the bookish community. So when I found out about Netgalley back in 2016/2017, it may just have been the best and worst time to discover it. I was drowning in work at my day job, but did that stop me from requesting so many titles? Nope. I got a little too excited so I requested a lot! Some of these books are still unread and I feel so bad. I think being a moody reader is a HUGE factor in this case. We request for books that we are interested in reading, we forget about them for a while because they need to be approved anyway so we move on to a different book. Around the time it’s approved, we already committed to another book or some blog tours. The approved ARCs just end up piling up. The cycle repeats.
For now, I banned myself from requesting more until I’ve read most of the ARCs I have. I created an Excel file where I track my current ARCs and blog tours. Seeing how much I have actually kept me from requesting more titles. I wonder if this will work for you. 😛
Aside from Netgalley, do you also use other platforms like Edelweiss or BookSirens? Do you get in touch with publishers or authors as well?
I use NetGalley the most, though I started with BookSirens. It’s amazing to see how many such services exist out there! I have an account on Edelweiss but have used to it peruse publisher catalogs. I reached out to publishers couple months back and it has been truly amazing to be a part of their book blogger teams and get actual books! 🙂 You’ve seen the excitement and anxiety they can cause because often, they truly throw off my reading schedule! Haha.
Connecting with authors are the highlights of my book blogging profession! It took a lot of courage to ask Ben for an interview with him, but once he said yes, I have actively tried to reach out to authors. When I started reading a book, I try to tag the authors on most platforms that I use, if they are active on it. If I get a positive response or any sort of engagement, I reach out to them personally. If they don’t respond, which happens too, sadly, then only book thoughts appear on the blog. I actually find that quite disappointing because I don’t believe an author’s work should just be to write and never engage with their readers again. That’s where some of the ideas for my last article “Who is a writer?” came from too.
Have you connected with publishers and authors?
I have! When I “started” blogging, some authors and publishers would reach out to me for a review of their books. They’d give me a copy of the book in exchange for a review. But, alas, I am bad at keeping track of these things and only agree to them because who am I to say “no” to books, right? But that caught up to me because I got absolutely busy with my previous work that it’d be a treat if I can read a book or two a month.
Now that I’m seriously into blogging, I’m hoping to reach out to more authors, specifically POC authors. They deserve more recognition.
Problem # 2 On Finding Time to Read
What else do you do, Pam? How do you find the time to read and consistently post on your book blog?
I don’t consistently post on my blog, to be honest. I post sporadically based on my schedule for the week/month. I DO constantly read though, in any format I can get. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts when I’m on my way to work and home. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing SOMETHING after work and during weekends that isn’t related to work. That something could be reading when I arrive home, watching a movie/show/anime/musical, writing a blog post, or playing video games.
I always feel unaccomplished when I’ve mostly spent my free time on social media instead of doing these^ things.
Hey! You’re a working adult too! How do YOU find the time to regularly read and stay active in book blogging?
I love planning and I am always experimenting with tools to keep organized for the future. Being a data analyst has its perks, because I’m always thinking about data, setting targets and finding ways to reach them. I have been trying to do 10 books a month and it’s been good. I think my reading speed is good and most evenings I don’t have anything else to do. My partner likes playing video games and while he does that, I give him company by reading or working on the blog next to him. Our cat, Fiona, likes it too because we are good being stationary for a long while and she can settle down next to us. 🙂
Who gives you company while you read?
I find it most comforting when I’m reading all alone. But whenever I go home to my family’s house during weekends, one of my dogs would snuggle against me and that’s the closest to a company I get when reading. Haha!
I’ve been experimenting with a number of routines – reading and posting on Goodreads right away, taking notes, and posting on my website later. But I’m starting to rethink that and looking at the backlog of books I have completed and want to post about (problem # 3), I’m starting to think that I need to get more disciplined about posting after reading.
What has been your experience with this? Have you been able to build a good routine? If not, what would you change about it?
This has always been my struggle, really. I FEEL YOU! A lot of times it’s not even about me not liking the book. Even if I absolutely loved a book, I struggle with writing a book review/discussion immediately. Like you, I also take notes and annotate while reading so I can use these for my blog posts and help me remember stuff. Alas, it’s never enough for me. Lol (Where’s the surprise?) I even start a draft on WordPress the moment an idea for a post hits me. Sometimes I give myself a deadline to work on the draft, but almost always end up not sticking to the deadline for a lot of reasons. BUT, I still end up finishing the draft and posting it. Though delayed, I pat myself on the back for even FINISHING the draft. 🙂
I think I’m only mostly (pressured to be) disciplined when it comes to blog tours because there’s a strict schedule for that. Just don’t pressure yourself, Kriti. Reading and writing should be fun activities for us, anyway! If we don’t feel like writing about it now, then we have our notes to go back to when we finally get our writing groove back. 🙂
Thanks, Pam. 🙂 I totally agree with you. They need to be fun activities!
What do you think about joining more blog tours to really get into a routine of regularly posting on your blog (because of the strict timeline)?
Blog tours can be quite fun if they are well organized. I really like it when the organizers can tell me at least over a month in advance about the tour and then I can schedule it in my reading. Their timeline does help to get that book over with at least a couple days before the tour starts. But there is always the odd blog tour which is told about too late but I love the book synopsis and I’ll take it, adding another book to the pile that keeps growing. Ambitions. Ambitions.
I’m finding though that blog tours have an expectation that you must either like the book that you chose to join the tour for, or be professional enough to keep your dejected or frustrated thoughts to yourself until it is over. I’ve started to do Book Spotlights for books that I kick myself for opting in for. For the rest, if I can find even the tiniest thing that I can elaborate on. But we are talking PROFESSIONALISM in a profession that doesn’t officially exist! There is so much subjectivity in how each of us approaches a book! That can be another article in itself!
How early do you like being told about blog tours? And any thoughts on the sometimes-unsaid expectations of blog tours?
I love it when blog tours are really organized. It says a lot about the organizer. One of my favorite blog tours is Caffeine Book Tours which is lead by @shutupshealea (Twitter). She has one of the MOST organized blog tours I’ve ever came upon. The way she announces blog tours down to sending emails about ARCs and media kit is just downright admirable. Just shows that she puts a lot of effort on these blog tours and goes out of her way to support the book and the author. 🙂
Unsaid-expectations on a blog tour can be potentially detrimental to the purpose of having a blog tour – which is to promote the book. I think it’s best to reach out to people that would best represent the blog tour like how tour organizers would specifically invite and accept #OwnVoices bloggers because these are the people who most likely will connect with the book and will be able to critique the book in an objective way.
How about you? What do you look for in a blog tour?
I’m still building an option about that but I agree about the key role that organization plays in the tours. Advance notice of at least a month is something I greatly appreciate.
Let’s move on now to the problem of blogging vs reading! There are the days when all I want to do is blogging about books I have just finished, and others when I just want to read more books. And while one is going on, the other is nagging me at the back of my mind. “Kriti, you should get started on that blog post, otherwise how will send the interview questions to the author.” or “Kriti, that blog post has to be shared in the NetGalley links during feedback, gotta get that done!” So Pam, how do you combat that?
Blogging vs. Reading is SUCH a struggle. These days I only want to READ, READ, and READ. So much that I almost neglect writing blog posts. Such a good problem if you think about it, yeah? For me, it still boils down to keeping (or at least trying to) things organized. I write tasks on my planner like “Start blog post x”, “Start reading book x”, or “Finalize blog post y and post on date z”. Even though sometimes I still fail to accomplish them, at least I’m always reminded of the tasks and eventually do them. lol
Do you feel overwhelmed now? You’ve only been blogging for 3 months and have already posted a lot and have connected with people in the community. How do you keep this up? How do you stay sane? Lol.
There are times when I get overwhelmed but I have gotten better at managing my own expectations for what I can do in the time that I have. To keep myself sane, I keep a running list of things I need to do in a two-week period – from books to read to blog posts to write. The list keeps getting updated but at least most of it stays fairly stable (I plan future two-week periods as I go, kind of like a parking lot idea to remind myself later).
I also find time during commute to work and back home for connecting with people. I try to read on the way but it’s harder in the morning if I am still feeling a bit sleepy from last night.
Problem # 3 On Being Influencers vs Avid Readers
Sometimes at night, the thought of readers bothers me. Social media and influence on social media are hot topics nowadays. In the three months I have been book blogging, this topic has come up in one book and one poetry collection. Isn’t that interesting? I remember our conversation from a couple of weeks ago where you were worried if your article was visible to other people because it didn’t seem to be getting the usual response. How do you combat the critic in your head that wants you to dedicate all your energy to getting a following? Where does the time to read/write come from?
I’d be lying if I say that numbers DON’T matter to me. It does, up to some extent. Numbers tell me how many people I’m reaching and what kind of content works for me, which maybe I should post more of. But at the end of the day, I always tell myself to just enjoy reading and blogging and write things that I enjoy talking about, instead of constantly worrying about whether people will like it or not. I do admire other bloggers who dedicate hours and hours in their day to regularly put out content and still have REALLY beautiful blogs. I still think my blog can be improved by a lot in terms of how it looks like, but, surprisingly, I don’t pressure myself to work on that ASAP. I work on things within my time and my limits, especially since I’m an adult with lots of responsibilities outside of my bookish activities.
How about you? How do the numbers/stats factor in on your future steps? Do you change up your content based on “demand” or trend?
I analyze numbers for a living so considering them is important for me. But, I feel I am too early in my book blogging career to do anything. We as discussed above, it’s always a choice between reading or blogging or something else. As much as I would like to get a better audience, and that way improve the reach of my author friends, I need to be a good book blogger first. And that comes at the cost of social media interactions. I honestly don’t have the time to stage a book for every single day for instagram, nor do I want to. We don’t want to take the fun out of all these things that we do, whether it is reading or taking photos or writing!
Previously, I used a scheduling system called MissingLettr that does an awesome job of creating campaigns – social media artifacts – for blog posts. All I have to do is go in and review the campaigns and schedule them! I can also post to Twitter and Facebook from there. I haven’t had time to do that.
Ultimately, I would have to give up something – possibly reading 10 books a month 😉 – to create a consistent practice with MissingLettr. Right now I just use Bugger once in awhile and I like how Social Warfare on WordPress posts to Twitter and Facebook for me. It’s all on the big roadmap to create a presence on other platforms.
I don’t think I have ever had so much fun talking about book blogging, Pam! You have taken so much off my chest and I’m glad I’m not alone in all these issues.
I honestly feel like I still have so much to say! Maybe a live show can be added in the pipeline? 😛 Thank you for inviting me to do this, Kriti! It’s always fun to exchange ideas and thoughts with you about books and the book blogging community in general.
Thank you so much for hanging out with me. I think we will have a blast in January when we are reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood! And I bet there will be more of these conversations in the future. 🙂
Thank you for sticking with us ’til the end! What have you realized/learned from me and Kriti? Share your thoughts below!
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